In a comment here a couple of days ago, Stephen Downes linked to his “Principles for Evaluating Websites” post, and I just wanted to make sure I commented on how absolutely must reading it is for anyone struggling with how to navigate this new Web. I’ve said this before, the bottom line is that even for those who have always been tuned into the need to evaluate information, it’s a much harder task these days. And Stephen really nails it in so many ways in this post. Briefly, here’s what he says, but you need to go read the whole thing.
1. There are no authorities. Authorities sometimes lie and are themselves fooled, so ultimately, you must be the one to determine if something you read is true.
2. What you already know matters.
3. You need to learn who to trust and you do this through repeated contact.
4. Learn to distinguish facts from appearance of fact. Personally, I think this may be the hardest to teach.
5. Be on the lookout for generalizations, especially universal ones.
6. Statistics can be misleading.
7. Go to the source, whenever you can. If, for instance, a study is online, go look at it before accepting someone else’s interpretation. I should do more of this, I know.
8. Motives matter. Remember: EVERYONE has an agenda.
Bottom line, as Stephen says, “determining what to believe – or to not believe – is a matter of trust. You need to determine for yourself who to trust about what.” And that’s what makes this so difficult…it’s work.
Best part? He includes some examples of trustworthy and untrustworthy sources.