‘Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.’
Does unlimited data at our fingertips mean we’re better informed than we’ve ever been? Unfortunately, it can bring us closer to misinformation as well as the content we need. Accepting data without questioning it is like drinking without first looking into the glass, so it’s important to develop the right critical thinking tools to help our hunt for the font of knowledge.
Assessing the value and validity of information is at the heart of critical thinking, but it’s something we’re not often taught to do. At i-Learner, our Critical Reading and Writing course helps students ask the right questions in order to find the right answers. To get you started, here are three basic questions to ask as you read:
Who is the source?
Is the source an authority or expert in the field? What are the author’s qualifications and track record? Is the information from a respectable publication with an established fact-checking protocol? How credible would a famous singer’s opinion be on which toothpaste is the best for you?
What is the source’s bias?
What is the relationship between the source and the issue under discussion? Does such connection lead to intentional or unintentional bias? Is there any conflict of interest? What is the purpose or agenda of publication: to inform, to entertain or to persuade? How trustworthy would research on the effects of tobacco be if it were funded by the tobacco industry?
When was it published?
Is the information current or outdated? How is it relevant to the issue? Updated information might be useful; however, historical yet accurate data can also be valuable depending on the context. How pertinent are statistics from 1990 when examining screen time in teens?
Next time you are tempted to accept certain ‘answers’ as you read, take a moment to ask a few questions first.