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Quick Start to Research: Evaluating Information

Guiding you through the research process.

The SIFT Test



Make sure you collect quality, reliable sources.

One way to evaluate information is with the SIFT Test.

  • STOP
  • INVESTIGATE the Source
  • FIND Better Coverage
  • TRACE Claims, Quotes, and Media to the Original Context.

Use the SIFT to determine if your source is credible.

Some thoughts on Wikipedia



 Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, has made finding background information incredibly easy.  But if you are planning to use it as a key resource for your research beware:

  • Wikipedia and other encyclopedias (whether in print or online) do not qualify as scholarly resources. 
  • Encyclopedias are a good place to start your research, but not are generally not considered acceptable sources to cite.
  • The collaborative and dynamic nature of Wikipedia presents a number of additional concerns regarding the quality and authority of the entries. 

Conflicting Information

When doing your research did you find conflicting opinions?  This is the result of divergent problems, meaning there is more then one answer to a problem.  In academic research you will rarely find that everyone agrees with each other.  You need to look at the information you have found and think about what supports your argument, but you can't ignore the information that disagrees with your point either. Use your research to support your opinion and show why you disagree with others. You need to use use both supporting and disagreeing information in a good research project.

Evaluating Information

Some information is valuable and some is worthless. Information comes in lots of packages: books, websites, news programs, journal articles, tweets, etc. You need to determine if the information you have found is what you need to complete your task. To do this you need to focus on the content, context and quality of the information. 

Think critically about:

  • What is the context of this information?
    • Try to figure our the value of the information. Think about the author's purpose, the format, and delivery mode.
  • Is this editorial commentary or more research-based?
    • Recognize if  the information being presented in a well-rounded way that recognizes values and beliefs or if only one side of an issue being expressed.
  • Do I need formal or informal information?
    • Determine if you need information from an expert and what level of expert. 
  • How many different types of sources should be used?
    • Assess information from many various sources. Use a mixture of books, websites, news programs, journal articles, tweets, etc. 

If you have any questions about evaluating information, ask a librarian.

adapted from Bernnard, Deborah, et al. The Information Literacy User's Guide: An Open, Online Textbook. Geneseo, NY: Open SUNY Text, 2014. Web.