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How to do Research (and find what you need for your assignment!)

Basic information on how to get started on your assignment!

Review your sources

Before you use a website, news story, or other piece of information for an assignment, ask yourself:

  • What are the credentials of your source? See if there is an "about" link on the page to see who is responsible for the information on the site. Then, use Wikipedia or Google to search for information about them. Is the source well-known? Google the author if there is one. Does the source's author have credentials or an education that matches the topic?
  • Are there other news outlets telling the same story? Again, do some sleuthing on the story and see if other sites are telling the same story. Do these other sources give the same information? 
  • When was the story published? Be sure to check the date of the source. It might contain information that's out of date! 
  • Is the story outrageous? The story may be from a parody/humor site or may be written to provoke the reader. Take a look at the other stories on the website. Do they seem as outrageous or sensational as yours?

Also, Consider...

  • When you open a news article in your browser, open a second, empty tab.  Use that second window to look up claims, author credentials, and organizations that you come across in the article.
  • Fake news spans across all kinds of media - printed and online articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, radio shows, and even still images. Be prepared to double-check everything.
  • Beware of confirmation bias.  Just because you might agree with an article doesn't mean it's true. Check these sources also!
  • Even the best researchers will be fooled occasionally.  If a fake news story fools you, use your experience as a learning tool.


SIFT -- Click through the tabs to move through this short tutorial

Introducing SIFT

SIFT is an easy-to-use four-step method of fact-checking information you find anywhere. Digital literacy expert Mike Caulfield has created a few short videos to explain how to best use SIFT.



The above is adapted from "The SIFT Method"Introduction to College Research by Walter D. Butler; Aloha Sargent; and Kelsey Smith, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Step 1: Stop!

Before you use a source. ask yourself:

Who's responsible for the information?

Who created and disseminated it? And do you recognize the source?

If so, do you trust it? If the answer is no or you're unsure, consider some of the following:

Step 2: Investigate the Source

What do others have to say about the source? (Hint: Try scanning the Wikipedia article on the source, if there is one) Look for surprises, particularly those that deviate from your initial impression! Take a look at the video (2:45) that covers how to fact-check efficiently and effectively by "reading vertically"

Step 3: Find Better Coverage

If you're unsure about a source, especially if it is claiming that you want to use or share, investigate if other sources that you trust more are also making the claim. The following video (4:10) covers strategies for finding better coverage of a claim:

Step 4: Trace Claims, Quotes and media to the Original Context

Context is critical when it comes to information claims. And information changes as it gets passed along and shared, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes deliberately. So, consider tracing the claim back to its original source and context. Take a look at the following video (1:33) that covers tips for "going upstream" and finding the original context: