Is a Published Source a Good Source? How to Search Through Sources for Good InformationJune 9, 2013 at 9:33 pm | Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment
One of my passions with using printed information from any source is verifying whether I trust the source or not. I hope to instill the questioning of the source to my students. If you want to gain knowledge you need to try and verify your source. The internet is a wonderful resource but depending on what you search for you can find a lot of questionable information. Journal articles and peer reviewed sources usually do not have an intention to deceive. Many news sources and blogs have an agenda that they are pushing. I try to get an idea of the different angles being portrayed because even if I believe the information is faulty I want to know what the sources are saying because some are widely read and believed.
I have several questions that I ask of a source. Who published it and why? Very often websites will list a mission statement on their pages and some have a bio of the author. If they don’t have a bio I look up the author separately to see what I find. I try to find out as much about the website as possible. I look at who owns the media source. The information is fairly easy to find. An example is the Washington Times. They are owned by the Unification Church also referred to as the Moonies.
There are organizations that review news sources for accuracy and rate them.
I want to know if the author has expertise or if they are writing about someone else’s research and if they reporting it properly. Often in online articles the authors include links to the articles that they are referencing. I try to always follow the links. I have found cases where an article refers to a poll and link to it but then they misrepresent the data in the article. I have seen news sources that have a provocative headline with ‘breaking news’ and the linked article is 5 months old. I also question, does the headline represent the story? How old is the information? My economics book from 1978 was discussing whether the DOW would get over 1000 at some point. We now know it is around 15,000. So my economics book would be considered out of date except as maybe an historic reference. There was quite a bit of fear mongering several years ago about the doom and gloom to be expected when it hit 10,000 which did not happen. I try to remove the emotional element from news sources. I prefer to read the information as opposed to watching a video.
Politics has also historically played a significant role in what scientists can publish. This is very important to know when looking at science sources. When AIDS was first appearing the Surgeon General C. Everett Koop struggled against Pres. Reagan to be able to publish public education on the transmission of AIDS. In the time that elapsed a lot of bad information was spread. Under Pres. Bush any scientist that worked for the federal government had to have their publications cleared through the White House. They were often edited for political purposes. Philip A. Cooney who approved the reports on climate change had previously worked in the oil business and went back to that business after working for the White House. The scientists that worked for the federal government were also under a gag order on anything that had to do with climate change. The Climate Change debate has more religious overtones than most people are aware of. Many of the opposing scientists have signed a religious pledge based on creationism.
Religious groups also try to control what is permitted in the curriculum ofPublic schools.
Politics has also had unfortunate effects on the Math world as well. One of the greatest computer scientists Turing was prosecuted for being a homosexual and killed himself. He was a major reason for the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Education has been suppressed at many times in history. Galileo and Newton
were well aware of their precarious position and guarded in their publications. Socrates was sentenced to death. Archimedes was murdered by on invading army. Nate Silver the statistician who predicted the presidential election was criticized for being ‘feminine’. His opponents could attack his math so they attacked his sexuality. Some websites will misrepresent information in a graph or just use the section of the graph that fits their purposes. It is important to try to get to the source of their numbers and information. If they say NASA says something it is important to go to the NASA website to verify it unless a link is provided then just follow the link.
It is important to be aware of what the argument is and the current politics that may control what is published. Currently in Wisconsin a political party is trying to shut down a journalism school . Check the source for an agenda and if they are trying to spreading a particular ideology. It is important to look at many sources and perspectives. It is also important to keep an open mind and be willing to see the changes in the knowledge that we have in the world around us.