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Getting the Facts

By Richard Churchill – First Published April 2011

The coming of the internet has given us much greater access to information, it is now possible to find out almost anything about anything of the slightest significance. Anyone can put information on the internet and there is no editorial control. How in that case do you know the information you are reading is accurate?

First lets deal with teachers favourite website, Wikipedia (not to be confused with wiki-leaks, a totally different website). Wikipedia is billed as the people’s encyclopaedia, anyone can contribute to, and edit almost any entry on the site. In some ways it is a fascinating website, you can spend hours reading pages on a rich variety of topics. The problem as you can guess and teachers know full well, is items from wikipedia can often be taken as fact, even thou the author could be less than authoritative.

So how do you find good information on the internet, well to start with Wikipedia isn’t totally useless. While its “facts” can’t always be trusted, the better articles on the site link to supporting material on other more authoritative websites and equally Wikipedia can give you hints as to what you should be searching for when looking on the internet as a whole.

The trick to getting good information is to look for authoritative websites, a popular choice for general world information is the CIA’s World Fact Book (most easily found by searching for its name). The Fact book is prepared by the CIA, to keep the US government up to date with general facts about the world. While it tends to reflect the US world view, its content is widely considered to be accurate.

If you would like to move to a modern equivalent of your old encyclopaedia most of the encyclopaedia companies now have online versions. While you often have to pay to use the sites, you have access to the same quality of information as you are used to, with the added advantage that the information never goes out of date as it is updated regularly.

Going further

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