(HorizonPost.com) – Performing your own research is a simple (yet occasionally complicated) task, particularly when it comes to finding credible sources. Simply put, it isn’t always easy to tell whether or not what you’re reading is true. The advent of cable news and the 24/7 news cycle further complicated the process of sifting through potentially dubious information, as did the recent rise of the Internet.
So how do you sort out fact from fiction?
The answer to that question is remarkably simple. A team of librarians at California State University in Chico created a system for filtering out unreliable information. Known as the CRAAP Test, it incorporates a five-step analysis:
Although the system was designed initially with scholars, academics, and librarians in mind, anyone with a basic understanding of how it works can use it. Best of all, it works for all mediums to include print, radio, television/cable, and the internet.
Currency indicates how recently the data was issued. Perhaps the most straightforward step is to check the date of the source of information, be it a book, newspaper, or an article you found online. One of the easiest ways to get tripped up is using an out of date source when conducting research about current news events.
Determining the relevancy of information is a reasonably straightforward process. Does the information given relate directly to the subject at hand, or is it off-topic? Have you looked at other sources of data on the same topic and determined one particular article or articles stand out as the best? Strive to find information that isn’t too basic or too complex for your needs.
Measuring the authority of a news source is a bit more complicated. Consider the source of information. Is it a noted author, news analyst, or scholar? Is the source an official government website or one associated with a known academic institution like Harvard or Yale? Finding a few known reliable sources of information, and using them as your “go-to’s” for news and info, is often your best bet.
Evaluating the accuracy of a news source is similar to determining its authority. Is the source reliable, someone credentialed? Can you verify the information using multiple sources? Keep away from facts you can only find from one source. Likewise, remain cynical about info posted on social media sites unless you can confirm it elsewhere.
Ascertaining a news source’s purpose is pretty simple. What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform readers, teach, or entertain? Make sure you don’t fall for the trap of using data from a satirical source, such as The Onion, when researching news and current events. While often entertaining, they are typically high on facts.
Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts has an excellent online guide to help you identify fake news sources if you want additional info on this subject.
The Final Word
Properly gathered, news and information can be powerful tools in the fight for the truth. But fake news and disinformation can also be weaponized against us, especially if we don’t take a few precautions when researching information.
If you found the information provided by this article helpful, you might consider bookmarking it for future reference. Sadly, chances are things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get any better. That’s especially true where the rise of fake news is concerned.
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