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GHS 211: Modern Middle East and North Africa: Evaluating Sources

A guide about researching countries and peoples from the Modern Middle East and North Africa.

Peer-Review Limiters

Finding Scholarly/Academic Articles

To locate scholarly/academic articles, your best bet is to look in one of our databases or use WorldCat Discovery and limit your search to articles. You will likely find that there are LOTS of popular sources in with the academic ones, even within our databases. Use the Peer-Review Limiter to your advantage. This option is normally located in the left column; you can see screenshots of this option from WorldCat Discovery (left) and our EBSCO databases (right).

Peer review limiter in WorldCat Discovery searchPeer review limiter in EBSCO

This will limit your search to publications that are most scholarly/academic. It does not necessarily filter to include publications that go through a strict peer-review process. It also does not apply the filter at the article level; occasionally it will allows articles that are not scholarly/academic to come through (for example, an editorial opinion piece can be published in a scholarly journal but the article itself is not scholarly). 

If you have questions about whether or not a source is scholary/academic, ask your professor or a librarian!

How to Tell if a Source is Scholarly/Academic

A Good Habit: Check Your Emotions

emotions gauge  Do you have a strong reaction to the information you see (e.g., joy, pride, anger)?

If so, slow down before you share or use that information.  

We tend to react quickly and with less thought to things that evoke strong feelings. By pausing, you give your brain time to process your initial response and to analyze the information more critically. Then you are better able to make use of the "Four Moves" described above.

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

Quick Tips

Find what others say about a website. In Google search for "[WEBSITE URL] site: -[WEBSITE URL].

Examples:

  • newyorktimes.com site: -newyorktimes.com
  • minimumwage.com site: -minimumwage.com

The results will be from other websites. While some may have some relationship to the original domain, other sites can give insight into what others say about that site. 

Learn more about "web searching a domain" from Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.


Check a Twitter account. Some Twitter accounts claim to be something they are not. To check the validity of a Twitter account:

  • Right-click on the Twitter handle (Twitter name) and select "Search Google for 'ACCOUNT NAME.'
  • On the Google results page select the "News" filter (top of the page). What do the results tell you about the Twitter account?

Learn more from this post by Mike Caulfield.


Check the origins of an image. If you find an image on a web page or a social media site like Twitter and are unsure of its authenticity, you can check its orgins with a reverse image search. In the Chrome browser right-click on the image and select Search Google for image. The image search results will show you other places where the image has appeared. Examine these results to see if there are any discussions about the trustworthiness or origins of the image.

Learn more from Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.


This page was created by Andrea Baer and Dan Kipnis at Rowan University and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC-BY-NC-SA).

Web Evaluation

SIFT is a helpful acronym for initially evaluating source credibility. SIFT (from Mike Caulfield) stands for:

  • STOP. Pause and ask yourself if you recognize the information source and if you know anything about the website or the claim's reputation.
    If not, use the four moves (below) to learn more. If you start getting too overwhelmed during the other moves, pause and remember your original purpose.

  • INVESTIGATE the source.
    Take a minute to identify where this information comes from and to consider the creator's expertise and agenda. Is this source worth your time? Look at what others have said about the source to help with you these questions. (See the "Four Moves" below for more on investigating sources.)
    (For example, a company that sells health food products is not the best source for information about health benefits/risks of consuming coconut oil. A research study funded by a pharmaceutical company is also suspect.)

  • FIND trusted coverage.
    Sometimes it's less important to know about the source and more important to assess their claim. Look for credible sources; compare information across sources and determine whether there appears to be a consensus.
    Again, use the Four Moves below.

  • TRACE claims, quotes, and media back to the original context.
    Sometimes online information has been removed from its original context (for example, a news story is reported on in another online publication or an image is shared on Twitter). If needed trace the information back to the original source in order to recontextualize it. 

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

Later, when you determine that the site is worth your time, you can analyze the source's content more carefully.

Four Moves of Fact Checkers

There are numerous ways to "SIFT" (as described above). These "four moves" from Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers will help you "SIFT." 

When you first come across a web source, do a quick initial assessment, much like a fact-checker does. Fact-checkers don't spend too much time on a website; instead they quickly leave that site to see what others have said about the site.

  • "Check for previous work.": Has someone already fact-checked the claim or analyzed the research?
    (Search the Internet for other coverage on the claim. Consider where that coverage comes from.)

  • "Go upstream to the source.": Is this the original source of the information, or is this a re-publication or an interpretation of previously published work? Are you examining the original source? If not, trace back to it.

  • "Read laterally.": What are others have saying about the original source and about its claim?
    (For example, get other information about a website from other sources by searching Google for [WEBSITE URL] site: -[WEBSITE URL]
    • newyorktimes.com site: -newyorktimes.com
    • minimumwage.com site: -minimumwage.com

  • "Circle back.": If you hit a dead road, what other search terms or strategies might lead you to the information that you need? 

(Adapted from “Four Moves,” Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, Mike Caulfield)


Later, when you determine that the site is worth your time, you can analyze the source's content more carefully. 

Fact Checking Resources

"We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit 'consumer advocate' for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases."

Fact checking website focusing on political stories. From the Washington Post.

PolitiFact is an independent fact-checking website created by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper to sort out the truth in American politics. It rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics.

Checks "the accuracy of claims by pundits, columnists, bloggers, political analysts, the hosts and guests of talk shows, and other members of the media."

"...dedicated to evaluating medical treatments and products of interest to the public in a scientific light, and promoting the highest standards and traditions of science in health care."

One of the oldest debunking sites. Focuses on urban legends, news stories and memes.

CONTACT

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Science Library: 317-940-9937
CAT: 317-940-8575

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