Tools to check your resources

I was listening to a recent marketing podcast that referenced the Encyclopedia Britannica. I haven’t thought about a traditional encyclopedia in a long time. My parents still have the World Book set that I used in high school. With easy access to the Internet, finding information is usually a few keystrokes or finger taps away, so I turn to it more readily than I do the printed material I’ve collected.

Comedian Lewis Black commented in one of his albums that the greatest thing about his generation was the ability to hang out and how they could wax philosophical on any subject for hours. When a member of a younger generation is asked a question, that person will pull out a cellphone and look up the answer. He remarked, “Hanging out just became research.”

With all the avenues available online to find data, are they all reliable? Some sources I trust more than others. Regardless, I like to check several sources when doing research.

One of my favorite reliable sources, the “Associated Press Stylebook,” gives a suggestion of references for material not covered by the stylebook. These references include “Webster’s New World College Dictionary,” “IHS Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft,” “IHS Jane’s Fighting Ships,” “Lloyd’s Register of Ships,” “Official Railway Guide – Freight Service Edition,” “Congressional Directory,” “Political Handbook of the World,” “Handbook of Denominations,” “World Christian Encyclopedia,” and “Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.” Other than the dictionary, I’ve had no need of the other references, although it is nice to know they exist if I ever do need them. I’m also fortunate to be within walking distance of the Lee County Library if I’d like a hard copy reference to hold. Why buy when I can borrow?

I’ve been asked a few times about Wikipedia which has an entry for itself that reads, “Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that, by default, allows its users to edit any article.” Wikipedia has over 126,000 active users and 1,276 administrators.  While I’ve heard “I don’t trust Wikipedia because anyone can edit it,” I’ve also heard that it is trustworthy for reason that if someone sees something incorrect, the issue can be submitted or amended quickly. Here’s how I use it. Scroll to the bottom of the entry. That’s where the links to the references are located. The sources of the information can be checked. To me, this makes that particular entry more reliable. Wikipedia can be a reference to other reference points.

Since I am a member of a Mississippi company working with other Mississippi companies, the data I need is about Mississippi. We’re fortunate to have many resources available for information about our state. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann was in Tupelo recently and passed out information about the new Y’all Business website. The website – www.yallbusiness.sos.ms.gov – includes a map with its data and is has many layers that can either be added or removed. It also comes with a video introduction. It also has a section of facts to assist in making the case of why a company should do business in Mississippi. It’s always great to see positive news about our state.

I also find great Mississippi information from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security’s website. Found at www.mdes.ms.gov/information-center/labor-market-information/, I have found the Labor Market Information (LMI) department information very helpful in working with my clients in discussing the work environment in Mississippi. Included in the information are annual averages, commuting patterns, industry employment projections, business population information, occupational employment projections, occupational wages and occupations in demand.

Data is available. A lot of it is online. Gathering data is easy. Be careful to cite the sources so that all parties agree on the accuracy and validity of the data. Then conclusions can be discussed rationally.

Why is research important? I look to a quote from Neil Armstrong: “Research is creating new knowledge.”

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