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Evaluating Sources: Lateral Reading and SIFT

SIFT (the four moves) and Evaluation

The SIFT method was created by Mike Caulfield. All SIFT information on this page is adapted from his materials with a CC BY 4.0 license.

SIFT visual, Stop, Investigate Source, Find Better Coverage, Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context

Image from SIFT method was created by Mike Caulfield

SIFT is an evaluation technique developed by digital literacy expert Mike Caulfield that relies heavily on lateral reading. SIFT stands for:

  • Stop: before you believe or share the information, ask yourself whether you know the website or source of the information, and what the reputation of both the claim and the website is. If you don’t have that information, use the other moves to get a sense of what you’re looking at. 
  • Investigate the Source: this does not necessarily mean digging into the topic like you would with a research paper; it’s important to take sixty seconds to figure out where media is from before reading will help you decide if it is worth your time, and if it is, help you to better understand its significance and trustworthiness.
  • Find Better Coverage: Sometimes you don’t care about the particular article or video that reaches you. You care about the claim the article is making. You want to know if it is true or false. You want to know if it represents a consensus viewpoint, or if it is the subject of much disagreement. In this case, your best strategy may be to ignore the source that reached you, and look for trusted reporting or analysis on the claim.
  • Trace Claims, Quotes and Media to the Original Context: In order to grab your attention and gain clicks, much of what we find on the internet has been stripped of context. In these cases we’ll have you trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in its original context and get a sense if the version you saw was accurately presented.

Lateral reading comes into play starting with the “I” step - Investigate the Source. Lateral reading skills will also come in handy when you want to find better coverage of a topic or event, and when you want to trace claims, quotes, and media back to their original context.

Other SIFT videos:

Online Verification Skills: Investigate the Source

Online Verification Skills: Find the Original Source

Online Verification Skills: Look for Trusted Work, Find Better Coverage

Additional SIFT Resources:

Hapgood, Mike Caulfield's Blog: This is Mike Caulfield's Blog where he explains SIFT in his own words.

SIFTing Through the Pandemic: Another Mike Caulfield creation, this blog focuses on using SIFT during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers: This ebook by Mike Caulfield is freely available online under a CC BY 4.0 license

Check, Please! Starter Course: A free, five-lesson course on fact- and source-checking from Mike Caulfield

Quick Check:

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