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ENC 1101-1102

Freshman Composition and Rhetoric and Freshman Writing, Reading, and Research

Evaluating Sources

When you begin searching for information, you're going to find a lot of it, but how do you evaluate that information?
Try using the SIFT Method that was created by Mike Caulfield. Using this method will help you analyze information. The information below is adapted from his materials by using a C C BY 4.0 license.



Stopping reminds you of two things:

1. Ask yourself whether you know the website or the source of information. Do you know the reputation of the website? Don't read or share media until you know what it is.

2. If you feel you are getting overwhelmed in your fact-checking efforts, STOP and remember your purpose.

  • Are you there to repost, read an interesting story, or get a high-level explanation of a concept? First, find out if the information is reputable.

Investigate the source

  • Use Wikipedia or a search engine (ex. Google) to investigate and find information about an organization or other resource.

Find Trusted Coverage

  • You need to find the claim that the article is making, then find out if that claim is true or false. In order to do this, look for trusted reporting or analysis on the claim.
  • In this case it's a good idea to find other coverage of the claim, something that is "more trusted, more in-depth, and maybe just more varied."
  • Do you need to agree with the consensus that you find? No, but you will need to understand the context and the history of a claim so you can better evaluate the information.

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

  • Much of what's available on the internet has been stripped of context. Do we know what happened before? What was clipped out of the video? Maybe a claim is made, but you're not really sure how to verify it?
  • In these cases you'll have to trace the claim, quote, or media back to the original source and see its original context. After doing this, you'll be able to see if whatt you saw was accurately presented.
  • Ways to do this:
    • Look for the original reporting, it should be linked in the source you're viewing and if it's not, ask yourself why?
    • Look for reporting sources as such a bibliography.
    • Look to see if the the claim, quote, or media was fairly represented.

Bias in Algorithms

Algorithms can be biased based on who builds them and how they're used. If an algorithm is biased, it will consistently make biased choices, unless a computer programmer adjusts the algorithm.

Algorithmic biases can stem from text and images that data scientists use to train their algorithm models. For example, if you search "boss" in a search engine the pictures that show up will likely be of white men. If this data is fed into the algorithm, the model will likely conclude that bosses are usually white and male, possibly perpetuating stereotypes against communities of color.

Search engines are not concerned about information retrieval in the same way a librarian or other information professionals are. When you use a search engine (i.e. Google) you're dealing with advertisement information retrieval. This can make a fundamental difference in the type of information you receive. (Noble, 2016)

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