When researching a topic on the internet, how can you know if something is accurate or not? Long have been the days where we had thick volumes of encyclopedias to reference our desired topic and trust that the source of the information is accurate.
With the amount of information readily available on the internet, most people can’t identify the difference between accurate or falsified data or they don’t care to attempt to sift through the information. Many people take things they see in their Facebook news feed as true and don’t bother to fact check it. Even wikipedia at first glance seems like a great source of data; but there is also a lot of unreliable information on the web that gets replicated.
So how do you know if you can trust what you are looking at online?
Do you recognize the publication name? Even if the article is from something reputable like the Toronto Star, read through the article – is there any bias? For example, is it an opinion piece vs. a report of facts?
Double and triple check from multiple sources. This will assist in identifying accurate data from misinformation
Go to trustworthy sources. If you’re looking for information on health and safety, go to your provincial ministries or compensation boards. If looking for Canadian Statistics, go to Statistics Canada.
Look for spelling mistakes. If you see spelling errors, the credibility of the article is immediately called into question.
Seek advice from those you trust. This doesn’t mean your neighbor; this means consultants, lawyers, etc. who are skilled in the field and have access to the laws, information, and research.
Always remember there are not necessarily “two sides to every story,” and that presenting differing opinions about an issue just to pretend to be balanced—doesn’t guarantee balance. On the contrary, this is often designed to be manipulative.
Ultimately the best way to verify information is to do your own research, seek advice from those you trust, and then make up your own mind. What you do with it is your own business.