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PS 200: Methods 1: Research In Psychology

This guide has been created to support the research requirements of PS 200: Research Design

The SIFT Method

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The SIFT method was created by Mike Caulfield. All SIFT information on this page is adapted from his materials with a CC BY 4.0 license.

Determining if resources are credible is challenging. Use the SIFT method to help you analyze information, especially news or other online media.

Introduction to SIFT

The SIFT Method is a series of actions one can take in order to determine the validity and reliability of claims and sources on the web. Each letter in “SIFT” corresponds to one of the “Four Moves":

STOP

When you first hit a page and start to read it — STOP. Ask yourself whether you know and trust the website or source of the information. If you don't, use the other moves to get a sense of what you're looking at. Don't read it or share it until you know what it is.

INVESTIGATE THE SOURCE

Investigating the source means knowing what you’re reading before you read it. This doesn't mean you have to do a Pulitzer prize-winning investigation into a source before you engage with it. But taking sixty seconds to figure out where information is coming from before reading will help you decide if it is worth your time, and if it is, help you to better understand its significance and trustworthiness.

FIND BETTER COVERAGE

When the initial source you encounter is low quality and you just care about the claim, your best strategy might be to find a better source altogether.

In order to find better coverage, you can do a “quick check” on a claim/story. Simply type keywords from the article title into Google and (1) observe any consensus, disagreement or controversy on the story, and (2) determine whether the claim is true or false by trying to find reporting by other sources you can confirm are credible. If your Google search shows that this story is being covered by multiple outlets, that’s a good sign—after all, most big (true) stories will get covered by multiple, major news outlets. 

TRACE CLAIMS, QUOTES, AND MEDIA TO THEIR ORIGINAL CONTEXT

Most of the stuff you see on the web is not original reporting or research. Instead, it is often commentary on the re-reporting of re-reporting on some original story or piece of research. And that can be a problem because, in most cases, the more a story is passed around, the more it starts to become a bit warped.

Usually, the original reporting, research, or photo is available on the web. By going to the original reporting or research source (or finding a high quality secondary source that did the hard work of verification) you can get a story that is more complete, or a research finding that is more accurate.

When looking at a claim online, figure out what the original reporting source was, and go take a look. Does the original source say the same things as the re-reporting you read first? Does it contradict what you read? Expand on it? Some publications can add value, particularly if reporters are experienced and knowledgeable in the field they are reporting in.

 

Source: Los Angeles Valley College Library. (2022, November 23). What is the SIFT Method? https://lib.lavc.edu/information-evaluation/siftmethod