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SIFT: Evaluating Online Sources

Tracing Claims

Tracing Claims to Their Original Source

Very little of what we find online is original research or reporting, and as a story gets passed around and filtered through different writers important details can be left out and inaccuracies can find their way in. However, it is often possible to find the original reporting, research or image online. 


  • Read the article and see who/what they're quoting and citing. Search for or click through to original stories and see if the claims from original studies and stories are being accurately reported
  • Beware the sourceless story - if a post doesn't reference sources or provide links, you should be extra cautious


Practice your skills

Check out the following tweet. 

You see multiple sources here, but what's the original research source? Click through until you find the original report.

  • What is the reputation of the organization or person producing the report? How credible are they on this claim?
  • What's the 1,000 people dying about? How does an alcohol tax affect that?

This is a contentious issue, with a lot of complexity. Our goal is not to check the math - our goal is to figure out how seriously to take the claim. Now that we know the original source, we can go back and investigate the source, and also continue to seek trusted coverage.