Can you find reliable information on the internet?
Finding reliable information on the internet can be a challenge. There is so much available there that it is hard to know what you can believe and trust. Plus, it is very easy to create and publish a website that seems genuine and professional just with less than US$ 100 and a few clicks.
Unfortunately, the inability to distinguish between fake and real can cause several problems, such as making wrong decisions (dangerous ones) and causing embarrassment in front of your class, your boss, or your friends. So here is how you can avoid it by learning to distinguish the reliable sources available on the internet.
# Search on Google Scholar
If your fear is to use an unreliable source on your academic paper, then you should make sure that you only use academic sources. And the best way to search for them is using Google Scholar.
Google Scholar allows you to search for free and paid full-text articles and books from academic publishers, universities, and depositories. The service is free of charge, and it will provide you with both printed and digital sources. It will list citations and gives you links to peer-reviewed academic journals, abstracts, technical reports, and more.
Just bear in mind that Google uses an algorithm to rank their results which are mostly based on a number of citations. So keep checking the links if you are looking for brand-new studies.
# Check the author credentials
Who is writing the article that you are reading? Checking this information is a great way to know if the information you are getting is reliable.
On the internet, there are several people talking about things that they barely understand themselves. And while it is OK to read these posts so to help you to come up with new ideas, you shouldn’t bet your life on them.
So check the author of the text you are reading and google it. Have a look at what they have written before, if they are self-made people or which kind of credentials they have.
See if they have a website, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn profile. All this information will become very relevant if you are trying to figure out their credibility as a writer.
# Look for statistics
Should the information that you need be based on statistics and yet there is none on the article you are reading? Then you should turn on your alarm.
Of course, some topics don’t need to rely on data, but articles with too many generic ideas and no tangible examples shouldn’t be taken into consideration for serious purposes.
You can also go and look yourself for the data that you need and see if it matches with what the author is saying to you. If not, just ignore it and deal with it as an entertainment.
# Evaluate the website itself
Many websites offer valuable content without mentioning the author. So how can you be sure about what they say? In this scenario, you need to evaluate the website itself and the company behind it.
Check the comment boxes and see if there are many people disagreeing with what they say. Research their reviews and verify their ratings. Look for their About page and check what is their main goal and who is their team of experts. This information will help you to know how much they know what the topic in question.
# Check what they are selling
No online business survives for free. It costs some money to the website to be able to bring relevant and reliable to the public. That is to say that you must be giving some kind of financial return to them.
What is been said here is that you should always try to find out how the source in question is making money so you can judge the quality of the information provided. For instance, a website which makes money selling iPhones will hardly speak ill of Apple and might not even tell you all the advantages of an Android device.
So look for sources that are more likely to give you unbiased information about what you want, such as websites that support themselves by selling books or products unrelated to what they are writing.
# Go for primary sources
If you want to be sure that you get the real facts, you need to go for the primary sources. Because we don’t have much time to check anything, we tend to rely on curated content and believe in what they tell us to do.
But if you are dealing with something sensitive, something that can put you in trouble, you should prioritise primary sources. So if you want to know more about one product, check their website and read reviews from people who actually use it, for instance. This way, you won’t be getting just a fraction of information or a specific point of view from someone who was only giving you an overview of several products.
The bottom line
The suggestions above are all that you need to start finding reliable and genuine information on the internet. They might mean that you will need to spend some time checking what you read, but this is the price to pay in the beginning.
But, as soon as you have your favourite sources sorted out, you won’t need to be doing it over and over. So take your time verifying what you find online and avoid any problems caused by poorly researched articles in the future.