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FSCI 198 Climate Crisis and Climate Actions

SIFT method

False and misleading information is rampant online, how can you get better at sorting truth from fiction? At applying your attention to the things that matter? At amplifying better treatments of issues, and avoiding clickbait?

The SIFT method gives you four simple moves to help you determine if a source found online is credible.

The moves are:

  1. Stop - When you start to read or engage with a new source, stop and ask yourself if the source of the information (website, publisher, content creator, etc) is credible (why this is important).
  2. Investigate the source - Consider the credentials and expertise of the person making claims, consider whether or not they have an agenda, what their source of funding is, etc (how fact checkers do this).
  3. Find better coverage - Try to understand the history or context of a claim by finding coverage from a variety of trusted sources (looking for trusted sources).
  4. Trace claims, quotes and media back to the original - Whenever possible, it is best to go back to the original source to verify the context and see if it was accurately presented (tips on how to do this). 

Use trusted fact-checking sites like Snopes, AFP Fact Check, and SciCheck

Take the SIFT Starter Course for more details and tips on how to navigate these four moves.

Popular vs Scholarly Sources

Both popular and scholarly resources can be useful for your research, but it can sometimes be hard to tell if a resource is popular or scholarly. Here are some things to consider that will help you differentiate the two.

  Popular source Scholarly source
  • Author may not have subject expertise (ex. journalist)
  • Author's name is not always listed
  • Author is usually a researcher or scholar with a high level of subject expertise
  • Author's name and credentials/affiliation should be included 
  • Written for the general public
  • No special or advanced knowledge required
  • Usually free of jargon or overly technical language
  • Written for other academics, researchers, and/or students
  • Usually assumes audience has some prior knowledge about the subject
  • Often includes technical terms and jargon
  • Could be to entertain, inform, for current awareness, or to persuade
  • To report original research, or review previously published research
  • To add to the body of knowledge on a particular topic 
  • Usually objective
  • May or may not contain works cited
  • Always has a bibliography (list of works cited)
  • Bibliography follows a structured format
Other characteristics
  • May include advertisements
  • Often short
  • Proofread/reviewed by editors
  • Published by a commercial publisher
  • Often describes research methodology
  • Often includes charts, tables, graphs, etc.
  • Reviewed by editorial board or undergone peer-review
  • Published by a university press or professional organization

Peer review is considered a very important element of scholarly or academic resources. Learn more about the peer review process next!

Peer Review

Peer review is a process used to evaluate articles submitted for publication. It is an attempt to ensure that only valid, original, high quality research is published in academic journals. There are a number of different types of peer review, but the basic process goes like this:

  • Author submits manuscript
  • Journal editor does an initial assessment
  • Article is sent to external peer reviewers
  • Article undergoes peer review
  • Editor assess the reviews and sends comments back to author
  • Author incorporates suggestions and sends it back to the journal
  • Article is (or is not) published

The peer review process is an attempt to ensure only quality research gets published, but be aware that the peer review process isn't a fail proof! Errors in the methodology or results can still make it past peer review.

How do you know if a journal uses peer review?

Some databases will allow you to limit your search results to peer reviewed only. Look for a 'peer reviewed' filter, but note that not all databases have this option.

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