The SIFT method is a strategy for evaluating online information. SIFT stands for:
S - Stop
I - Investigate the source.
F - Find better coverage.
T - Trace claims, quotes, and media to the original context.
The first step in evaluating online information is to stop, or pause. Do you know the source of the information? Is it reliable and trustworthy? If you're not sure, the following steps will give you some strategies for investigating sources of online information.
In addition to the source, reflect on the content, too, and how it makes you feel. Is this information eliciting a strong, emotional response? Do you feel outraged? Is the message divisive or sensational? This can be a red flag that the information is false or is being framed in a way that is intended to grab your attention or manipulate your emotions.
How do professional fact checkers investigate a source? They read laterally-- that means that instead of investigating a source by doing a deep-dive into that source's website, they read what others have to say about that source. Wikipedia is a great resource for investigating sources, as demonstrated in the following video.
Remember, you don't have to do an exhaustive search and learn the entire history of the source in question. It's ok to do a quick evaluation.
Find Better Coverage
Sometimes it isn't about the source, it's all about the content. You don’t care about the particular article or video that reaches you, you want to know if the message or content is true or false. You want to know if there is consensus about the content, or if it is the subject of disagreement. This is particularly common with social media-- the random individual who posted the content is not of interest, but you want to know if their statements are accurate.
In instances like this, your best bet is to find better coverage by doing google search, or visiting some fact checking websites such as:
Test your skills
Returning to Claim 1, use Google to search for alternative sources that address this topic.
Trace Back to the Original Source
Content you view online can be totally out of context, which can distort or impact your ability to evaluate online content. For instance, a video clip that shows a conflict between two people, but not what led up to that conflict. Or you might watch a short video about a new medical treatment that quotes a research article, but you're not sure if it is an accurate representation of the research findings.
In these cases, you can trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in it’s original context and get a sense if the version you saw was accurately presented.
Test your skills
Use the strategies described above to trace back to the original source used in this news article.
What about A.I. and ChatGPT?
We all have lots of questions about ChatGPT and other generative artificial intelligence models. Is ChatGPT an authoritative source? Can it answer my PICOT questions? How can I make good use of this tool and not commit plagiarism? Here are a few resources and ideas to help you conceptualize how to use (and how to not use) ChatGPT as a nursing student:
- Can ChatGPT Accurately Answer a PICOT Question? Assessing AI Response to a Clinical Question
*How can ChatGPT help your scholarship?
- Generate keywords and search terms
- Generate ideas by debating ChatGPT
- Spot checking grammar after you've written your text
Remember- if you use ChatGPT, you have to cite it!
- How to cite ChatGPT (APA 7th edition)
*Credit: Chanda Briggs, USF Librarian.