One of the difficulties of SDR is browsing through the high number of pieces of information that exist. Filtering through this information will help an analyst decide what is useful to keep, and what should be discarded. When looking for data, keep in mind that this is generally a never-ending process. Therefore, stick to some time and resource constraints.
Time and resource constraints are of particular concern when looking at the accessibility of information. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How can you access this information?
- Do you need to request/pay, or can you just download data directly?
- How much effort is required to access what is not readily available?
- Is the data worth pursuing this?
- How essential is it to your analysis or can you use proxy information?
Generally, several principles help analysts to judge whether the information from a source can and should be used:
- Reliability: The degree of reliability of the source that provided the information. Does the source have the necessary qualifications, credentials or level of understanding to make the claim? Does the source have a reputation and positive track record for accuracy? Does the source have a motive for being inaccurate or overly biased? What motivations or bias may have influenced how the observation was made or reported? Be careful to look through your sources; sometimes the source where you read the information is not the original source. Who is quoted, where do figures come from? (ACAPS 2014).
- Credibility: The degree to which the information in the source is considered credible. Is it a product of one’s own observation or a result of unsubstantiated rumour? Have other people reported the same? What methods were used to collect and analyse the data? Are they sound and proven methodologies? In what circumstances was the observation made or reported? (ACAPS 2014).
- Confidentiality: The degree to which the information obtained can be used and quoted when writing down the analysis.