The Internet is the gateway to so much information that many people have a very difficult time separating the good information from the bad information, which is unfortunate and which can make it seem like the whole purpose of the Internet has been defeated. The content available on the Internet is almost unfathomably broad and diverse. No one could read all of the content available on even one topic if he or she tried, so Internet research is largely a matter of prioritizing specific sources over others. The question then becomes: how do you separate the useful sources from the useless ones.
There are a few simple keys to narrowing down search results and potential sources. For one thing, ‘.org,’ ‘.gov,’ and ‘.edu’ websites are sometimes more reliable than ‘.com’ websites because of the increased difficulty of getting that distinction and the fact that the majority of web users are going to use the ‘.com’ distinction for their fairly generic websites. Government websites and college websites have to uphold a certain standard when it comes to the accuracy of their information, and they are usually going to employ paid researchers to do all of the fact checking for them, making everything contained on their platforms that much more reliable. Some private citizens who create websites are going to do their own research and check their facts, but checking up on them to make sure that they did this is just going to create more research for people who are already struggling to narrow down all of their potential sources.
However, there is more to narrowing down sources than just looking at their designation. People who are doing in depth research are going to need to make sure that they look for signs that the people that they are consulting have done their own research. No one is born an expert on anything. The people who have written anything about any topic have theoretically received some sort of education on the subject. That education need not have been formal education, particularly in this day and age. However, the people who write about these topics should know what they’re talking about, and the people who don’t know very much about a given topic may not really be able to tell the difference between someone who is an expert and someone who is just very skilled at sounding like one.
One thing that can help narrow things down is to look for the presence of links. Content that has a lot of research behind it is going to be full of links back to the original research in many cases. Researchers can look at the quality of the websites that people consulted in order to create given pieces of web content. They can also look at the web content itself. From there, they will be able to get a sense of whether or not the web content is actually good. Many of the most dedicated individuals are actually going to show their work so the people who they are trying to educate can actually follow the research process that they created in an effort to educate themselves.
Some aspects of the content itself might help. For instance, content that is full of facts and figures is probably more likely to actually be valuable for the people who are trying to learn the truth of important matters. However, the facts and figures might be inaccurate, so the people who are researching a subject should be wary of the possibility of simply passing on biases and errors. It is also true that facts that seem to be presented in a clear and well-written way could also be inaccurate. Gifted writers can make even the most false information look completely accurate just through the power of their words, particularly in a medium as intimate as the Internet.
There is no easy solution to the problem of the fact that the Internet is so vast and that it is full of great information and information that could not be less accurate. Often times, researchers are just going to have to do their own fact checking and they’re going to have to chase and follow links themselves in order to figure out the information that is actually good and useful. There are no guarantees when it comes to better online searches. It is a skill that people are going to have to learn rather than a protocol for them to follow.