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PHIL 106: Language, Knowledge, and Power

Evaluating Sources

Searching for any information on the internet can be an adventure, but this can be especially true when investigating social phenomena and their relation to power. Evaluating the authority, usefulness, and reliability of the information you find is a crucial step in the research process. This page provides tips for evaluating sources for relevance, reliability, and usefulness.

The SIFT Method

SIFT is a method of evaluating online information developed by Mike Caulfield of Washington State University Vancouver. This infographic shows the steps of SIFT: Stop, investigate the source, find trusted coverage, trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.

SIFT infographic


Learn more about SIFT:

Lateral Reading

This video (3.5 minutes) from University of Louisville Libraries Citizen Literacy Project describes the practice of "lateral reading," a strategy used by professional fact-checkers to investigate the reliability of online sources.


Working in small groups, you will examine a source and consider (1) how you would evaluate its credibility and/or usefulness for your essay and (2) how you would use it as evidence of a real-world language phenomenon. 

(Note: You do not have to read the entire article word for word!)

Imagine that you are exploring the origins and potency of the viral nickname "Karen." You've come across the following piece:

Lewis, Helen. "The Mythology of Karen." The Atlantic, 19 August 2020, 


Consider and respond to the following prompts on Padlet as you evaluate the source:

Evaluating Sources: Language, Knowledge, and Power​ (Section A)

Evaluating Sources: Language, Knowledge, and Power​ (Section B)

  1. Look over this source and explore the features of the website to determine its credibility. What specific aspects of the article and/or website helped you evaluate this article?
  2. What issues related to language and power does this article raise? Can you find a sentence that best encapsulates the author's argument?
  3. Apply SIFT and the lateral reading skills you learned in the video to this source. (You might start by searching Google for information about the publication or author and then branch out). What additional information did you find? Did lateral reading change your perspective on the credibility of this source?
  4. Would you/should you use this source in a research project? How do you think this source might help you engage with the theoretical texts you've read in class?