I know, I know. Looking through SEC reports isn't always fun. Honestly, it's part of my job and sometimes I have a hard time getting through them as well. But here's why it's important. Take a look at the following tweets and see if you can get a feel for how these companies performed in the most recent quarter:

Here's how Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) did over the past three months. It's Satya Nadella's first quarterly earnings call as CEO, so this is important.

Great! The company beat estimates, shares are up. Way to go, Nadella! But, then there's this:

Come on, Nadella, get it together!

OK, well, maybe Microsoft's earnings were a little confusing. Let's see how Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN)did:

Well, that sounds kinda negative. How about another article from another source:

Hmm, that sounds much better.

But how do we figure out what's really going on?

The Foolish approach
To be sure, we can read the full articles and not just the headlines. But even when we do that, it's likely each article writer is using the same information and taking a new angle to make different points. And that's OK. The Motley Fool encourages its writers to do the same.

But as good as having someone recap the information can be, it may not paint the full picture. That's where going straight to the earnings report comes in. Reading one or two articles is helpful in adding context to the earnings numbers, but diving into the filings yourself will provide a fuller picture and make you a much better investor. 

Why? Because you'll be able to see the the quarterly numbers for yourself, and see what's changed sequentially and what's going on year over year. That'll give you a better long-term perspective on your stock instead of all the doom-and-gloom or unrealistic euphoria that sometimes surrounds earnings articles.

If you're new to investing, check out this Fool article on the right place to start investing now or our check out our 13 Steps to Investing Foolishly. If you'e a seasoned investor who needs to dig into earnings reports a little more, check out the SEC's EDGAR website and search for official earnings reports. Or you can type the ticker symbol on our website search box and then click the SEC filings tab. 

But no matter how you get the quarterly earnings information, make sure you're reading the official filings for yourself. It takes a little more patience than reading articles, but you'll get a better long-term perspective on how a company's doing, and you'll likely learn a little something in the process.