Chapter 4: Evaluating information
SIFT is an acronym developed by Mike Caulfield (2019) that describes four steps you can use to evaluate sources. The four steps included in SIFT are:
- S: Stop
- I: Investigate the source
- F: Find better coverage
- T: Trace information back to the source
Throughout the next few pages, we’ll be exploring each of these steps and how you can integrate them into your everyday habits for evaluating content.
You might have been previously introduced to CRAAP, a checklist created in the 2000s for evaluating sources. CRAAP tells you to analyze a webpage by taking what it contains and how it is presented at face value and in isolation. Because there is now an overwhelming volume of information and misinformation available online, to really evaluate the trustworthiness of a source, you need to learn more about where the content within a source comes from so you can make a more informed decision about its value. SIFT helps you do that by walking you through practices you can use to get a broader view of a source and fully evaluate its content.
In contrast to other evaluation methods, SIFT presents evaluation as a set of steps you can use and modify, rather than treating the evaluation process as a checklist of attributes that are universally good or bad. After all, you will want to evaluate the information in a newspaper article differently from the research you find in a peer-reviewed journal article. Sometimes you will need to navigate through all four of the steps in SIFT to determine a source’s usefulness and reliability, while other times you will only need one or two. What makes SIFT powerful is that it helps you engage with evaluation as an ongoing process. As the creator of SIFT explains, these steps don’t necessarily need to follow the same order every time. Although Stop will always come first, the other three steps can be executed in any order that makes sense for your situation!