Filtering Information Quickly


One of the big challenges facing critical thinkers comes from the flood of information available.  Oceans of info are readily accessible, but there’s not much help determining whether the info we’re looking at is any good. How do we sort through it all to determine what suits our needs and avoid settling for the first hit that comes up on our search engine?

Let’s look at some techniques for speedy filtering of search results. The suggested activity below comes from the Open University and should only take about five minutes.

Take just five minutes to speed up your skills:

The following exercise will give you a chance to try fast filtering for yourself. Feel free to use your search engine of choice. Bear in mind that each search engine you use has a different focus and a different set of search criteria. Different search engines may yield very different results.

1. Choose a topic that interests you.

2. Before you start searching, decide what sort of information will meet your needs. In order to find something, you need to know what you’re looking for.

3. Also note what time it is, as the aim is to spend no longer than 5 minutes on this.

4. Open your search engine of choice and carry out your search. If you aren’t sure why you are using a particular search engine, try a couple of different ones.

5. How many results did you get? Take a look at the list. What sort of results have come up on the first page? Are there any which are especially relevant? Look at headings, highlighted keywords, type of site, URL and date. These will help you determine the credibility of the material.

6. What is your next step? For example, do you want to narrow by type of information or date range, add more search terms, or take a look at what other people thought about a particular site?

7. If you have time, try out one of the options in number 6 above. Reflect on how successful your strategy was.

8. Make a short list of one or two sites you would want to return to, by adding them to favorites/bookmarks or whatever method is most convenient for you.

9. How long did it take you?

Author: Craig Butcher

Craig Butcher is an award-winning educator who has taught critical thinking skills for more than two decades. In addition, he has worked on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer and has been a top-rated broadcaster.