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BUSN170: Business Communication - Peterson: Evaluating Sources

 With all of the information available at our fingertips, how do you know what to trust? Use these evaluation methods to check your sources for reliability--evaluating your sources is especially important for academic research.

SIFT Method

SIFT stands for:

  • Stop.
  • Investigate the source.
  • Find better or other sources.
  • Trace back to the original source to see quotes in their original context. 

The idea of SIFT comes from Mike Caulfield and is reused here under a Creative Commons license.

The 6 W's

The 6W's ask you to consider a source of information and how it relates to your research and assignment.

Who is the author?

  • Identify any credentials the author has that make him/her an authority
  • If an individual author is not named, who is the editor or sponsor?
  • If the source is a web site, is there a link to a "home page" to see who is sponsoring the page?
  • Can you detect any conflict of interest or potential bias in this author?

What type of document is it?

  • Is it: Opinion, news article, review, report, research study, popular article, scholarly article, blog post, peer-reviewed article, statistical analysis, corporate document, government document?

When was the information published an/or updated?

  • What is the date of publication?
  • Is the topic time-sensitive so that you can only use the most updated information or is your topic more historical?
  • When in the Information Cycle was this published?

Where was the information published?

  • In a scholarly journal, newspaper, popular magazine, encyclopedia, book, website, corporate or commercial site?
  • Is the publisher a known and respected source of information?
  • If the source is a website, check the domain name for clues (.edu, .org, .com, .mil, .net, .gov)
    • Is there an "about" link from the homepage that outlines the purpose of the site? Are they trying to sell something?

Why was the information created?

  • Who is the intended audience? General audience, scholars, etc.
  • Is the author looking to inform, to persuade, to entertain, to share a point of view?
  • Was the author paid by a third-party that may be considered biased?

How was it written or produced?

  • How did the author gather data? Did the author:
    • gather data or information from credible outside sources;
    • incorporate in-text citations and a list of references or works cited;
    • present supporting pieces of data, sources, citations, quotes, personal experience, a reliable methodology.
    • If there's not an actual "works cited," are there any internal references to credible sources? Do these sources supplement the information given? Do the links work? 
  • Did the production of this information go through a vetting, editing, or peer review process?

IMVAIN for News Sources

More information on fake news, media bias, and fact checking can be found on our News Know-How guide

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