Your work should have a title which is written as a question. This question encapsulates the claim. For example, if the claim to be investigated is “Elvis Presley is still alive,” your question would be either “Is Elvis Presley still alive?” or “Is Elvis Presley dead?” Titles use sentence case. That is, capitalize the title the way you would a sentence.
Your work will have 4 sections as described below.
Your origin section answers the question: “Who is making this claim?”
As an example, if your claim is “Women make 82 cents on the dollar compared to men,” your title question might be “Do women make 82 cents on the dollar compared to men?” Then your origin section will try to identify where the claim “Women make 82 cents on the dollar compared to men” came from. Where was the first place that this claim was made? If you can’t seem to find the first place, find an early place where the claim was made. This is an excellent spot to use the T in the SIFT method. Trace the claim back to its origin. And then tell your readers where the claim came from.
Your prevalence section answers the questions: “How widespread is the claim and in what contexts is it being made?”
As an example, if your title question is “Do women make 82 cents on the dollar compared to men?” then you want to show some places where people make that claim and some places where it is disputed. This is not where you answer the question — it’s just where you show the controversy or misinformation about the question you are answering.
If it makes sense to rename this section to something more topic-specific, such as “Why This Question Is Important”, go ahead and do that.
If the question that you are answering is a very old question, save the detailed history for the Issues and Analysis section. Just note that it is a very old question and show some places where the question (or claims related to the question) have popped up recently.
Issues and Analysis
The issues and analysis section is where you put the extended answer to the question. Usually this answer is a summary of the research on the question done to date. Part of what you will provide is a sense of context. For example, if your question is “Do women make 82 cents on the dollar compared to men?” you might find an article that discusses the notion of “Equal pay for equal work.” Your analysis should go beyond that article to explain how that phrase is related to your claim and how researchers might control for various factors that could possibly impact a person’s salary.
The issues section should also link to sources using standard hyperlinks. Like Wikipedia articles, your article should not only summarize significant expert opinions, but also link to those sources so that the reader can explore the issue on their own if they desire.
For statistics based questions (e.g. answering questions such as “What is the average pay of elementary teachers in the U.S. compared to Canada?”) the issues and analysis section should not only include the data, but explain how the data was collected, and problems with interpreting the data (for example, do you compare absolute dollar amounts or percentage of median national income?).
For statistical questions, also note that simple data tables are supported but complex table styling is not. To create a table that will appear on the web page, make a table using the standard Google Docs tools.
The summary section should appear right after the title. Although you put your summary first in your final work, you write your summary last because you don’t know what it should say until you have completed the other three sections. The summary consists of one “answer” to the question the title poses, followed by a couple sentences that summarize the findings in issues and analysis.
The single sentence answer is a sticking point for many people. It must balance usefulness with precision, and so can be difficult to write. The best way to conceptualize the single sentence answer is to think of it as the answer you would like Siri, Google Home, or Alexa to give a person who asks that question.
For questions where there is an overwhelming amount of evidence, the answer can sometimes be a simple “Yes” or “No”. Answers that are supported by an overwhelming expert consensus should be answered with a simple answer, with the complexity left for the issues and analysis section. As an example, the question “Is current global warming explained by human activity?” can be answered in the summary sentence simply by saying “Yes”. However a question such as “What is the expected economic impact of global warming in 2100?” should supply a range in the answer, and maybe a modifier as well: “Between 2 and 20 percent of global GDP, depending on assumptions about our adaptability.”