Lesson 10. Research Skill: Evaluating Information

KEY CONCEPTS

  • All information gathered during the execution of your information strategy must be evaluated.
  • The standards you apply and the things you look for when evaluating information depend on the source of the information.
  • Evaluation of information is an iterative process that happens at all stages of the information strategy process.
  • Asking independent, critical questions about the information generated by an information strategy is essential.
  • Shoddy evaluation skills can have repercussions on the quality of the message created and on the credibility of the work.

LEARNING OUTCOMES

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • identify some of the standards for information evaluation.
  • apply critical thinking to the examination of evidence.
  • identify some of the tools and techniques that help you verify information.

Overview

The most challenging work in the information strategy process is often the evaluation of the information you’ve gathered. Media professionals make critical decisions about information throughout the information strategy process.

For example, during the process of refining your possible audience for an ad introducing a new type of mobile phone, you realize that some of the information sources you have identified come from specific phone companies that are touting the qualities and characteristics of their customers. This would lead you to recognize that each of those companies has its own point of view and perspective on its customers (and a specific objective for the message,) and those perspectives may or may not coincide with the audience your client wants to reach. You would need to be sure that you had other, independent sources of information about mobile phone owners to complement the specific company data.

Or, you might realize during an interview with a source that the person has described the details of an event in slightly, but importantly, different ways over the course of your two-hour discussion. This would lead you to recognize that the person’s memory may be shaky, so you would need to find other eye-witnesses to compare their accounts with your source’s or ask follow-up questions to clarify the discrepancies.

You apply your information evaluation skills as you move through the information strategy. Critical thinking, evidence-based analysis, and healthy skepticism (but not cynicism) are the tools of the skilled information evaluator.