If you remember nothing else from this post, please remember this: have a healthy dose of skepticism when reviewing information. I know that preparing reports or presentations can be quite time-consuming and arduous. It’s tough enough to face the prospect of delivering a presentation; you certainly don’t need the hassle of fact-checking… or do you?
Absolutely, yes, you do. Why? Quite simply, just about anyone can put just about anything on the web. Truth is optional. Facts become matters of opinion. Research, then, is a question of who gets cited first on a Google search.
Remember that any time you make any assertion that remotely sounds like a fact, you need documentation that backs it up. What are things that sound like facts? That’s not the easiest question to answer, but I’ll say that anything that has a date (year) or quantity (number) or speaks to an event that has taken place or is taking place. Also, anything that is quoted or paraphrased has to have a source.
That being said, some sources are better than others. So, please, take a moment to consider the following when developing your research.
Who is the source?
This is an important question to ask because it leads into more important questions, specifically: what are the qualifications of the source? If you’re getting your information from a blog, how trustworthy is the source? And, yes, go ahead and ask that person to provide you with some of their background information. And, follow up on it. (That includes me!)
What does the source have to gain or lose?
This is especially important when you are on a website that sells a product. If you are taking your information from The Magic Pill Corporation’s website and it reports that 99 per cent of patients saw improvement in every aspect of their lives or that some financial website claims that they can increase your profits by 3000 per cent, you have to wonder where they are getting that information. And, you have to wonder what they have to gain by making that claim.
Obviously, The Magic Pill Corporation wants you to buy the magic pill. The investment company wants you to buy their investment products. Why would they report anything other than stellar numbers? It’s called: vested interest. So, seek out information that comes from an independent source that has nothing to gain or lose from their report. This doesn’t guarantee that bias won’t creep in, but it’s a better start.
Do other sources agree or disagree?
Once you find information, can you find information that supports it? Can you find information that refutes it? You probably can, and you definitely should. Make it point to know the various sides to a story and determine which one seems more logically developed.
This will serve two purposes. First, it will give you a lot more knowledge about the topic. This will improve the quality of your presentations. Second, it will allow you to consider tough questions posed by members of the audience, particularly opposing members. Knowing more than what you report is always a good idea. If nothing else, you’ll sweat a lot less!
Skepticism– The Key to Finding Good Information
The truth is out there. You just have to look for it. Most of what you find will be worthless and possibly harmful. It is necessary to have a healthy dose of skepticism when reviewing information. Much of what is out there posing as fact are really opinions, and sometimes outright lies.
Finding the truth is a process. It takes time; it takes effort. It’s not always fun, but it is always worth it. Ask the tough questions to find the real answers.