Double- and Triple-Check!
You can do some of the fact checking during a simple read-through of the paper, because some errors are obvious. You need to do more than just a brief scan, however. Read through the paper at least two or three times. Read it once to yourself and then once aloud, as if you were reading it to someone.
Check for Typos
The most obvious errors are simple typos. These always find their way into your paper as you rush to get your ideas down, so there may be a number of these in a first draft. A common typo is something like writing “this is the newest feature on these cares” instead of “this is the newest feature on these cars.” You didn't intend to type “cares,” but that is the way it came out because you were typing quickly or because you mind had already moved on to what you were about to type next.
The easiest way to check for typos is to read your paper out loud. When you read it silently you can still skip over the typos, sometimes reading what you think is there instead of what is really written there. When you read it aloud you are forced to say the words the way they are typed, so the typos are much more evident.
You also could ask someone else to read through your paper to check for typos. A fresh pair of eyes that is completely unfamiliar with the paper will catch any remaining typos quicker.
Don't rely on spell checkers to catch your typos. As long as what you have typed is an actual word (such as “cares,” when you meant “cars”), the spell checker won't show that it is an error. You need to find most of the typos yourself. Take your time with this process, because it can mean the difference between presenting a well-polished paper and a sloppy, hastily put-together paper.
Ensure That It Makes Sense
At this stage you should also ensure that what you wrote is logical and makes sense. Again, there may be some obvious errors that will confuse the reader. These usually stem from facts that you either recorded incorrectly or were wrong at the source.
This brings up the possibility that not all of the sources you found were completely accurate. This is especially true with some Web sites, because there are no rules or guidelines regulating who can post information on the Internet and what that information contains. Check these facts with another source so that you get the correct facts.
Assessing Your Sources
While the focus in recent years has been on the inaccuracies of some Web sites, be aware that any source you use can contain inaccuracies. These may be errors that were printed in books or magazines because those writers didn't check their facts. They may be errors on maps or in atlases that reflect either mistakes or outdated information. If your information is from a personal interview, that too can contain incorrect information, either because the interviewee doesn't know the correct answer or doesn't want to disclose it. In addition, memories are extremely prone to error.
So how will you know if a source is reliable or not? When you use a source, consider who provided the information. Was it a professional researcher and writer? Was it a disgruntled former employee? Also consider the author's relationship to the topic. Knowing more about the source's author can sometimes help you gauge the reliability of the information that the source contains.
Find out how current the information is. An article or book that was published in the past six months is likely to contain information that supersedes the information provided in an article or book published 15 years ago. In addition, the purpose of the publication can have an effect on the bias of the information it includes. Information that was published to convince or persuade people of a specific position may slightly skew the facts. In fact, any source that is opinion-based should be noted as such so that you can differentiate between opinions and facts.
Finally, you should check the background and credentials of any person you receive information from. People can forget details, they can mix opinions with facts, and they may not have known the correct information in the first place.