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JUAD 498: Justice Administration Senior Seminar : Evaluating Sources

Something to Think About

The evaluation method introduced here can be used with all types of resources, but was designed with the digital environment in mind. You  constantly need to be asking yourself questions in the evaluation process, regardless of the format of the material. We do put more emphasis on evaluating web sources, but each source you are going to use in your work should be evaluated with a critical eye with an emphasis on the source (author/publisher). 

This is true for resources you find through the library. Most of us do not know specific authors or journals -- the SIFT method asks us to do some investigating to see what we can learn about the authors and journal/publication rather than just assuming "it must be good because it's published."

SIFT Evaluation Videos

This is a short video series by Mike Caulfield that explores and demonstrates how he utilizes the SIFT method for source checking. 

Example "I" Evaluation

Andrews, C. R. (2012). Libraries and general education: New strategies to enhance freshman orientation, faculty collaboration, and curriculum development. International Journal of Learning18(5), 109-131.

The author of this article is Carl R. Andrews. In the article, he describes himself as an Assistant Professor and Librarian at Medgars Evers College, a part of the College of New York (CUNY) system. When I clicked on his name in the Education Research Complete database, it showed that he had another article published on a similar topic in the journal Community & Junior College Libraries in 2017. A Google search of his name brought up the same article along with another one on a different topic, but within his field of study (embedded librarianship). From the Google search and the 2nd article, I can see that Andrews now works at the Bronx Community College. A search of the college website shows he is an Assistant Librarian there. I am comfortable with his experience and expertise to write on this topic.  

A Wikipedia search for the journal (International Journal of Learning) shows it is a peer-reviewed, online-only journal published quarterly since 2009 by MIT. I recognize MIT as a reputable academic publisher. 


SIFT Evaluation 

The SIFT method focuses on moves -- or things to do -- that ideally are built into habits, and then habits of mind. 


Investigate the source

Find trusted coverage

Trace to the original


Investigate the Source

When investigating the source, you want to learn about the expertise and agenda of your source.  You can do this by  

  • taking note of the author affiliation (if listed in the database)

  • determining if he/she has written other articles on the topic - you could do this by searching for the author in the database and/or in a web search 

  • conducting web searches to learn more about your source such as

    • verifying the author affiliation (if you found one) listed in the database
    • seeing what other sources say about your author? Is he/she listed in Wikipedia? 
    • learning about the journal the article was published in -- this can often be done through a Wikipedia search
      • e.g. If you were looking for information about the journal called American Journal of Education, you could just add the word Wikipedia to that in the search bar -- American Journal of Education wikipedia -- and you would be able to see how the journal is characterized in Wikipedia