Every day professionals are bombarded with problems to solve and decisions to make. And the quality of your solutions and decisions are only as good as the information they are based on. With so much information at your fingertips, how can you systematically check the reliability and accuracy of the information for better results? As a professional with over 15 years experience in research, I constantly pay attention to the source of the data gathered, so the information requested by my clients are relevant, streamlined and not overwhelming.

How to Determine the Accuracy, and Reliability of Information

Anyone can create a website, and there is no guarantee that the information on the website is accurate, so prudence is required when gathering data. Good sources to gather your data from are government websites, university sources, commercial online databases, which you can readily access from most public library portals, newspapers, journals, community watch dog agencies and reputable consumer groups are a few that readily come to mind. If the information you are researching is critical to your product or service, as a rule of thumb, try to find three independent sources that provide similar data.

You have collected the information, now what?

Analyze Information

  • Skim and Scan
  • Determine relevance of information
  • Differentiate
  • Identify propaganda, bias
  • Recognize omissions and faulty logic
  • Recognize interrelationships

Step 1. Review the questions

Review the questions generated before the information was gathered. Why was this particular information necessary? What questions was it supposed to answer? What kinds of decisions will be made based on this information? Renew your understanding of the central issues and key questions.

Unanticipated results should not be ignored. Putting information together will often raise important, unforeseen and relevant questions. Note these for future reference and point them out when presenting the results.

Step 2. Organize the information

  • Gather all relevant information that has been collected
  • Sort information into parts which belong together
  • Some may have already been analyzed. Some may be partly analyzed, and some may need analysis

Step 3. Decide how to analyze information

Analysis could simply be adding up numbers and averaging them, or comparing information to examine the relationship of one thing to another or two things together.

Step 4. Analyze the information

  • Look out for biased information and faulty logic
  • Take note of similarities
  • Contrast information by setting two things in opposition to show the differences
  • Relate pieces of information to establish relationships between and among them
  • Take note of emerging themes
  • Identify gaps in the information
  • Do you have the information you need to solve the problem or make the decision?

Step 5. Integrate the information

Put the analyzed parts together in a way that tells the complete story. It is impossible to gather all the information you will ever need, so there are times when you have to make intelligent assumptions to fill the information gap.

Always remember that your solutions and decisions are only as good as the information they are based on, so pay attention to the quality of your information.

Author's Bio: 

Avil Beckford, Chief Invisible Mentor, writer and researcher with over 15 years of experience is the published author of Tales of People Who Get It and its companion workbook Journey to Getting It. Subscribe to the Invisible Mentor Blog http://theinvisiblementor.com for great information to ignite your hidden genius, and explore the Resources page for free whitepapers and an e-book.