by Sam Steven
Describe how information from different sources may vary in quality, and how to differentiate good quality information from poor quality.
Information quality is an integral factor of research as it is for any organization or business. Unfortunately the quality of information varies comprehensively. There are so many revenues to collect data from in the modern age that not all of it is of reliable or of relevant significance to the researcher or the intended audience.
“Information quality is a slippery subject. Although many might disagree, there is rarely a single absolute truth. In many cases, what is truth to me, may be nonsense to you. The best resources for a medical researcher are useless to the elementary school student and vice versa.”(Fenton 1997)
Common sources of information include: text books, internet sites, magazine, newspaper and journal articles, interviews or any number of the like. As the source field is so broad so is the quality of the information. Some of the factors contributing to the information quality include:
- The relevance of the data to the topic
- If the information is based upon opinion or belief – for example if the author is an advocate with an inbuilt bias to a specific theory the information may be rendered void or inaccurate at best for lack of consideration to an alternative or more accurate theory
- Appropriate amount of information – “the extent to which the volume of information is appropriate to the task at hand” (Kahn, Strong, Wang 2002)
- Lack of factual evidence to support information
- The accessibility of the information – “the extent to which information is available or easily and quickly retrievable” (Kahn, Strong, Wang 2002)
- The credibility of the source (author/publisher)
- The date which the information was published (whether or not the information is up to date may bear relevance to its accuracy)
- Lack of clarity in which the way the information is presented
- “Evaluation of the quality of the information” (Fenton 1997)
It may take some time before the researcher is successfully able to distinguish the quality of the information. By scanning titles, author/publisher, date etc, you may establish some idea of the content of a particular article. If it covers relevant data to the topic the article can be further analysed for specific statements which could contribute to the research.
Similar issues to those above arise which the researcher must take into consideration whilst analysing the data in order to present the findings to their audience.
‘In many cases, the problem occurs when organizations fail to analyze the data they have. When the analysis is lacking, key information is lost. Other times, they add errors to the data, the analysis or the presentation. Sometimes they have everything they need, just not when or where they need it.’ (Godfrey 1991)
Fenton. S.J. (1997) University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science. Retrieved March 23 from http://www.ils.unc.edu/~fents/310/
Kahn.B.K, Strong.D.M, Wang.R.Y. (2002) Information Quality, Products and Service Performance. Retrieved March 24 from http://web.mit.edu/tdqm/www/tdqmpub/KahnStrongWangCACMApr02.pdf
Godfrey.A.B. (2002) Quality Management. Retrieved March 24 from http://www.qualitydigest.com/jul/godfrey.html