Next I want to talk about the digital information explosion and offer a technique you can use to help weed out the bad information from the good. If you’ve ever done any online research, you probably know what I mean when I say there’s some good information out there but there’s also a lot of information that’s not so good.
That’s because anyone can publish any information on the Internet. The information doesn’t have to be well researched. It doesn’t have to be verified for correctness. It doesn’t even have to be edited.
All that’s needed is a web site and someone to put it there. And that can be a problem when you’re trying to find reliable information about whatever topic you’re searching.
So where do you start?
Most people start reading on the first search engine results page and work their way down the listings that appear on this page. Most people never even make it to the second page of search engine results or beyond.
That’s not necessarily bad as long as you remember that a high search page rank doesn’t necessarily mean the information you’ll find on that site is accurate. There are ways to get a web site ranked higher than the hundreds of others that might also maintain information about the same topic.
However, a high ranking doesn’t necessarily mean the information on a highly-ranked site is inaccurate, either. That’s why you need to know what to look for.
Most important is to know whether the source of the information you are reading is dependable. If it’s published by a government agency, a reputable educational institution, or a newspaper you’ve actually heard of before, the information is probably worth a closer look.
When you look more closely, check out the author to help determine whether he or she is credible. An easy technique is by looking for information about the author’s background, credentials and/or affiliations.
You should also try to determine whether or not the author might be biased. If you’re reading a story about a product that has a questionable track record or a lot of controversy surrounding it, and the story puts a positive spin on the product, there’s always a chance the author might not have objectively presented the facts. If you find this to be the case, consider moving on.
Some other information you can find out simply from the page is whether or not the information presented is recent or recently revised. You can also check to see whether the author lists sources, references, footnotes and any other information that can help substantiate and validate the information being presented.
Finally, take a look at what’s written and ask, “Does this even make sense?” If the information is confusing, inconsistent, incomplete, or irrelevant, or if it contains grammatical and spelling errors, don’t waste any more time on it. Move on until you find a more trustworthy source.
Once you find information you want to keep, make sure it’s saved in a way that’s organized and easily retrievable. Most importantly, try to resist the temptation to print everything out. Whether electronic or printed, nothing’s worse than being buried under a disorganized pile of papers!
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