When a student starts to research a topic, it is like walking into a party. People are talking about what they know and comparing notes. Some disagree with others. It is an ongoing event.
When the student enters the party, they need to know some vocabulary (field specific jargon) to understand the conversations.
To keep track of who said what, it is important to always give credit for borrowed content, opinions, facts, etc. Keep notes on sources from the beginning of a project.
Some of the people at the party are better researchers than others. Some people are more honest and accurate than others. Take social media popularity with caution. Some people get cited more often because they are better at getting noticed, instead of for the quality or usefulness of their work. Google is a popularity contest, not a quality contest.
Peer-review is the best standard we have to judge the accuracy and value of content. It is not perfect, however, since "peer-review" standards vary. The best way to judge information is to get many viewpoints and look for areas of agreement. Be open to changing your mind.
When judging content: follow the money. Who pays for content and publishing will tell you a lot about possible personal and institutional conflicts of interest. Even if there are no declared conflicts of interest, such as corporate funding, there are still conflicts due to inherent and hidden biases.
Avoid information from a source that is not risking anything by providing misleading information. We now have publishers that actually thrive on providing misinformation by taking advantage of people and their tendency to act a certain way when upset.
Bias indicators by common domain:
.gov - May want to protect their job and justify taxes spent on government projects. May want to educate the public for the good of the community they live in. Bias tends towards lots of statistics to analyze, try to improve, or justify, procedures and processes.
.edu - Reputation = more students & grant money = survival. Everyone trying to look and act their best. When desperate for status, individuals or groups may make unprofessional decisions, but overall educational institutions are biased towards providing the best and most current information available to them.
.org - Bias may be to outright sell you an idea, promote a cause, or provide a cover for a commercial, spiritual, or political campaign. Use with caution. Follow the money.
Be wary of emotional appeals for action. Emotion obscurs logical thinking and often leads to impulsive action.
Anyone can publish anything. So where content is published is important.
To publish a blog you only need access to the internet, a free email address, and a free platform.
On the other extreme you have publishing companies with very strict peer-review, and content review policies. It is hard to get published through these platforms, so getting through the vetting process and being published with them gives implied authority to your content.
Creation of content can vary from stream of consciousness babbling - to year's or decade's long research that is collected, analyzed, and interpreted by large or small groups of experts.
This is my favorite part! You start with a question, then you see what is out there. Then you re-formulate your question or add new paths of inquiry. If you find "nothing" you need to consider synonyms and jargon. If you still are not finding anything, ask other researchers in the field or expert searchers like librarians.
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