Evaluating Websites Using the Four Moves

Learning Objectives

  • Explain how the four moves are used to evaluate information
  • Evaluate websites using the four moves

When looking at any source, you should ask yourself two questions:

1. Who wrote this source?

2. Why are they writing this source?

Because anyone can publish something online, you need to be particularly careful and critical when evaluating sources you find on the Internet. When looking for sources–particularly websites–think about whether or not they are reliable. You want your paper to contain sources written by unbiased and professional experts, not businessmen with commercial interests. While the CRAAP method is one helpful tool for assessing the credibility and reliability of sources, you don’t necessarily need to go through a complicated checklist every time you encounter new information. Instead, you can evaluate information more organically by focusing on some basic guidelines and principles, as explained by the four moves.

Watch It

This funny clip shows that you can’t always believe everything you read online.

You can view the transcript for “Can’t Lie On The Internet” here (opens in new window).

The Four Moves

When you read something online and you are not sure whether or not it is true, you can employ the four moves to help you uncover the truth of a claim. Here are the moves, which are four steps broken down. As you read and research, you will want to stop, investigate the source, find better coverage, and trace back to the original context.

Icon of the Four Moves. Appropriate alternative text for this image can be found in the surrounding text.

Figure 1. The Four Moves, or SIFT Method, for investigating online sources.

  • STOP. Think critically. Avoid being too emotionally charged or looking for information that confirms your own biases. Have an open mind to consider new or controversial topics, and seek to understand.
  • INVESTIGATE. Find out who the author is, why they wrote it, etc.
  • FIND BETTER COVERAGE. Read laterally. Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source.
  • TRACE CLAIMS. Trace claims, quotes, and media to the original source.


The first move is the simplest. STOP reminds you of two things.

First, when you first hit a page and start to read it — STOP. Ask yourself whether you know and trust the website or source of the information. If you do not, use the other moves to get a sense of what you are reading. Do not use the sources in your paper or share it on social media until you know what it is and where it came from.

Second, after you begin the process and use the moves it can be too easy to go down a rabbit hole, chasing after more and more obscure facts or getting lost in a “click cycle.” If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed in your fact-checking efforts, STOP and take a second to remind yourself what your goal is. Adjust your strategy if it isn’t working. Make sure you approach the problem at the right amount of depth for your purpose.

Watch It

This short video introduces the importance of fact-checking sources we find on the web.

You can view the transcript for “Online Verification Skills- Video 1: Introductory Video” here (opens in new window).

Investigate the Source

The key idea of investigating is to know what you’re reading before you read it. This doesn’t mean you have to do a Pulitzer prize-winning investigation into a source before you engage with it. But if you’re reading a piece on economics by a Nobel prize-winning economist, you should know that before you read it. Conversely, if you’re watching a video on the many benefits of milk consumption that was put out by the dairy industry, you probably want to know that as well.

This doesn’t mean the Nobel economist will always be right and that the dairy industry can’t ever be trusted. But knowing the expertise and agenda of the source is crucial to your interpretation of what they say. Taking sixty seconds to figure out where it is from before reading will help you decide if it is worth your time, and if it is, help you to better understand its significance and trustworthiness.

Watch It

What does it mean to do a quick investigation of a source? Watch this video to learn more about the process of investigating the source.

You can view the transcript for “Online Verification Skills-Video 2: Investigate the Source” here (opens in new window).

Try It

Find trusted coverage

As a researcher, you need to spend some time learning about the claims in your sources. You want to know if the information is true or false. You want to know if the information represents a consensus viewpoint, or if it is the subject of much disagreement.

In this case your best strategy is to look for other trusted reporting or analysis on the claim. In other words, if you receive an article that says koalas have just been declared extinct from the Save the Koalas Foundation, the winning strategy may be to open up a new tab and find the best source you can that covers this, or, just as importantly, scan multiple sources to see what the consensus seems to be. In these cases we encourage you to “find trusted coverage” that better suits your needs — more trusted, more in-depth, or maybe just more varied. You can also use fact-checking websites such as snopes.com or factcheck.org to confirm the truthfulness of claims you find online.

Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context

A lot of things you find on the internet have been stripped of context. Maybe there’s a video of a fight between two people. But what happened before that? Who started it? What was clipped out of the video and what stayed in? Maybe there’s a picture that seems real but the caption is dubious at best. Maybe a claim is made about a new medical treatment supposedly based on a research paper — but you’re not certain if the paper supports it.

In these cases we’ll have you trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in its original context and get a sense if the version you saw was accurately presented.

Watch It

What does it mean to track a claim back to the original source? Take note of how to verify online resources as a researcher.

You can view the transcript for “Online Verification Skills- Video 3: Find the Original Source” here (opens in new window).

Try It