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UofT Scarborough - Transitional Year Program

SIFT: Web Evaluation

SIFT model

Image credit: SIFT (The Four Moves) by Mike Caulfield available under a CC-BY 4.0 license.

SIFT is a helpful acronym for initially evaluating source credibility. SIFT (from Mike Caulfield) stands for:

  • STOP. Pause.
    Ask yourself if you recognize the information source and if you know anything about the website or the claim's reputation. If not, you can continue with the next parts of SIFT. If you start getting overwhelmed during the other moves, pause and remember your original purpose.
    Also take note if you have a strong reaction to the information you see (e.g., joy, pride, anger). If so, slow down before you share or use that information. We tend to react quickly and with less thought to things that evoke strong feelings. By pausing, you give your brain time to process your initial response and to analyze the information more critically. 
  • INVESTIGATE the source.
    Take a minute to identify where this information comes from and to consider the creator's expertise and agenda. If the creator appears untrustworthy, the source may not be worth your time. Look at what others have said about the source to help with your evaluation.
    (For example, a company that sells health food products is not the best source for information about health benefits/risks of consuming coconut oil. A research study funded by a pharmaceutical company is also suspect.)
  • FIND trusted coverage.
    Sometimes it's less important to know about the source itself and more important to assess its claims. Look for credible sources, and compare information across sources in order to determine whether there appears to be a consensus.
  • TRACE claims, quotes, and media back to the original context.
    Sometimes online information has been removed from its original context (for example, a news story is reported on in another online publication or an image is shared on Twitter). If needed, trace the information back to the original source in order to recontextualize it.

Tip for finding out what are others saying about the original source and about its claim:

Tip for finding out what are others saying about the original source and about its claim:
To get search results that are from other sources (rather than from the website you are evaluating), try searching Google for [WEBSITE URL] site: -[WEBSITE URL]. For example:

  • site:
  • site:

Modified from Mike Caulfield's SIFT (Four Moves), which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Later, when you determine that a source is worth your time, you can analyze the source's content more carefully.