Whether you are choosing resources for research or reading a new idea, you need to be critical. If you don't, you should try to start reading while thinking about a few main ideas (there are others). Here are some ideas to keep in mind and some examples of what to consider.
Authority - author's background, publisher, university, business web site - WHO stands behind the book, article, site?
Objectivity/Bias - Does the article, site, book, documentary mention 'two sides' to an idea? Does the author or site or journal have something to 'prove', to 'sell' or are they looking at an idea openly to find out what the result will be? Do you feel you know the result before you read it due to the source?
Save the Whales and big oil companies will have different ideas of what makes a good ocean. Don't forget there is more than one bias. Agreeing with one side doesn't make it unbiased. You may have to acknowledge bias from a few sides and come to your own conclusions. The important thing is to be aware of the bias. acknowledge it and deal with it. Don't be ignorant of it.
Accuracy/Quality - verifiable? Is there a bibliography of where they found their information so you can check it? Was the information taken out of context? Are the sources they looked at good? If it is an article, is it from a peer-reviewed, academic journal?
Currency (how recently written) - WHEN was it written? It may or may not be important. If something occurred recently that you want included in the discussion, an old book or article won't help.
Coverage - Is it thorough? One article, book, website or documentary is not enough to give you a complete picture of a topic. Be aware if what you are reading is too narrow or too broad on your topic and keep searching. Similarly to bias, you need to be aware of what ideas are covered - one side only?
Being written the day after an important event isn't the most complete coverage. It may be recent but the details haven't been found out. The day after a hurricane, an attack, etc. are hectic and fact is often mixed with guesses and rumors. The week, month and year after an event might show much more complete and accurate coverage.
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