Electronic Data: Accuracy & Integrity

Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

The Internet is probably the easiest place to locate information. There is no shortage of useful and reliable information out there. But there is also plenty of questionable data. There are a few ways to evaluate information to determine its validity.

How To Tell if Data Is Accurate

The thing about the Internet is that anyone can publish information on it. For a novice researcher, the challenge of sifting through hundreds of websites to find the most accurate information can seem daunting.

But you don't have to be a detective to find clues that lead to electronic data, or data found on the Internet, that makes the grade. You can do this by running your research through the CARS checklist.

The CARS Checklist

Once you choose your sources, give it a run through the CARS checklist. The acronym stands for credibility, accuracy, reasonableness, and support and is used to separate high-quality information from just plain wrong stuff.

Credibility is whether the argument is presented with valid evidence and the information came from a reliable source.

Accuracy is about the timeliness of the information and whether it is true and factual. You can test accuracy by locating several sources that state the same information.

Reasonableness is tested by looking for objectivity, consistency, and fairness. In other words, data that is extremely biased may not be entirely accurate. If you notice the author criticizing others while making outrageous claims about himself, this is a clear sign that the information may be questionable.

Support means always looking for citations from experts within the source. For example, an article about the symptoms of a medical condition would be more convincing if the author cited a highly respected doctor. Review the bibliography for reliable sources. If they provide no sources, run from the site. The author should always provide his research citations.

Another way to test whether electronic data meets the CARS checklist is to dissect the website itself. Here are a few things to know.

Who Wrote the Information?

Look for the author of the article or data. This would helps with support on the CARS Checklist, which suggests looking for citation and references. It's always best to use information written by an expert in the field. The more information you can locate on the author, the more likely the source has integrity and the information is honest and truthful.

Since we are on the topic of the author, you can also check credibility on the CARS Checklist. The easiest way is to perform an Internet search for the author's name. This quest should bring up information about the author quickly. As you poke through the data, look for degrees, academics, business affiliations and even other websites the author may have links to.

Who Owns the Website?

Another way to test the CARS checklist is by checking the ownership of the website. A website's extension can be a good way to determine who owns it. The most accurate information will be found on an official website.Generally speaking, the expansion .com is reserved for businesses. Colleges and universities tend to use .edu and many non-profit organizations use .org. Government websites usually end in .gov, while military websites end in .mil.

What Type of Website Is It Anyway?

There are as many purposes for a website as there are websites these days. Knowing what type of site you are using will reveal much about its purpose and help you to test the CARS checklist. Let's take a look at several types of sites.

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