The Internet can be a source of valuable information without having to spend a great deal of money. But it’s also littered with inaccurate, misleading and sometimes downright false information. How do you know what you’re getting is reliable?
- What is the source? Your source should be a reputable company or other expert within your industry. If you’re not familiar with the source, ask colleagues about it or conduct a search on the web to see if newspapers, magazines or other information providers have cited the source.
- How current is the information? Some sources are notorious for lettering outdated information linger in a mythical state of eternal youth. Try and locate when the information was published. If there’s no date, e-mail the webmaster to ask about the publishing date.
- How was the information derived? If the information is based on research, look for a description of the methodology used, including how the information was obtained, how the sample was drawn and how large the sample is.
- Have other reputable sources cited the information? You can check if others have cited the source in online web content by doing a Google search with quotation marks around the title.
- Is contact information provided? If so, you can contact the author directly to ask about the method they used to obtain the information and its currency.
The Internet is a highly valuable research resource–as long as you are a critical consumer of the information.