What Makes an Information Source "Good?"
“Good” sources include those that provide complete, current, factual information, and/or credible arguments based on the information creator’s original research, expertise, and/or use of other reliable sources.
Whether a source is a good choice for you depends on your information needs and how you plan to use the source.
Evaluating Sources Using Lateral & Vertical Reading
The SIFT* & PICK approach to evaluating sources helps you select quality sources by practicing:
Lateral Reading (SIFT): fact-checking by examining other sources and internet fact-checking tools; and
Vertical Reading (PICK): examining the source itself to decide whether it is the best choice for your needs.
*The SIFT method was created by Mike Caulfield under a CC BY 4.0 International License.
- Check your emotions before engaging
- Do you know and trust the author, publisher, publication, or website?
- If not, use the following fact-checking strategies before reading, sharing, or using the source in your research
Investigate the source
- Don’t focus on the source itself for now
- Instead, read laterally
- Learn about the source’s author, publisher, publication, website, etc. from other sources, such as Wikipedia
Find better coverage
- Focus on the information rather than getting attached to a particular source
- If you can’t determine whether a source is reliable, trade up for a higher quality source
- Professional fact checkers build a list of sources they know they can trust
Trace claims to the original context
- Identify whether the source is original or re-reporting
- Consider what context might be missing in re-reporting
- Go “upstream” to the original source
- Was the version you saw accurate and complete?
Purpose / Genre / Type
- Determine the type of source (book, article, website, social media post, etc.)
- Why and how it was created? How it was reviewed before publication?
- Determine the genre of the source (factual reporting, opinion, ad, satire, etc.)
- Consider whether the type and genre are appropriate for your information needs
Information Relevance / Usefulness
- Consider how well the content of the source addresses your specific information needs
- Is it directly related to your topic?
- How does it help you explore a research interest or develop an argument?
- Determine when the source was first published or posted
- Is the information in the source (including cited references) up-to-date?
- Consider whether newer sources are available that would add important information
- Consider how this source relates to the body of knowledge on the topic
- Does it echo other experts’ contributions? Does it challenge them in important ways?
- Does this source contribute something new to the conversation?
- Consider what voices or perspectives are missing or excluded from the conversation
- Does this source represent an important missing voice or perspective on the topic?
- Are other sources available that better include those voices or perspectives?
- How does this source help you to build and share your own knowledge?
SIFT & PICK by Ellen Carey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Last updated 4/11/23.