ENGL 128 Research Writing: Science, Engineering and Business

This guide will help students complete research writing assignments for English 128.


Assess your Information & Sources

Does that information belong in your research paper or is it C.R.A.P.?
  • How recent is the information?
  • When was it published? If a website. How recently has the website been updated?
  • Is it current enough for your topic? Explain.
  • What kind of information is included in the resource?
  • Is content of the resource primarily opinion?  Is it balanced?
  • Does it include references or sources for data, claims, and quotations? Explain.
  • Can you validate the information in two other sources?
  • Who is the author or creator?
  • What are their credentials and expertise?
  • Who is the publisher or sponsor?
  • What is the publisher's interest (if any) in this information?
Purpose/Point of View
  • Is the source: Informative? Opinion? Entertainment? 
  • What is its point of view? 
  • Is the creator/author trying to sell you something? Does it have ads? 

Assess your Information Sources with SIFT

SIFT Evaluation Tool

Use the technique of Lateral Reading to Validate Claims and Sources

(click on image to enlarge)

SIFT: Stop. Investigate. Find a better Source. Trace back to Source

This work is licensed under a creative commons attribution license.

Step 1: Stop

Ask yourself whether you know and trust the author, publisher, publication, or website.

  • If you don’t, use the other fact-checking moves that follow, to get a better sense of what you’re looking at.
  • In other words, don’t read, share, or use the source in your research until you know what it is, and you can verify it is reliable.
Step 2: Investigate the Source

When investigating a source, fact-checkers read “laterally” across many websites, rather than digging deep (reading “vertically”) into the one source they are evaluating.

  • Leave that source and see what others have said about the source.
  • Piece together different bits of information from across the web to get a better picture of the source you’re investigating.
Step 3: If needed, find better or more appropriate coverage.

What if the source you find is low-quality, or you can’t determine if it is reliable or not?

  • You want to know if it is true or false. You want to know if it represents a consensus viewpoint, or if it is the subject of much disagreement.
  • Your best strategy in this case might actually be to find a better source altogether, to look for other coverage that includes trusted reporting or analysis on that same claim. 
Step 4: Track the source back to the original.

What if you feel uncertain about the "full story" of a fact or claim, or you suspect someone might want to mislead you (as when controversial issues are presented)?

  • Trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in its original context and get a sense of whether the version you saw was accurately presented.

Modified from Mike Caulfield's SIFT (Four Moves), which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

SIFT infographic-CCby

Graphic created by Suzanne Sannwald based on Mike Caulfield's work on SIFT. Creative Commons Attribution License.

You Try!

Practice your Source Evaluation Skills!

Video: Using the C.R.A.P. Test to Evaluate Websites

Source: "Using the C.R.A.P. Test to Evaluate Websites" by Portland State University Library, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

This video explains the C.R.A.P. test and then uses it to evaluate three websites on the topic of performance enhancing drugs in sports.

Video: Research 101: Credibility is Contextual

Source: "Research 101: Credibility is Contextual" by Anna Eisen, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

Learn about how credibility depends on many factors including the author, audience and purpose.