Know More, Rant Less

Now, more than ever, we have to beware of misinformation. The trend is to get information from social media.  Millennials, (ages 18-34) “do not visit news sites, read print newspapers, watch television news, or seek out news in great numbers” (mediainsight.org).   Many have been “unfriended” when differences of opinion lead not to discussion of facts and perspective, but to personal attacks. We are turning to unreliable sources for information, and shutting out people who don’t agree with us. When we shut our minds to other’s perspectives, we further the gap of understanding, and increase the possibilities of marginalizing others. We lose whatever influence we might have had and close ourselves off to new insights.

Follow the tips below to gain confidence in your beliefs, and your ability to discuss them.  If you’re a student, you will appreciate the improved grades on papers and presentations, as you thoughtfully consider, not rant.

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”   –Marcus Aurelius

Perspective

Use sources that are from both sides of the argument. Using the opposing side will help you understand the other point of view, and possibly you could find flaws, or even truths, that support your point of view. You may also anticipate what someone may say, and formulate a response that acknowledges their point while respectfully disagreeing. But, read from your own bias too, to help you form more solid reason for your perspective. (See previous post on Opposing Viewpoints).

Where Did That Come From?

Question where the information you read online comes from. Be suspicious of websites that don’t tell you where the information came from, or make it difficult to check. Ask, “Does anyone else support this claim?” If you’re not familiar with the source, investigate. Look up the authors and associations listed, learn about their perspective, so that you can decide what the bias is, and beware.

Three other sites worth mentioning for checking out rumors vs. fact are: snopes.comfair.org, and politico.com.  Using the sources linked to a library website will ensure that you are not reading “fake news”.

Authority

The author of the information may have your bias, and they may be smart, but that doesn’t count for having authority. Check out the background of person providing the information. If you are formally writing on a topic, consider limiting your sources to peer-reviewed journals, such as the ones found in Google Scholar ,  or check the Magazines, Newspapers, and Journals list from Westchester Library System for more subject specific periodicals.

Writing Style

Grammatical errors, unclear train of thought, poor logic, or emotionally charged writing are the tell-tale signs of untrustworthy information.  Make sure the claims made can be backed up, and make sure there is enough evidence to support the claims. (If you don’t feel confident in your own Grammar, go to Lynda.com from our the NCPL homepage for help).

Up to Date

When doing historical research, old is great!  (Use biblioboard.com to see archives, such as the Declaration of Independence).  When anything scientific is your topic, you will need current information.  (Use Gale Science in Context).  When you are talking about current events, go check the Magazines, Newspapers, and Journals list. And be sure to be up to date when it comes to legal information. Make sure the currency of the information fits the subject, and that the information you have hasn’t been superseded.

Depth

If you read from many sources, from various points of view, you will have depth of knowledge. If you read a book on the topic, that will also likely provide you with depth (See previous post, How Do You Find a Book?).

Reliable information includes knowing the different perspectives, from people who use sources that can be verified, written by authorities on the topic in a logical, grammatically correct manner, with depth of understanding. The best way to be confident is to be well informed.

For more information on evaluating sources, go to Purdue Owl.

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Author: Michelle Harvey

Michelle spent many years as special librarian- serving the business community. She is the mother of three, all of whom have very different learning styles, and has been homeschooling since 2010. During that time, she has overseen the raising of chickens, keeping bees, and loving a Sheltland Sheepdog.

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