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Research Guides

CHM197: Environmental Chemistry in a Sustainable World

The SIFT Method

SIFT: Stop, Investigate the Source, Find Trusted Coverage, Trace claims, quotes and media back to their original source.

Step 1: Stop!

  • Check your emotions. Does this piece of information give you a strong emotional response (i.e. anxiety, disgust, excitement, validation)? If so, ask yourself why.
  • Are you familiar with this website or publication? If so, what do you know about it?
  • Do you trust the person who shared this resource with you?
  • Remember your purpose! The level and detail of articles you cite in your academic papers is often different from articles you may read in your spare time to learn about a topic you may be interested in.

Step 2: Investigate the Source

You should investigate both the author and the publisher of the article.

  • What is their expertise or area of specialization?
  • What is their agenda? Can you identify any potential sources of bias?
  • Do they have a record of fair and/or objective coverage?
  • Search Google or Wikipedia to find out more.
  • Look beyond what they say about themselves! It is in their best interest to seem credible to their readers.

Step 3: Find Trusted Coverage

  • What do others say about this topic?
  • Look to more balanced, in-depth and/or trusted sources on the topic.
  • Use fact checking websites for claims that seem particularly fishy or widespread:
  • Is there generally agreement across sources, or is this a controversial topic?

Step 4: Trace Claims Back to the Orignal Source

  • Follow links and citations to find the original research or report that the claim, quote, or image came from.
    • Don't have a citation or link? Look for mentions of other publications, authors or organizations in the article. Then, Google that info along with a couple of words about the topic and/or claim.
  • It might take multiple steps to arrive at the original!
  • Once you've found the original source:
    • Return to Step 2 and investigate. Is it trustworthy?
    • What is the context of the claim?
    • Do you agree with how the original source was interpreted and represented by the author?

Acknowledgement and More Information

Want to learn more?

Check out this excellent video series with practical tips from Mike Caulfield, who developed the SIFT framework!


Note: This SIFT method guide was adapted from Michael Caulfield's "Check, Please!" course. 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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