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Evaluating Sources: Investigate the Source

Step two: Investigate the Source

The key idea is to know what you're reading before you read it.

This doesn't mean you have to do a thorough and in-depth investigation and analysis into a source before you engage with it. But if you're reading a piece on economics by a Nobel prize-winning economist, you should know that before you read it. Conversely, if you're watching a video on the many benefits of milk consumption that was put out by the dairy industry, you probably want to know that as well.

This doesn't mean the Nobel economist will always be right and that the dairy industry can't ever be trusted. But knowing the expertise and agenda of the source is crucial to your interpretation of what they say. Taking a minute o figure out where a source is from 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.

Questions to ask yourself:

This is where you start to answer the questions you asked yourself at STOP: What kind of content is this? Is it a blog post, article, or statistic? Who wrote it or created it? When was it published? Who is it published by? 


Why did the fact-checkers perform so much better than the other test groups in the video above? They used a simple, quick technique called the “Wikipedia Trick.” The two videos below (2:45/1:47) will introduce you to the Wikipedia trick and show you how effective it is for investigating sources.

Note, you are not using Wikipedia for information to use on a research paper. Instead, you are using it as a tool to check the credibility and trustworthiness of the content in question. 

Just Add Wikipedia

Below is a video (4:33) explaining the "Just add Wikipedia" Strategy

Two questions to keep in mind after you "Just add Wikipedia"

  1. Is the site or organization I am researching what I thought it was?
  2. If not, does it make it more or less trustworthy?

If you thought something was from a straight news site and it turns out to be from a conspiracy site, that should surprise you. And given your new knowledge, your initial impression of the trustworthiness should plummet. If you thought you were looking at a minor, unknown newspaper and it turns out to be a multi-award winning national newspaper of record, maybe your assessment of its trustworthiness increases. The effects on trust are of course contextual as well: a small local paper may be a great source for local news, but a lousy source for health advice or international politics.

Investigating People

What if your investigation requires you to evaluate the expertise and trustworthiness of an individual person? The video below (4:32) will show you how to use the Wikipedia Trick to further investigate your sources.

While it is not the most exhaustive way to evaluate the authority of an individual, the method demonstrated in the video below allows you to quickly see if someone is known to have expertise in their area.


This SIFT method guide was adapted from Michael Caulfield's "Check, Please!" course. The canonical version of this course exists at The text and media of this site, where possible, are released into the CC-BY, and free for reuse and revision. We ask people copying this course to leave this note intact so that students and teachers can find their way back to the original (periodically updated) version if necessary. We also ask librarians and reporters to consider linking to the canonical version.

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