The most important part of any search for information is to understand what you have and what you may find. You will find information on your topic. You may not search as efficiently now as you will later on (see the later steps of this strategy for ideas and tips) but, with Google, Wikipedia, and thousands of other possible tools, you will find information.
The challenge comes in understanding what you have. How appropriate, valid, and useful is a piece of information? Should you use it? Is it legitimate? Does it actually help answer your question--or support the answer that you have chosen? Taking a critical look at the information you have gathered is the most important step of this Strategy.
Many people tend to accept without question information that comes from individuals or organizations considered (by them) to be beyond reproach--for example, a religious leader, a Presidential candidate, a high government official, an advocacy Web site, a certain radio or television personality, and so on. Despite the cynicism that is supposed to grip our society, the inclination to accept information uncritically today is alive and well.
When the information is important to you, it is essential that you take an honest, skeptical look at the information you gather. Do not assume that the information must be true or objective just because you read or see it in a certain place, or hear it from a certain person.
Many of us routinely do some evaluation of the information we take in, but few of us make the effort to evaluate information to the extent truly needed--when that information is important to us.
The following is a list of questions that will help you determine how appropriate, valid, and useful a piece of information may be.
Date of Publication:
Does the article, book, government document, news program, Web site, etc. provide answers to the relevant questions above? If not ... why not?
Please keep in mind that there is a very natural tendency for people and organizations to present information in a way that best serves their own self-interests.
To operate intelligently in our society and to make up your own mind about important issues means that it is essential to critically evaluate the important information you gather and use.
Be skeptical about the information you find. You don't need to be cynical, but a little skepticism is healthy ... and smart.
Questions? Please let me know.
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