3. Finding the truth

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From bus billboards and digital advertising, to news alerts and conversations with friends: every day we are bombarded with a constant stream of information.  

Some of that information is just noise (Buy this brand of yogurt! Look at this cute internet cat) while some of that information requires careful thought, analysis and evaluation. 

Sometimes the truth is hard to find. And in this internet age lies spread like wildfire so we find ourselves navigating a world of misinformation.

Being able to navigate the information onslaught and sort fact from fiction will help you make better choices.

Think about the source

Social media can be a game of whispers. By the time your aunty shares that viral post on Facebook, the truth may be long gone. But the same goes for consuming the news. Just because you read it on a website doesn’t mean it is the truth. 

Critical thinking is about having the courage to question what you see and the information you receive, and putting in the time to do research.

When you do this research you want to use reputable sources. Tread cautiously even with trusted sources. Having multiple sources of information to back up a claim is better than just one.

One tip for evaluating sources is to use the CRAAP test. That stands for Currency, Relevancy, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose. Consider this when questioning the information source.

Reputable sources might include:

  • Trusted news sites like the ABC, Sydney Morning Herald etc 
  • Websites that end in .gov or .edu 
  • Printed encyclopedias
  • Journal articles in academic publications
  • A TED talk by a field expert

Reconsider using sources such as:

  • Wikipedia (it is edited by citizens, not experts)
  • Gossip sections of news websites
  • Websites that end in .com should be questioned
  • Websites that end in .org often have a biased agenda  

Facts VS opinions

The Sydney Opera House is covered in tiles. That’s a fact. The Sydney Opera House looks like dishes stacked in a rack. That’s an opinion. It’s a popular opinion that many believe to be true, but it’s still not a simple fact.

A fact can be proven true or false. For example, most plants have green leaves. That’s a fact. 

An opinion is what someone believes. It’s a point-of-view or expression of thoughts. “Apples are the best fruit” is an opinion.

Every day we soak in information and sometimes it can be hard to tell what is a fact and what is an opinion.

Sometimes something that appears to be a fact has an agenda behind it. Be careful of marketing. When a billboard tells you that this skincare will make your skin look younger, usually that statement is taken from a survey where they asked 10+ people to try their product for a few days and give their opinion, which they display like a fact.. 

To help decide you can ask:

  •  Can this statement be proven beyond a doubt?
  •  Does the statement have a bias?
  •  Is the information verified or an assumption? 
  •  Is the statement misleading?
  •  Are the facts reliable?
  •  Are the opinions based on facts?

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