Don’t Trust Everything You Read Online: Skills for Critically Evaluating Information

It seems like everyone is getting involved in April Fools’ Day – perhaps you were tricked by your family, friends, or even your local grocery store. Even when it’s not a day designated for misleading people, however, there’s a wide variety of false information “out there” – how, then, do you determine what to trust?

Although labour market information (LMI), on the surface, may not be as intentionally misleading as an April Fools’ Day prank, career practitioners need to be certain of its validity before passing it along to clients. Finding reliable information sources (e.g., websites and research databases) is an important first step; however, mistakes, misprints, or misinterpretations can happen even with highly respected sources. Even federal government leaders have recently had to back-pedal when it turned out that their public statements had been based on incorrect data provided by their researchers. This is why it’s so important to critically evaluate all the information you hear or read. It’s not enough to provide clients with information; we need to provide them with good, trustworthy information and also equip them to be strong critical thinkers themselves.

Colleen Bell, from the University of Oregon’s Library, suggests looking at five elements:

  1. Authority of the author and background of publisher
  2. Objectivity of the author
  3. Quality of the work
  4. Currency of the work
  5. Relevancy of the work

Although these tips were written for evaluating academic contributions, this structure can work with almost any source. Try it yourself.

If you’re interested in learning more about career research strategies, consider joining our Researching Workplace Trends, Career Information, and Employment Possibilities course starting April 8th.

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