Don’t believe everything you read when researching online

You need to research Einstein’s life for a school paper. You must research the history of your company’s biggest competitor. The Internet is there for you. Of course, the online world is full of just about any stat, study and research paper that you’ll need to learn more about any subject imaginable. But exactly how do you know if the information you’re finding online is actually true? Online research is convenient, having said that the Internet is also full of half-truths and outright lies. Fortunately, the Lifehacker Web site has come up with some useful tips for conducting accurate research online.

Is that a bias?

Lifehacker’s first tip? Be aware of your own bias. We’re all guilty of something known as confirmation bias. We would like to find information with which we already agree. For example, if you’re a lifelong liberal, you’ll be more prone to believe studies indicating that poverty is the real reason behind low school test scores. It’s important when researching online to identify your own biases and to make certain that you’re not selectively sourcing studies that confirm it. It’s important to give weight; too, to research that is inconsistent with your beliefs.

Look for bad information

Lifehacker points to poorly cited articles as a big trap for online researchers. Unfortunately, the Internet is loaded with “research” that isn’t very scientific in nature. Look for articles that are highly sourced and that come from respected journals, magazines or newspapers. You can generally rely on medical journals and government reports, as well, when it comes to online research.

Specialized online research

Google, Bing and Yahoo! are fine search engines for the opening stages of your research. Nevertheless, if you want to get in-depth, you’ll need to use more specialized search engines. Luckily, there are several to choose from. Try such engines as PLOS, Scirus, Google Scholar or The U.S. Library of Congress. You may be surprised at the information that’s out there.

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