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HS4390 - Historiography, Method and Research

Research possibilities and tools for primary, secondary, and tertiary research.

SIFT: Four Moves with examples

STOP move from the SIFT method

The 1st Move

STOP asks you to pause before you decide to read a website.

Instead, ask yourself if this website is something you want to read. Are you interested? Do you trust this website? Are you just clicking for no reason or because you are on some type of click cycle?  

STOP and follow the next moves before you decide whether you want to share this information on your social media OR include this information in your project.

Investigate the Source move from the SIFT method

The 2nd Move

Investigate the Source suggests that you need to learn more about a source before you read it and use it. 

There are a few ways that you might investigate a source. These tips are meant to be quick and not exhaustive.  Often, you just need to decide whether to go forward looking at information or not. 

  1. The Wikipedia Trick: Use Wikipedia to investigate a source on the web. (Example: wikipedia)
    • This simple search gives you a basic context about the website, In this case, it tells you that it is a publishing house, founded in 1998, by Dave Eggers, and includes other information.  This Wikipedia entry may be enough for you to decide whether you want to use this source, not use this source, or go further with your investigation. You may want to continue to investigate if you need more or if this trick doesn't find anything.
  2. Hover in Twitter
    • Hover on Twitter to see more about a person or organization.  Users with a blue checkmark have been verified by Twitter. Verification is helpful but can be spoofed. You still need to be thoughtful about retweeting. Let's Hover
  3. Search for Words on a Website 
    • Use Control-F (pc) or Command-F (mac) to find a word on a website, a document, or most anything. This simple trick will save you lots of time!
    • See Caulfield demonstrate feature with Wikipedia:

Find Better Coverage move from the SIFT method

The Third Move

Find Better Coverage suggests to find sources that are higher quality - more authoritative, more recent, more accurate. You want to know if the claim a source is making is true or false.

You may stop after investigate the source if you aren't satisfied with the information you found.  However, you may want to find something closer to the originating source of a piece of information. Questions that may occur to you are 1) "Is this topic accepted by many people?" OR 2) "Is this topic a source of controversy?"


  1. Trade Up from social media
    • Look at the information linked in Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. What is the original source?  Does it say what the social media post claims?  
    • Some options - You may want to link to the original source or an article you find in Google News or Scholar
  2. Reverse Image Search
    • Use Google Chrome to search for a photo to find out more about.  Ask yourself: Where did it come from?  What was the source?  Is it true or faked? What is the real story?
    • How? In Google Chrome, right-click on an image and then select "Search Google for image". Once you bring up an image search, you can change the search terms. Watch this 3 minute video about reverse image searching:
  3. Use Known Fact Checking Website
    • See FactCheck, Politifact, or Snopes, The website are linked on the library's SIFT Method guide.

The 4th MoveTrace Claims, Quotes, and Media move from the SIFT method

Trace Claims, Quotes and Media to the Original Context sends you back to the source to determine where this information originated.  Returning to the first source gives you more information about what was said. Remember, you can return to the Investigate move when you find the original source.

  1. Examine the original sources re-reported in blogs, articles, social media, and more
    • Link to the original material to see what the authors said, what the statistics showed, how they characterized their results, etc.   
  2. Beware of the sourceless story
    • Be very skeptical of secondary sources that don't cite or link to their original sources.
Mike Caulfield developed SIFT.  He describes SIFT in a variety of places. One place is his Hapgood blog post entitled SIFT (The Four Moves) is which is freely available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. This guide is based on material developed by Mike Caulfield and other adaptations.

Evaluate Sources with CRAAP Test

The CRAAP Test (Currency, Reliability, Accuracy, Authority, Purpose) provides questions you can ask yourself to decide whether or not to include an article, book, website, or other type source in your research project.  

The CRAAP Test is one tool to use when deciding on sources.

Currency: The timeliness of the information
  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic or discipline? 
Reliability: The importance of the information for your needs.
  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the informational content
  • Where does the information come from? Are the author's sources listed, either in footnotes, endnotes, bibliography or works cited? 
  • Does the author(s) cite evidence in their argument?
  • Is there any indication that the information has been reviewed by editors or reviewed by peers (peer review)?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammatical, or other typographical errors?
Authority: The source of the information
  • What is the title or name of the web page(s), entry, or article you are examining? How difficult is this to determine?
  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor? Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given? 
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there advertising on the site? If so, what type of advertising is there and is it clearly differentiated from the content?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? (webpages)
Purpose: The reason the information exists.
  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Who is the intended audience? How can you tell?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Adapted from "Evaluating Information – Applying the CRAAP Test." 29 Sept. 2009. Meriam Library, California State University, Chico. Web. 3 Sept. 2010.