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SIFT: Evaluating Sources Online: Move 1: Stop

Move 1: Stop

The first step, Stop, is the simplest, and also the most important. 

It's crucial to Stop before using or sharing information because

  • it often takes some time to tell the difference between an emotional reaction to a piece of information and a reasoned response; 
  • it gives you space to consider whether you recognize the source of the claim/information; and 
  • it offers you a chance to re-focus the purpose of your search. 

It can be easy to get distracted by all the shiny things when you're in the midst of your research, and so Stop not only serves as a way to make sure you're not sharing weak information, but also as a way to ask yourself if this source answers any of the questions you're researching. 

Why does this matter?

Claire Wardle at First Draft News created this infographic illustrating the different "flavors" of dis- and mis-information. As you can see, "it's complicated!"

7 types of mis/disinformation

Questions to Ask Yourself at STOP

  • Do I recognize this source?
  • If I do recognize the source, is it something I know I can trust?
  • How does this source make me feel? 
  • Does this source answer a question I'm asking in my research?

The Miseducation of Dylann Roof

Questions for Reflection:

  • Do you think media literacy could help some people avoid processes of radicalization? Or are social drivers all around us too strong?
  • Are all conspiracy theories bad? Are all wrong? What do you think makes a conspiracy theory harmful? Do you hold beliefs that others would dismiss as a conspiracy theory?
  • Do you know anyone that has gone down the conspiracy rabbit hole on an issue? What have you learned from that experience about what drives conspiracy thinking? 


Note: This SIFT method guide was adapted from Michael Caulfield's "Check, Please!" course. The canonical version of this course exists at The text and media of this site, where possible, is released into the CC-BY, and free for reuse and revision. We ask people copying this course to leave this note intact, so that students and teachers can find their way back to the original (periodically updated) version if necessary. We also ask librarians and reporters to consider linking to the canonical version.

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