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Research Skills Tutorial

This is a self-paced, non-credit course that covers research skills, critical thinking, media and internet literacy, and understanding the complexities of the modern information environment (including libraries.)

Accuracy

Accuracy seems like the easiest of the criteria for judging an information source. Is the information presented correct, or not? It is a simple concept, but it does not necessarily have easy answer.

There are only two ways of checking accuracy. One is easy but will not necessarily catch all the errors. The other produces extremely powerful evidence, but is difficult and sometimes even impossible to perform.

  • Verify against other information sources. You should already be using multiple information sources for your research, and you will notice discrepancies. If there are no discrepancies in the information, the source is probably accurate. If there are discrepancies, you need to decide which information source(s) you trust more, based on the other evaluative criteria. 
    • On the plus side, this is easy. You are probably already doing it without even thinking about it as you carry out your research.
    • The disadvantage is that you are limited by the fact that some of the information sources you may be using to verify could also be wrong.
  • Verify using real world tests.  Devise and carry out an experiment yourself. 
    • On the plus side, this is very effective and also a good learning experience.
    • The disadvantage is that this is time consuming, and sometimes not even possible.

Bear in mind that the more high-stakes the information source you are planning to create, the greater your responsibility to check the accuracy of information sources for yourself. Scholars are expected to check accuracy for themselves using real world tests when they are publishing something controversial or groundbreaking ideas. If you are writing a dissertation, book, or article in which you argue against the established knowledge in a field, the burden of proof is on you. In this case, your primary research, experiments, or statistical work are critical, and so is reviewing and verifying them. 

For your course assignments, you will be expected to:

  • Use multiple information sources from multiple authors, and look for discrepancies in the information they are providing.
  • Try to find out why there are discrepancies (if any) and which one is more correct.

Feel free to brainstorm ways you could test the information against the real world to find out what was really correct, even if you have no way to carry out those tests. Sometimes these ideas are valuable for discussion groups or to make your paper or presentation more interesting.

Accessibility Note

Please note: If you need to request accommodations with content linked to on this guide, on the basis of a disability, please contact Disability Services by emailing them at Disability.Services@esc.edu.  Requests for accommodations should be submitted as early as possible to allow for sufficient planning. If you have questions, please visit the disability services website http://www.esc.edu/disabilityservices.