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Located in the Student Achievement Center on the Youngwood Campus

How Did You Find the Article, Website, or Image?

  • Did an instructor or another reliable source recommend it?
  • Did you find it by using a search engine like Google or did you get it from a Library database?
  • Library Databases vs. the Internet
  • Was it cited in a scholarly or credible source?
  • Was it a link from a reputable website?

Evaluating Websites

Lateral reading: doing a quick initial evaluation of a website by spending a little time on the website and more time reading what others say about it. Sometimes you can find out more about a website by leaving the site itself.

Click restraint: don’t immediately click on the first search results. Scan a search results page and look at things like the title, source description, and featured sections, before deciding what sources to examine. 

This short video from the Stanford History Education Group illustrates the importance of click restraint and why you shouldn’t assume that the first search results are necessarily the most reliable or relevant ones. 

This video explains why lateral reading is important.

This video is about investigating a source.

SIFT Method

STOP. Pause.

  • Do you recognize the information source? Do you know anything about the website? If not, you can continue with the next parts of SIFT.
  • Take note if you have a strong reaction to the information you see (e.g., joy, pride, anger). If so, slow down before you share or use that information. We tend to react quickly and with less thought to things that evoke strong feelings. By pausing, you give your brain time to process your initial response and to analyze the information more critically. 

INVESTIGATE the source.

  • Take a minute to identify where this information comes from and to consider the creator's expertise and agenda. If the creator appears untrustworthy, the source may not be worth your time. Look at what others have said about the source to help with your evaluation.
  • For example, a company that sells health food products is not the best source for information about health benefits/risks of consuming coconut oil. A research study funded by a pharmaceutical company is also suspect.

FIND trusted coverage.

  • Sometimes it's less important to know about the source itself and more important to assess its claims.
  • Look for credible sources, and compare information across sources in order to determine whether there appears to be a consensus.

TRACE claims, quotes, and media back to the original context.

  • Sometimes online information has been removed from its original context (for example, a news story is reported on in another online publication or an image is shared on Twitter).
  • If needed, trace the information back to the original source in order to recontextualize it.


  • Do you need current information? Check with your instructor to be sure.
  • Is this information current enough? Is the date prominently displayed? It's usually near the author/title information.
  • When was the last time the page was updated? The date if often at the bottom. Try to avoid sites with no date.
  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level, not too simple/not too advanced?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before choosing this one?
  • Anyone can put up a website. Are the author's occupation, education, or other credentials listed? 
  • Is it self‐published or does it carry the weight of a publisher or organization?
  • What does the URL reveal about the author or source, i.e. .com, .org, .edu, .gov? For more information, see the information on Domain Suffixes below.

  • Can you verify any references listed?
  • Are there links to other credible sites or are the links broken?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or typographical errors?
  • Can you verify the information in another source?
  • Is the information crowd sourced or vulnerable to changes by other authors, i.e. Wikipedia or other public wiki?
  • Is the purpose to inform, teach, sell, entertain, provide a public service, or persuade?
  • Is the information biased?
  • Are there any advertisements? Avoid sites with too many ads or pop-ups.

More About Evaluating What You Read or See

Common Logical Fallacies
Keep these in mind when reading, writing, or listening.

Evaluating Info Found in Google

If you are unsure of the source of an image or have doubts about its authenticity, use a reverse image tool like TinEyeFotoForensics, or Google Images (click on the camera icon).


Domain Suffix

Commercial site. The information provided by commercial interests is generally going to shed a positive light on the product it promotes. While this information might not necessarily be false, you might be getting only part of the picture. Remember, there's a monetary incentive behind every commercial site in providing you with information, whether it is for good public relations or to sell you a product outright.

Educational institution. Sites using this domain name are schools ranging from kindergarten to higher education. Information from sites within this domain must be examined very carefully. If it is from a department or research center at an educational institution, it can generally be taken as credible. However, students' personal sites are not usually monitored by the school even though they are on the school's server and use the .edu domain.

Government. State or federal government site. Information such as Census statistics, Congressional hearings, and Supreme Court rulings would be included in sites with this domain. The information is considered to be from a credible source.

Traditionally a non-profit organization. Organizations such as the American Red Cross or PBS (Public Broadcasting System) use this domain suffix. Generally, the information in these types of sites is credible and unbiased, but there are examples of organizations that strongly advocate specific points of view over others, such as National Right to Life and Planned Parenthood.

Military. This domain suffix is used by the various branches of the Armed Forces of the United States.

Network. You might find any kind of site under this domain suffix. It acts as a catch-all for sites that don't fit into any of the preceding domain suffixes. Information from these sites should be given careful scrutiny.

Westmoreland County Community College Library - Student Achievement Center, 145 Pavilion Lane, Youngwood, PA 15697
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