What are you going to do with the information you've encountered? Read it for your own interest, repost on social media, or use it in a paper for class?
How important it is for a source to be reputable and how deeply you investigate a source both depend on your own context and purpose.
When you encounter a piece of information, especially if it causes a strong reaction ("This will be perfect for my paper!" "I can't believe X did that to Y!"), stop and ask yourself what you know about the source of the information or about the claim itself.
Take some time to learn about the source before you read it--especially if you're unfamiliar with the publication or the author. This can be as quick as a Google search of the title of the website or journal you're reading. Ask yourself:
-from "SIFT (The Four Moves)"
Find better--or even just other--coverage of the information you're evaluating to place it within the context of the larger conversation happening about the topic. No information exists within a vacuum, so it's a good idea to think about:
It's easy to share an image or a quote and totally remove its original context and meaning. Sometimes even full news stories are not original to the publication you're reading them in. See if you can trace quotes, images, and strong claims back to their original context. Then consider:
Make use of formal citations in scholarly writing, and look for links in internet-based writing like news sites and blogs. Where did the source you're reading get their information from?
The strategies in this Guide were developed out of research on misinformation done by Mike Caulfield at Washington State University. Originally published in Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers, the strategies in their latest form are explained on Caulfield's blog and on a COVID pandemic-inspired website promoting these strategies as a way to combat misinformation.
The SIFT image at the top of the page is from Sifting Through the Pandemic.