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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Information and Computer Sciences

Your Arguments Are Only As Good As The Sources You Use

Not all resources are created equal! Information is plentiful, and anyone on the Internet can make any claim. Therefore, it is important to check your sources -- because your arguments are only as good as the sources you use! Happily, there are strategies to help you determine if a piece of information you are reading is credible and reliable

Know Your Resource Types

Information will come to you in a variety of formats. Different types of resources have different authority and credibility cues. It is important to know the basic characteristics of resource types so that you can make good decisions about which ones to trust and use in your own work.

Resource Table Simplified


Also, check out this AMAZINGLY HELPFUL Infographic on some important differences between resource types, such as how much scrutiny they receive before publication, or how long they take to publish, for another look at resource characteristics. .

How to Evaluate Resources

Below are a selection of brief videos and tutorials that discuss strategies for evaluating resources. Check them out!

Lateral Reading with SIFT

study has shown that factcheckers are REALLY GOOD at determining credibility from clickbait. How do they do it? 

When looking at resources online, such as blogs or videos or news articles, use lateral reading to quickly establish if the source is credible and accurate.


The four moves of SIFT are essentially about RECONTEXTUALIZING what you read online. In doing so, you give yourself enough information to absorb digital content effectively and make informed decisions.

  1. Stop: Do you know the resource or the website it came from? If you aren't familiar with a source and its reputation, this is your cue stop reading and start investigating. Don't share or use a story, until you've learned more about it. 
  2. Investigate the source: Know what you are reading before you read it. Knowing who is writing the work and why they are writing it is critical to your ability to interpret it. Take 60 seconds to determine where the source is coming from before reading further.   
  3. Find Better Coverage: The claim being made is often important than the specific article or video you are using. To verify the claim, step outside of the story you found and look for additional, trusted reporting about the claim from another source(s). 
  4. Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media: Very often information online is taken out of context. Find the original source of any claims, quotes, and media for their original context. 

Source: SIFT (The Four Moves), by Mike Caulfield. June 19, 2019.  

Fact-checking resources

These sources can help you verify the truth or falsity of specific claims.