The first strategy is to STOP --- at the beginning of your information seeking and throughout the process.
When you first encounter a post, news, or other information, STOP. Take a moment to see if you know the source or its the origin. Is it reliable? Don’t read it or share media until you know what it is.
After you move on to the other strategies of SIFT, allow yourself to STOP and remember your purpose. For example, are you hoping to share on social media, share highly impactful information (such as medical details), or use a source for a research paper. How deeply you investigate may depend on these contextual factors and your needs.
Another initial strategy is to check to see if someone has already investigated the article, claim, or story.
Search fact checking sites.
Tip: Use Google or Duck Duck Go to search key terms and site command. In the search bar, enter:
Search terms + site:factcheck.org site:snopes.com site:politifact.com site:www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/
Investigate the source
Know what you're reading before you read it.
Taking sixty seconds to find out more about the source before reading will help you decide if it is worth your time, and if it is, help you to better understand its significance and trustworthiness.
It is a great idea to explore statements about the review process, ethics and transparency of a news source. But remember to also look at what others say about the site or source.
Find trusted sources
Sometimes you don't care about the particular article that reaches you. You care about the claim the article is making. You want to know if it is true or false. You want to know if it represents a consensus viewpoint, or if it is the subject of much disagreement. When it comes to claims, a key piece of context includes whether they are broadly accepted or rejected or something in-between. By scanning for other coverage you can see what the expert consensus is on a claim, learn the history around it, and ultimately land on a better source.
Determine what information you might be able to confirm based on the author's reporting.
Try search engines, encyclopedias, or experts! Ask your librarian.
Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context
Trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in it’s original context and get a sense if the version you saw was accurately presented. Much of what we find on the internet has been stripped of context and referencing of original sources. Much of what we see in social media and elsewhere is syndicated or borrowed from other works. 'Going upstream' is the practice of identifying the original sources before you ask questions about the site, author, ownership, purpose.
Identify the original source
Look for references to where the information or reporting originally appeared.
What can you infer about the original source? What are its guidelines for ethics, review, transparency? Does it influence your judgment if the news outlet is closer to the incident?
Track down studies, reports, or research
Does the source represent the study accurately based on your results?
Track down original images
Does the source represent the image accurately based on your results?