ITGS Syllabus

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Topic 92

Reliability of data by Harsh

What exactly do we mean by the phrase “Reliability of data?” The word reliability suggests trust, good quality etc. So perhaps we mean whether data can be trusted or not. I mean how much can we rely on data in today’s world? The answer, of course, is a lot. We rely on data everyday. We rely on the data published in newspapers, published on the Internet, published in our books and data in form of numbers.

However, to what extent can a form of data be relied on? And how do we decide if we should rely on it or not? In order to answer these two questions, many things should be considered. First of all, the source of the data should be taken in consideration. For example, you are supporting a topic for a debate. Is it intelligent to rely on a piece of evidence that was published on the Internet by a 12 year old? Or is it reliable to rely on something that was on a non-famous website by a non-famous author? Therefore, when relying on data, the source of the data must be taken in consideration because it really does matter where the data’s coming from.

The second thing that must be taken into consideration is whether the data is published or not. As in, I could just make up some numbers and write a story but you shouldn’t rely on it unless it’s been checked by others and published in a proper journal or a paper. Published data was published after been checked by a lot of people so it can be trusted.

Third thing that should be taken into consideration and this is perhaps one of the main ones is whether the author is biased or not. Even if he author is a very famous author, you have to consider where he’s coming from. For example, if it’s a Christian author then of course he’ll write good things about Jesus so he cannot be entirely trusted. If you really want to find about Jesus then go to an author who didn’t grow up learning about Jesus. Personal biases can ruin the entire point of the document. Therefore, the author of the respective data must be considered.

The three points made above are the three main points that should be taken in consideration while deciding whether to rely on the data or not. One last thing is whether cross-examining the data will yield any arguments or not. This can be really hard and time consuming but it’s a very necessary one. The data must be compared with other data from the same author or from different authors from different backgrounds.

If a piece of data can pass all these tests then you can rely on it! Data is very important in today’s hi-tech world so make sure you think before you rely on something the next time!


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