Today we have a guest post from one of my brilliant graduate students, Miriam DeCock, who wrote this post for an assignment in my class. If you’re a teacher or student, especially at the college level, you may have heard of the CRAAP test for evaluating sources, especially websites. In this post, Miriam introduces us to the SIFT test, a sort of pre-screen that helps researchers determine whether a site is worth the time it takes to go through the CRAAP test. I had never heard of SIFT before reading her post, and I’m excited about this new tool for helping students become literate consumers of information–one of my passions. Even if you’re not a teacher or student, the principles of SIFT can help you sort through the piles of information that get virtually dumped on you every day.
What follows is the text-only version of Miriam’s post. If you’d like to see her original version, which takes you through the process using examples from a real website, you can find it here. The title of this post is Miriam’s too!
Credible, reliable sources…in this crazy, high-tech, low accountability digital age, how do you know what stays and what goes?
We all know that source credibility is paramount to a successful academic or professional paper. How do you determine if your sources are credible? How do you teach your students to determine source credibility? What is credibility, anyway?
A commonly-taught method of determining source credibility is the CRAAP (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose) test, designed by librarians at the University of California, Chico. Of course, these elements are important to consider when evaluating sources. A problem, however, is that this checklist is geared towards print material; in today’s digital age, it is imperative that we can quickly, carefully, and accurately evaluate online sources. In light of this new digital age we are in, Mike Caulfield has developed a tool, referred to as SIFT (Stop, Investigate the source, Find better coverage, Trace claims, etc.) to help quickly determine if an online source is worth digging into deeper, or moving along and leaving it in the dust.
Both tools are valuable and both are worth learning about. Just like any tool, though, we must understand when each one should be used, and how it should be applied.
Let’s focus on the SIFT test. The SIFT test is designed to quickly (60 seconds or less!) evaluate an online source. If the source passes the SIFT test, then it’s time to run it through the CRAAP test (but that will be a post for another day!)
What is the SIFT Test?
STOP: Is the site familiar? What reputation does it have?
INVESTIGATE: What authority does the author have? Are there “affiliate links” or page sponsors that might indicate a bias?
FIND better coverage: Look for a trusted source to confirm the claim.
TRACE claims to the original source: Where did the information originate from? Can you trace the claim to its origin to “get the full story”? If you are already looking a the primary source, you can search for another source to verify the claims; if you are looking at a trusted source, this step is not absolutely necessary.
Note from Dr. Tess: This is where Miriam takes you through the SIFT process using a real website in the full version of the post, which I highly recommend!
For further reading…
Want an in-depth look at the SIFT evaluation method? Make sure to check out Mike Caulfield’s site at https://hapgood.us/
Caulfield provides an excellent, free, mini-course to learn how to implement his system in various settings. For more about the CRAAP test, visit https://library.csuchico.edu/sites/default/files/craap-test.pdf
Sources Consulted and References
California State University, Chico, (2010 September 17). Evaluating information: Applying the CRAAP test. https://library.csuchico.edu/sites/default/files/craap-test.pdf
Caulfield, M. (2019 June 19)) SIFT The four moves. https://hapgood.us/2019/06/19/sift-the-four-moves/ .
Sawchuck, C. (2017 August 23). Test anxiety: Can it be treated? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/expert-answers/test-anxiety/faq-20058195 Vaiana, D. (2020 February 12). How to overcome test anxiety: 5 strategies that work. College Info Geek. https://collegeinfogeek.com/test-anxiety/