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|Issue #40 of the Writing.Com Reviewing Newsletter.
Your editor is: Arwee
[ Table of Contents ]
1. About this Newsletter
2. Letter from the Editor
3. Editor's Picks
4. Ask & Answer
5. Useful Links
[ About this Newsletter ]
In this newsletter we are going to talk about fact checking. Also known as everybody’s “favorite” pastime. While fact checking can be a tedious task, it is a very useful tool while writing. Imagine if no one ever checked their facts. News agencies would be making wild assumptions about stories. Research papers would have incorrect information. And, your review may do more harm to a reviewee than good.
[ Letter from the Editor ]
As a reviewer, one of your functions may be to spot incorrect information in a reviewee’s work. Incorrect information is not always plot inconsistencies, it could be anything from scientific impossibilities, to historical inaccuracies, to grammar issues. But, before we throw down the effort to tell our reviewee about something we saw that looked wrong, we need to stop and consider one very important question:
Am I sure about this?
You don’t need to second guess yourself over everything. However, pay attention to your gut feeling. If you’re going to tell a writer that something they did is incorrect, and your gut is telling you that something is off, then go check your facts! We are all human and cannot be correct all of the time. Perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve gone over a concept and you forgot something about it. Or maybe you’re mistaking it with something else. Don’t feel bad if you don’t remember or made a mistake, it’s in our nature to mess up once in a while. It keeps life interesting, at the very least! This is where fact checking is important, and it can
be fast and convenient. Not to mention it will save your writer a headache later on if he or she ever gets conflicting information.
So how do you go about doing a fact check? One of the very first resources I will use is the Internet. If I’m on WDC then I’m obviously already on the net. All it requires me to do is plug in a few keywords into Google. However, with internet fact checking, you need to ensure that you are checking against more than one resource. I always try to pull from two or three resources. It is also good practice to check a scholarly or academic source.
The more academic it is (colleges, universities, research sites), the better. By this I mean, don’t completely trust the first website you see, or even the second for that matter. Other human beings created those sites and just like us, they are prone to mistakes. Try to find a website run by an organization or group of individuals. The best way to check facts is to find an educational institution that has what you need. Although many times this cannot be the case, so you will have to use your own judgment and common sense and find at least three sites to back up your fact.
Many people will use Wikipedia to check their facts. While Wikipedia is a great resource,
you still need to double check if you are using it too. Remember, Wikipedia is written,
edited and controlled by the public. Most of its quality control is open to public discretion. Again, people are prone to mistakes, and in this case, mischief. Always check more than one site, even if the information looks correct.
A safer, although slower way to check your facts is to use books. It is a bit ridiculous to expect a reviewer to run to the library every time they need to check something. So, I generally refer to books as a way of backing up my internet research if I’m really
adamant about being certain of something. And, of course, make sure your book resources
are as scholarly as possible. For example, a published academic journal of research
papers written by PhD holders is generally considered to be a scholarly source when you
are looking for information.
Sure, it can be boring. Especially when the information you’re looking for is very specific and unexciting. Styles of window coverings in the mid-1500s, anyone? But, it pays to ensure that you are correct. Also, take the opportunity you use to fact check to learn something new or re-affirm information. Over the years, I’ve picked up random and interesting bits of knowledge on my fact checking adventures. For example, did you
know that flamingos get their brilliant pink color from the food that they eat? Maybe you
did, but I didn’t until I found out on an excursion to discover the average top speed of cheetahs.
So, no matter how small the fact, always check if you are not certain!
[ Editor’s Picks ]
[ Ask and Answer ]
If you have any questions, comments, general suggestions, or suggestions for editor’s pick (even your own work! ), please send them to me. I’ll be more than happy to feature them in the next newsletter and address them to the best of my ability.
StephB 2013 Busy Bee Wrote re: “Explaining Your Technical Comments”:
Great example on the passive voice!
Thank you and thanks for writing in too.
~EL~ Merry Christmas! Wrote re: “Explaining Your Technical Comments”:
Great NL. I love the point you made about how each writer's talents vary from others.
The same rule holds true for every individual. I guess I'd forgotten, or simply overlooked this important point.
I also appreciate the fact that you remind reviewers not to look down on reviews as if to
say, "That's pretty stupid. What were you thinking?!" Because every one is different, and thank goodness for that, we don't all have the same talents and abilities- even in the same field.
I appreciate this NL and know that I will walk away a better reviewer.
Oh, and as far as sentence technicalities go- I stand accused! So many terms to remember... and I'm a slow learner. I'd rather be reading and writing.
Technical English terms can be really dull to memorize. I think we'll all figure it out eventually if we keep writing, reading, and reviewing though. Thanks for writing in, and keep on being different! It's what makes the world an exciting place, I think.
bobneH .. aka.. HoD DuraH Wrote re: “Explaining Your Technical Comments”:
This one line, in an otherwise excellent news letter,(#37) bothered me. (Things are more clear and concise in my opinion and you used less words to say the same thing too. )
[ Things are clearer, and more concise, in my opinion; and you use less words to say the
same thing. ]
Thanks for pointing that out. I hold firm to refuse a semicolon. But I did
improve the statement for the archived version of Issue #37. The sentence did sound a bit
silly. Thanks again!
[ Useful Links ]
"Feedback Central" – Send the editors some suggestions and general feedback.
"Reviewing Newsletters" – View previous issues of the Reviewing Newsletter.