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The Research Process

I found this information online. Can I trust it? 

Sometimes that's hard to tell! Check your source through a number of factors:

  • Is the information biased, or do other perspectives exist? How does my bias impact my my search?

  • Based on the content, is the information relevant or dated

  • Can I depend on and trust the information? 

  • Is the author an expert in their field? 

  • Are the claims believable or true


The Center for News Literacy developed an idea called Information Neighborhoods. This concept sorts online news into categories, which helps us see if underlying motivation exists. To learn more about it, check out this guide by the University of Dayton Libraries. 

Trust factors for online sources

Purdue OWL’s resource for Evaluating Digital Sources provides straightforward tips to help you evaluate common online sources. Based on the type of source, you can usually expect results in three categories: 

  • Low Trust -  It's hard to find scholarly sources. Often the content is sponsored by ads, biased, or it's difficult or impossible to validate the author's credibility. 

  • Cross Check - There could be scholarly sources. Use lateral reading to vet the source.

  • High Trust - You can confidently find scholarly sources. The sources have been vetted by experts.


Click here for expanded information from Purdue's OWL.

Trust factors for online sources by Krystal Pederson

Evaluating sources for trustworthiness takes time and curiosity

Evaluate sources using the SHIFT (The Four Moves), developed by Mike Caulfield. Learn methods to evaluate sources used by professional fact checkers. 

SIFT - The Four Moves by Krystal Pederson

Then hone your information (in) sights. 

  • Get curious while you look at your sources. Ask lots of questions!

  • Wait to trust the source until you can answer “why” it exists.

A source needs to prove it’s reliable. Ask probing questions until you have enough information. Your goal is to find:

  • Expert, current and reliable information

  • True content shared ethically

  • No hidden agenda

Works Consulted:

  • Alfonzo, Paige. Teaching Google Scholar : A Practical Guide for Librarians. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Incorporated, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central,
  • Arizona State Univeresity Library. Gallegos, B, and Isbell, D. “Developing a Research Question”
  • Beel, Jöran, et al. “Academic Search Engine Optimization (.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing, vol. 41, no. 2, Jan. 2010, pp. 176–90. EBSCOhost,
  • Caulfield, Mike. “SIFT (the Four Moves).” Hapgood, 15 Feb. 2021,
  • Center for News Literacy: Digital Resource Center. "Lesson 3: Know Your Neighborhood."
  • EBSCO. “Accessing trustworthy sources.”
  • Giustini, Dean, and Maged N Kamel Boulos. “Google Scholar is not enough to be used alone for systematic reviews.” Online journal of public health informatics, vol. 5,2 214. 1 Jul. 2013, doi:10.5210/ojphi.v5i2.4623
  • Lehnen, Carl A., and Glenda M. Insua. "Search Tools and Scholarly Citation Practices in Literary Studies." Reference Services Review, 50.3 (2022): 406-18. ProQuest. 
  • Oh, Kyong Eun, and Mónica Colón-Aguirre. “A Comparative Study of Perceptions and Use of Google Scholar and Academic Library Discovery Systems.” College & Research Libraries, Sept. 2019,
  • Purdue University Owl. "Evaluating Digital Sources."
  • Sinek, Simon. “Start with why.”