Using reliable information is important for business professionals because it builds credibility and trustworthiness. Using unreliable sources can damage your reputation and make it harder to communicate effectively with colleagues, customers or suppliers.
When researching a topic, finding reliable information can be challenging. Many websites are not curated by an authority and are often populated with biased information and incorrect statements.
The problem is even worse when you are attempting to find information on an emerging issue, such as health care reform, a new technology or a political controversy. These topics require fast updates, and it can be difficult to distinguish whether the current information is accurate. The good news is that it is possible to locate information quickly, and there are methods for evaluating its reliability.
You can evaluate a source by considering the author’s credibility and their affiliation with an established organization, the publication’s reputability, the currency of the material, and the writing, research and logic in it. UW Libraries has a guide on Evaluating Information that discusses these criteria in detail.
A primary source provides a firsthand account of an event or topic from someone who was directly involved. Examples include text of laws or other legal documents, newspaper articles written by people who witnessed events, diaries, letters and original research. In contrast, a secondary source is an analysis or interpretation of existing information, and it typically draws on primary sources to support its argument. Examples of secondary sources include books, research articles and peer-reviewed journals.
Even when a source is considered credible, it’s important to consider the motive of the author. For example, when searching for health information online, it’s important to determine whether the website is a non-profit that is trying to educate the public or if it is sponsored by a corporation that wants to sell a product.
Despite the widespread prevalence of misinformation, it is possible to improve the global information score by increasing acceptance of reliable information, even modestly (e.g., by 1%) (Figure 2). These results are robust to a wide range of parameter manipulations and hold for all types of interventions (including reducing acceptance of misinformation to zero).