Check your facts

Make sure what you say is accurate. Think about where your facts came from and how reliable those sources are. How do you know the web sites you used or the books or journals are credible?

For example, Wikipedia is a great community resource - but anyone can edit it, so the facts may not be right. Search engines may find the most frequently visited sites, but that doesn't guarantee the credibility of the information on those sites. Just because you read the same information over and over on different sites does not necessarily mean it is true. The sites could all be copying each other or the same original site.

When considering the credibility of what you read on a web site, ask questions like these:

• What can you learn about that author?

• Is it a government site from a reliable government agency?

• If it is a commercial site, are they marketing a product and slanting information for their marketing?

• If it is a non-profit organization's site, are they non-partisan and non-partial, or are they pushing an agenda?

• Do the facts make a consistent whole, or does information in one place contradict information in another place?

• Does the web page have a date so that you can tell when the information was written?

And remember that you can check facts off the computer, too. Find a person who knows and check the facts with that person. Check in books and paper journals - but remember that just because it's in print (paper or web), doesn't make it true. Books - even textbooks - sometimes copy errors from each other.

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