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English 110 - Trujillo: Evaluating Sources

This guide provides students with tips and suggested resources for research in English 110 with Christina Trujillo

Strategies for Evaluating Information & Choosing the Best Sources

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:

yellow arrow pointing to the right  Lateral Reading (SIFT): fact-checking by examining other sources and internet fact-checking tools; and

green arrow pointing downVertical 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.

SIFT

SIFT

Stop

  • 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?

PICK

PICK

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?

Creation Date

  • 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

Knowledge-Building

  • 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?

Creative Commons License SIFT & PICK by Ellen Carey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Last updated 4/11/23.