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5.5: Thinking Critically About Information

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    critical thinking imageTo think critically about the information used in a speech, learn to put in the effort and “leg work” to obtain the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. As mentioned previously with vetting sources, sometimes speakers need to just carefully review the information before presenting it as fact. To discern the difference between questionable information and credible information, watch for clues to help make determination.

    • Is the information well supported, or is it based on hearsay? Hearsay essentially means the same thing as rumor. If the information sounds like it might be true but does not have sources to back up the claims, it might be anecdotal evidence or hearsay. For example, many people believe that suicide rates skyrocket on Christmas Day, and at first glance, this makes sense, partly because people share the claim anecdotally (or through hearsay) so many times. Why wouldn’t they, as the rationale seems plausible? A 30-second Google search, however, produces credible information proving this wrong, as suicide rates peak in the springtime “because the rebirth that marks springtime accentuates feelings of hopelessness in those already suffering with it” (Burton, 2012, para. 3).
    • Is the information based solely on the testimony of non-experts or on opinions alone? Beware of claims made by many sources of information that a product or service changed someone’s life for the better. Read the fine print, which usually states something along the lines of, “Results not typical.” Additionally, generally avoid using personal blogs for most intents and purposes. Blogs rarely get peer-reviewed, and the bloggers running them rarely get held accountable for spreading misinformation. Of course, exceptions exist to almost every rule, including this one. Certain blogs may provide a wealth of information, particularly blogs written and managed by an expert in a particular topic-related field. Always take a few extra moments to double-check information found in a blog with outside sources. The extra effort will pay off in self-confidence that the information shared in the presentations stays accurate.
    • What do opposing perspectives say? Do not merely research the agreeable aspects of the information, because frequently, audience members will not share the same support for the topic. Therefore, identify the opposition’s viewpoints to a topic to prepare to address these concerns adequately. For example, if giving a presentation on stricter gun regulations, research the positions of advocates for fewer restrictions and less gun control, even when delivering a purely informational speech. Doing so provides a more well-rounded presentation because expanding one’s perspective can also create a much richer, more deeply layered message, relatively free from bias.

    This page titled 5.5: Thinking Critically About Information is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Josh Misner and Geoff Carr via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.