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Evaluating Information: Stop, Investigate, Find, Trace: What is SIFT?

What is SIFT?

S. I. F. T. is an evaluation strategy to help you judge whether or online content can be trusted for credible and reliable information. The SIFT strategy is quick, simple, and can be applied to various kinds of online content: social media posts, memes, statistics, videos, images, news articles, scholarly articles, etc.

Infographic text - SIFT - A strategy for evaluating information. Stop - Make a plan. What do you want to know from the source? Investigate the Source - Take a moment to figure out the source's agenda and expertise. Do they have a reputation? Consider using a fact-checker. Find better coverage - If you can’t determine the source's reliability, and you want an accurate story on the subject or claim, your best strategy is to start searching elsewhere. Trace to the original - Consider your source's sources. Has any relevant information been left out or altered through presentation?

Why S. I. F. T.?

SIFT is a set of skills that build on “checklist” approaches to evaluating online content because checklists aren't enough:

Some checklist questions you might have been taught to ask yourself:

  • Does this webpage look professional?
  • Are there spelling errors?
  • Is it a .com or a .org?
  • Is there scientific language?
  • Does it use footnotes?

Why is this no longer enough?

  • Anyone can easily design a professional looking webpage and use spellcheck
  • .com or .org does not always reflect the credibility of the content
  • Scientific language does not always reflect expertise or agenda of the content
  • The inclusion of footnotes does not always reflect credibility of the content


Note: This SIFT method guide was adapted from "Check, Please!" (Caulfield). The canonical version of this course exists at The text and media of this site, where possible, is released into the CC-BY, and free for reuse and revision. We ask people copying this course to leave this note intact, so that students and teachers can find their way back to the original (periodically updated) version if necessary. We also ask librarians and reporters to consider linking to the canonical version.

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