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NTRES 1101: Evaluating Information

Let's complicate matters a bit more...

The CRAAP Test

Currency

  • When it comes to health, you often need current, up-to-date information.  Check the website for a copyright date, or 'last updated' date, often at the very bottom of the page.
  • Try the links on the page.  If many of them are 'broken', it's likely that the page has not been updated or maintained.

Relevance

  • Check that the information is relevant to your question.  Choose your search terms carefully to retrieve the most relevant results.
  • Who is the intended audience of the website?  Is the information meant for health consumers (lay people) or health professionals?

Authority

  • A good website will provide clear information as to the author/owner of the site and the source of the information.  You should be able to find an 'About' link somewhere on the page.
  • Legitimate sites often provide contact information.
  • The web address can be a clue to authorship:  .edu indicates an educational institution and .gov indicates a government website. 
  • By adding site:.gov to your Google search, you can easily limit your keyword search to government websites.  Adding site:.edu will limit the search to websites of educational institutions.

Accuracy

  • The accuracy of the information can be difficult to determine, but some clues may be a warning sign.  Trust your judgement and beware of sites that make health claims that you know to be false or that are debunked by another reliable, trustworthy source.
  • Beware of biased or opinionated language.
  • Steer clear of websites that are poorly written, full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, or lots of exclamation points.

Purpose

  • The purpose of a reliable health information website should be to teach or inform.  The information should be objective and impartial.
  • Beware of sites whose primary purpose seems to be selling products, entertaining, or sites that are strongly biased or opinionated.

Reading Scientific Articles: Some Questions to Ask

1) Is the sample size appropriate? Was a control group used? Were the presented data statistically treated? Were the experiments well standardized? In summary: Were the experiments carried out according to the scientific method?

2) Were the conclusions derived from the results of the reported experiments?

3) Were statements not based on experiments supported by scientific article references?

4) Is the abstract appropriate? Does the title describe the article content?

5) Were the keywords well selected?

6) Are the references current?

7) Was the research subject relevant from either the social or academic viewpoint?

8) Does the article contribute new information or does it repeat what is known?

From De Avila, P., & Torres, B. B. (2010). Introducing undergraduate students to science. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 38(2), 70-78.

How Can I Tell if It's Peer-Reviewed

There are a couple of ways you can tell if a journal is peer-reviewed:

  • If it's online, go to the journal home page and check under About This Journal. Often the brief description of the journal will note that it is peer-reviewed or refereed or will list the Editors or Editorial Board.
  • Go to the database Ulrich's and do a Title Keyword search for the journal. If it is peer-reviewed or refereed, the title will have a little umpire shirt symbol by it.
  • BE CAREFUL! A journal can be refereed/peer-reviewed and still have non-peer-reviewed articles in it. Generally if the article is an editorial, brief news item or short communication, it's not been through the full peer-reviewprocess. Databases like Web of Knowledge will let you restrict your search only to articles (and not editorials, conference proceedings, etc).

Primary vs. Secondary Research Articles

You've been asked to find at least one primary research articles. Primary sources in this case:

  • are original scientific reports of new research findings
  • usually include the following sections: Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, References
  • are peer-reviewed (examined by expert(s) in the field before publication).

You may also choose to use some secondary sources (summaries or interpretations of original research) such as books (find these through the library catalog) or review articles (articles which organize and critically analyze the research of others on a topic). These secondary sources are often useful and easier-to-read summaries of research in an area. Additionally, you can use the listed references to find useful primary research articles.

For more information on primary versus secondary articles, please see the following: