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SIFT: Evaluating Online Sources

Investigate the Source

Investigate the Source

Don't look to the source itself to determine its reliability; look at what the web is telling you about the source. 

Two moves

  1. Just add Wikipedia. Delete everything after the initial domain name, and add [wikipedia] to the search bar
  2. Truncate the URL and use Google to search for what other people are saying about the site

Exercise 1: Alligators

Practice your skills

Check out both of these news reports and answer the questions below.


  • Are these trustworthy news sources for this sort of story?
  • Is this story likely true?
  • If you had to pick the best source of the two based just on what you found on Wikipedia, which one would you pick, and why?

Determining expertise

Determining Expertise

When sources quote experts, it can be helpful to do your investigation 

Think about the type of expertise the person is presented as having, and then use your tools to see if you can find evidence of that expertise. 

Types of Expertise:

  • Professional expertise
  • Academic expertise
  • Writer's/Reporter's expertise
  • Indigenous expertise
  • Lived expertise

Exercise 3: Warming claims

Practice your skills:

Here's an article by a guest author, Myles Allen, arguing that climate change is incredibly serious but that the way some activists are talking about the recent IPCC report (considered to be the scientific consensus on global warming) is at times alarmist. We are going down a very dangerous road if we don't act on climate change now, Allen agrees, but he also says the idea that most people will feel world-ending impacts in twelve years is not supported.

The Problem With Claiming We Have "12 Years to Climate Breakdown" | RealClearScience

Allen is not a reporter but instead is presented as an expert. Check out his expertise by doing a Wikipedia search on his name. 

Is he well qualified to write this article? Why or why not?

(Again, remember it's not about whether you think he is right or wrong here. We just want to know if his opinion here is worth considering and why.)

Exercise 4: Smoke free

Practice your skills:

Here's a summary of a report from an organization called Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. They want to eliminate smoking worldwide.

Global Trends in Nicotine

For this example, do a Google News search on the foundation name.


  • Is there anything we should know about this organization before reading their materials? 
  • What did you find and what sources did you use?