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U ST 110: International Students First Year Seminar

International Students - Library Orientation

Intro to evaluating sources

Evaluating Information

Use critical thinking to decide when information is useful, trustworthy, and relevant.

Not all information is created equal

Finding sources for your project is only one part of the research process. An equally important part is being able to tell if the sources you've located are trustworthy, high-quality, and appropriate for your topic.

Sliding Scales

Evaluation follows a sliding scale; it's not black or white, good or bad. While there are some sources that might fall into these clear categories, most information you find in your research will fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

How Much You Can Trust a Bearded Man?
A silly example of a sliding scale, The Trustworthiness of Beards by Matt McInerney. Click to enlarge.

SIFT

Evaluating Sources with S.I.F.T.

SIFT is a helpful acronym that describes steps used to evaluate the information you find online:

STOP

  • Check yourself. Recognize your own biases, beliefs, and potential blind spots and acknowledge that they will affect your judgment.
  • Stay on task. It is easy to get lost exploring interesting tangents while researching. If this happens, stop and remember what you actually need for your project. 

Investigate the Source

  • Who shared or made this source? Even if the sources you’ve found seem to fit your project’s topic well, you will still need to evaluate them in other ways. You need to understand where the background of the author(s) and publisher. What is their reputation? How is their information presented (fact or opinion)? Are there any conflicts of interest that might affect the way that they represent this topic?

Find better coverage

  • What else is out there? Before using a source check to see if the topic has been covered elsewhere. Has anyone else written about it? Do other publications provide more information about the topic, or better context? Do they tell the same story and contain the same facts? Try to locate additional sources that are more detailed, varied, transparent, authoritative, and/or build upon the information presented in your initial source.

Trace it back.

  • Context matters. Before trusting or reusing information, look for the original source. Who first wrote about the topic? When was it first published? Is it accurate? At this point, you may need to repeat steps I and F in order to evaluate a new information source.

This an abbreviated version, for more information and guidance check out our section on Evaluating Sources in the Library 160 textbook:

How to Investigate or Verify a Source

Your Librarian

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Cara Stone (Educ. & Info. Literacy)
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Contact:
Parks Library 150
515.294.9030

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