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TGC: The Great Conversation

The SIFT Method is a tool for evaluating information in 60 seconds. It focuses on searching other sources to verify the creator's authority and the creator's claims.

  1. Stop what you're reading and watching and ask yourself:
    1. Do I know this site or source? If not, learn more about them from others before reading or listening further.
    2. What is my goal in watching or reading this information? Do I want to verify the claim they're making? Do I want to share this video?
  2. Investigate the source. Run a quick search on the publisher, author, or creator.
    1. Do they have expertise or experience in the subject?
    2. Do they have an agenda? (i.e. Are they trying to sell you something? Is their primary purpose to get you to vote a certain way?)
  3. Find better coverage. If you want to investigate the claim they are making, search the claim and scan multiple sources.
  4. Trace back to the original.
    1. If you're unsure if an image has been photoshopped, run a reverse image search.
    2. Did the source quote a respected source? Find the original quote to see if it was misquoted or taken out of context.

The SIFT Method by Mike Caulfield is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Clock icon1. Frequency of Publication
 How quickly can the information be published? Does it allow time for review?


 2. Review Process
 The review process  involves both the number of reviewers and the time spent fact-checking the information.


 3. Author(s') Education
 Authors of most reputable sources of information are often considered "experts in their field."


 4. Sources Consulted
 Just like you, credible authors always cite the sources they used in their writing. This demonstrates not just where their information came from, but also their familiarity with ideas beyond their own.


 5. Lengthy
 Unlike a Tweet, which is only 140 characters or an Instagram post which may be just a picture, sources such as academic books or scholarly articles are often long enough to demonstrate support for a well-reasoned argument.


 6. Background Knowledge
 Sources consulted for academic research often assume that their readers have background or prior knowledge about the subject. 

Scientist working in the lab under the title "primary research" and scientist speaking under the title "reviews"

The authors of the article conducted their own original research. The authors synthesize and analyze known research on a particular topic to discover trends.
Has a specific structure: introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, references Its structure can be changed depending on the topic studied.

Uses first and second person like "We discovered" or "I found"

Refers primarily to "this study" (singular)

Uses third person like "they discovered" or "Choi and Wilson concluded"

Refers to multiple studies

Its goal is to add a new contribution to scientific research. Its goal is to summarize current research, draw connections, and show gaps needing further research.

How to Read a Scholarly Article (Accessible View)

1. Read the abstract
An abstract is a summary of the article, and will give you an idea of what the article is about and how it will be written. If there are lots of complicated subject-specific words in the abstract, the article will be just as hard to read.

2. Read the conclusion
This is where the author will repeat all of their ideas and their findings. Some authors even use this section to compare their study to others. By reading this, you will notice a few things you missed, and will get another overview of the content.

3. Read the first paragraph or the introduction
This is usually where the author will lay out their plan for the article and describe the steps they will take to talk about their topic. By reading this, you will know what parts of the article will be most relevant to your topic!

4. Read the first sentence of every paragraph
These are called topic sentences, and will usually introduce the idea for the paragraph that follows. By reading this, you can make sure that the paragraph has information relevant to your topic before you read the entire thing. 

5. The rest of the article
Now that you have gathered the idea of the article through the abstract, conclusion, introduction, and topic sentences, you can read the rest of the article!

To review: Abstract → Conclusion → Introduction → Topic Sentences → Entire Article

Used with permission from the Undergraduate Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for use or adaptation of materials.

Ask yourself the following questions about the article you are viewing to determine if it is peer-reviewed: 

  • Does the article contain an abstract?
  • Does the article contain a full bibliography?
  • Are the author(s') credentials easily identified?
  • Does the journal contain little to no advertising?
  • Is the language of the article intended for an informed audience?
  • Is the article lengthy?
  • Does the journal include the words "peer-reviewed" or "editorial process"?

Many of our databases make the process of locating peer-reviewed information very easy for us by providing a "Peer-Reviewed" checkbox limiter on the search screen. Look for that checkbox when you're searching in library databases!

The box at the top that reads "Searching: Academic Search Complete" tells us which database we're searching. Academic Search Complete or Ultimate includes research from a variety of subjects.

Make sure to check the "scholarly (peer-reviewed journals" box to limit to only peer-reviewed journals.