Are you using good sources?

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Are you using good sources?

It’s true what they say. You can’t trust everything you read on the Internet. Even if it comes from what you think is a reputable source.

Don’t Trust Everything

You might be sitting there right now thinking, “But I get my information from academic studies! From .orgs! Those are reputable!” You’re right, for the most part. But…

Everything is Not as It Seems

Every day I come across a source that gives me pause and I have to vet. You’d think a .org would be reputable, right? Not always.

Depending on the organization, you could be looking at information that is:

  • Not always factual (I’ve seen .orgs that look legitimate only to find out that they are sites masquerading as something else. If the person or organization writing the content isn’t an expert on the subject, you can’t be sure that the information is 100% factual.)
  • Skewed (depending on the organization, the information may be one-sided)

Search the organization; you may find that it has certain leanings that would motivate it to only post certain information.

Studies Don’t Always Show the Whole Truth

I always thought a study had to be valid. I was wrong.

Some organizations try to buy favorable research or cover up unfavorable research. We saw that earlier this year when the New York Times reported that the National Football League attempted to influence favorable research on concussions.

And in some cases, the study itself may be flawed. For example, John Bohannon, a science journalist, published a study on how chocolate can help you lose weight, but admitted that the study, the findings of which were “based on pure junk,” was a hoax to show how easily someone can get a study published.

You Can Get Anything Published

This is true. Adam Conover, host of the TV show Adam Ruins Everything on truTV, actually got a journal to publish the script of his TV show as a study.

It is imperative that you check the reputation of the journal itself. Do a quick Google search on the journal. If it’s questionable, find another study. And if you aren’t sure of how to interpret study results or whether a study contains significant flaws, ask an expert you trust for input.

Vetting your sources only takes an extra minute or two and it’ll save you a lifetime of embarrassment. And speaking of avoiding embarrassment, check out last week’s post for a refresher on plagiarism.

Come back next week to learn more about making your writing interesting without using adverbs.

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