To cut it short.
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First there was the encyclopedia
When I was in school I always had to do research in order to carry out an assignment, a paper or a presentation. In middle school I remember we had to do these student-made posters about a topic on any subject, which could be a science fact or an historical event or a geographical overview of a country. In groups, we would draw our own images, headlines and subheads and we would handwrite the paragraphs with all the information. I recall that each time we were assigned a poster to prepare, my group and I would always work on it at my house. This happened because I had an entire library crammed with encyclopedias, from A to Z, from science to history, from philosophy to astrology, from geography to art and literature. Shelves and shelves of knowledge.
I liked it and most importantly it never crossed my mind that the information written in there could be false; I knew everything was true, simply because they were written in an encyclopedia, as if the ghost of Diderot himself hovered over me, nodding and acquiescing.
Then came the Internet
Then in high school things started to change and to get a little messy. I had to write papers and essays, but my old friends, the encyclopedias, started to become obsolete and the quantity of information they contained wasn’t enough, it was limited to a single paragraph or a column of a page. All the opposite of what could be found on the Internet, where information was constantly updated and in unimaginable quantities, with plenty of details that I didn’t know about before.
But along with the perks, this also brought some downsides. The access people could have to the Internet made them also in charge of what they could put on the web themselves. Everybody could write whatever they liked, on any form and about any matter.
So, the Internet has made it easier than ever to find facts, but it has also made it easier to spread lies and misinformation. In an age of alternative facts, fake news, and rampant misinformation, strong online research skills have never been more important. In this day and age, where everything is possible, we need to find ways to verify the credibility of sources and content we read online.
How to verify your sources credibility
This, of course, also applies to those people who have a writing job, like web writers, where the writing process itself requires researching information on the web and sources based on accurate data.
Most of the time, we are looking for information that is truthful, and this is why it is important to verify the credibility of the sources we are reading. This process usually consists of asking ourselves whether the sources are trustworthy or whether they are biased and carry fake news within. In this case, the CRAAP test is a good way to determine whether or not a source is credible, as it takes into account the following:
- Currency. Is the source up to date?
If you’re writing about World War II it doesn’t matter if the source is up-to-date or is dated 1999, the facts about the war are the same. But if you’re writing about the enactment or repeal of a particular law in a particular country you would probably need to check the date, if the source is regularly updated.
- Relevance. Is the source relevant to your research?
The source has to match with what you are writing about. If it goes off topic or out of focus, it does not go into specifics and remains vague, maybe it’s not a good source to rely on.
- Authority. Where is the source published and who is the author?
You also need to check the authority of both the source and the author. Look the author up and see if they are an expert in the field, if they have already published other works or articles about the same matter. Also the websites they publish on need to be trustworthy. Many of course are a guarantee in name only, I’m talking about major news outlets. But also websites which have .gov or .edu or .org as domains are considered authoritative and reliable sources. If you’re reading on a personal blog instead, make sure to check the sources of the source in question.
- Accuracy. Is the source supported by evidence? Are quotes cited correctly?
A reliable source needs to be accurate. According to the topic it’s talking about, there should be quotes or citations from other sources, clearly displayed in the references. If they are too vague instead, using phrases like “a study has shown” without citing the study, there might be something that doesn’t add up. A good source also takes into account both sides of a fact; it doesn’t take part and it doesn’t show just one point of view. In other words, it does not have a bias.
- Purpose. What was the motive behind publishing this source?
Make sure also to understand why the source is talking about that matter. Its purpose is to inform or to give a personal opinion?
This is the basic information you need to ask yourself when studying and searching sources for your article, blog post, essay, body of copy for an ad. There are also other tips you can follow, in addition to these from the CRAAP test.
Look the reviews. If the content you’re reading contains incorrect information or is a total fake news, rest assured that people will let it be known. If the content gives good, exact and clear information, people will certainly leave positive comments.
Watch out for the headline. Headlines can be misleading, so it is always better to read the whole content of the article and double check it, rather than stopping at the headline and subheading that may themselves be carrying the fake news. Also the cover image can be misleading: sometimes it could be photoshopped or other times it could have been taken from another source and put it there totally out of context. So, look closer.
Lastly, compare your source to another source on the same topic. It is true that fake news also gets circulated and is repeated and spread like wildfire, but if you follow all the previouses steps, you will be able to carry on a thorough investigation and know which voices saying the same thing are more trustworthy than others.
So from this scenario just outlined, it is clear that web writers can’t of course rely on encyclopedias anymore, but must dive into the murky depths of the Internet and the information that can be found therein. All this research and double checking sources and infos takes a lot of time. And this time expands even more if you don’t know the topic you’re writing about and also if you do the research with the fear of encountering fake news and with the anxiety of falling, somersaulting and being overwhelmed by information overload without knowing who to really trust.
This is why we have invented and created Storykube’s artificial intelligence, which is programmed to study, search and find only accurate data from verified reliable sources. To speed up the process of research and therefore the process of writing for web writers.