Learning to learn. Part 3 - questions to ask for validating a resource

Kethmar Salumets
2019-11-20 Kethmar Salumets

We've arrived at the final part of "Learning to learn" series - questions to ask before using a resource for learning. When you already know what you want to learn and have defined the preferred types of resources, it's time to get specific.

Save time by choosing quality resources

Every minute spent on learning must be as efficient as possible.

Our time is limited. If you're like me, spending time on learning technical stuff isn't the only thing you want to do. Spending time with close ones, doing sports and having fun is also important. Thus, every minute spent on learning must be as efficient as possible.

One of the main methods for achieving that is picking the best resources available for learning. That means choosing the type of resources that fit you the best (head back to the second article for more on that) but also pre-validating the quality of specific resources you use.

For the validation part, I've created a small list of questions to be asked before spending too much time on a specific resource.

Questions to ask for validating a resource

Does the summary of the resource provide answers to your questions?

Before diving in, I try to read the table of contents of the resource. In the case of blog articles, I read the summary / last paragraph. This way, I'll get a general overview of the content. Additionally, it gives me a chance to verify these are the topics I want to require more knowledge about.

What type of resource am I dealing with?

That's an easy one. If I read React's official documentation, I can be sure that the information there is correct. In cases like books, videos and articles, you should dig deeper to validate.

Who's the author and does he/she know about the topic?

Whether it's a book, video course, blog article or documentation - it must have an author. And in order for the author to provide useful content, one must have experience in the related topic. The latter can easily be validated by Googling the author's name and see if he/she has any other publications or Github projects. Sometimes the author is just starting out. In that case, LinkedIn can be helpful where you can check the persons' work experience and professional network.

Shortly put - make sure the author has the necessary experience in the field.

Has it been validated by others?

In most cases, a good resource has already been approved by others. InUdemy, you can see the average rating and comments for a course. Most books are already listed in Goodreads and received feedback. With blog articles, it's harder but if there are many "likes", it gives an indication on the usefulness of an article.

I usually prefer to check the negative feedback first. If a book in my list has received negative feedback for its ugly cover, I don't take it seriously. On the other hand, a one-star-rating for faulty examples can be a sign of concern.

Are the facts backed by resources, evidence?

This is something hard to validate in the beginning but whenever you learn from a resource and see a fact being represented, it should be backed by additional resources.

And that's it! Remember to think critically when choosing your resources for learning. The questions above should help you do that. By not doing so, there's a risk of not utilizing your time most efficiently.

The article at hand also concludes this series. Hopefully, I was able to give you some useful advice. Thank you and...let's keep learning!

Bonus - resource centres I use

  • Official documentations - in case it's a specific technology, I just head to the documentation.
  • dev.to - a place to explore various soft- and technical topics in our field
  • DailyNow - A Chrome and Firefox extension I use to have a general overview of what's going on in technology. It caters articles from various resources.
  • Goodreads - for finding and validating books
  • Udemy - my go-to place for video tutorials
  • Newsletters - I've subscribed myself to weekly newsletters on topics like Javascript, React, Vue, Node etc.
  • Also, check out this awesome list of book recommendations for software developers: https://dev.to/awwsmm/20-most-recommended-books-for-software-developers-5578

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