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June 2013 SAT: Do people need to know the source of any information before they use it?

In this blog post, we’ll discuss one of the writing prompts from the June 2013 SAT.
This is the entire question from the College Board:

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.

Thanks to the Internet, people have more access to more information than at any other time in history. People can instantly find information on almost any topic in the time it takes to type a couple of words and click a mouse. But we often know so little about the source of this information, including its reliability and the qualifications of the person who wrote it. If we do not know its source, information is not much good to us.

Assignment: Do people need to know the source of any information before they use it? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

At first glance this essay, may seem one-sided, and it probably would have been easier to write an essay in favor of “sourcing” information as opposed to blind reliability. However, the assignment does not ask you if they must know the source of all information. You can probably make a solid argument for why the source of the information is irrelevant when it has certain factors (opinion, leaked documents, and maybe even artistic media). We will only discuss the point of view that is ‘obvious’ for it is probably what you would have written about.

The first thing is to come up with a few reasons why you think information needs to have a source. This should probably include a discussion of wrongly accredited information, information that was posted as a joke, and information that is was mistakenly incorrect. If you can think of examples for those categories then you should start writing the essay. A few examples to get you thinking would be: satirical news sites that were taken seriously, someone claiming to be of importance and writing malformed information, and someone writing libelous information.

Although practicing each question is not a great strategy for preparing, practicing on a couple of different ones helps you brainstorm examples that can be used for different questions. We welcome you to write a response and submit it to us for editing! Just email us at [email protected]