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PUBH 3020: Community Health Education: Evaluate Credibility of Sources

A guide to library and web resources for students in PUBH 3020: Community Health Education

Evaluating Resources

[Libncsu]. (2015, June 9). Evaluating Sources for Credibility [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/PLTOVoHbH5c

Understanding Bias in the Media

Be aware about the degree of partisanship of news media sources. Finding reputable news sources and avoiding very biased media will help you find information that is truthful and well researched; thus, reducing your chance of encountering fake news. The chart below is one interpretation of mainstream (and some fringe) news outlets and where they fall on the y axis of complex to sensational and on the x axis from liberal bias to conservative bias.

A chart that shows media outlets with liberal outlets on the left of the x axis and conservative on the right of the x axis. On the y axis news outlets are arranged by complex at the top and sensational at the bottom.

Analyzing News Sources

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources

Tips for analyzing news sources:
  • Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo. These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).

  • Watch out for websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources  

  • Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.

  • Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.

  • Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.

  • Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).

  • Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.

  • Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.

  • If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.

  • If the website you’re reading encourages you to dox individuals (doxing is searching for and publishing private or identifying information about someone on the Internet, typically with malicious intent), it’s unlikely to be a legitimate source of news.

  • It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.

  • Verify the claims. When you open up a news article in your browser, open a second, empty tab.  Use that second window to look up claims, author credentials and organizations that you come across in the article.

  • Keep in mind that fake news is not just on social media. Fake news spans across all kinds of media - printed and online articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, radio shows, even still images. 

  • Fact check! Fact check! Fact check! Always be ready to fact check.

  • It happens to everyone. Even the best researchers will be fooled once in a while.  If you find yourself fooled by a fake news story, use your experience as a learning tool.

2016  by Melissa Zimdars. (Made  available  under a  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0  International  License.)

 

With resources like Google at our fingertips, information isn't hard to find. What is challenging is determining whether that information is credible and can be trusted. Is it factual? Biased? Relevant to your topic?

A Google search is often our first stop to gain a basic understanding of the main ideas about a topic, but since anyone with access to a computer can publish anything online, it is crucial that you evaluate the information you find, especially when completing a research paper, or looking for important information (like health or financial information).

Web sources can be particularly hard to evaluate, so here is a handy acronym to help you determine if a source may be CRAP.

  • CURRENCY How recently was this information published/posted? Can you find a publication date?
  • RELIABILITY:  Is the information supported by evidence? Can it be confirmed by other sources?
  • AUTHORITY:  Who wrote the information - are they an expert or knowledgeable in their field? (i.e. For health information, did a doctor or nurse write it? For science information, did a scientist or researcher write it?)
  • PURPOSE / POINT OF VIEW:  Why was it written? To sell something? To sway opinion? Is it biased toward a particular point of view?

Evaluate sources, "Is it too good to be true?"

All information, whether in print or by byte, needs to be evaluated by readers for authority, appropriateness, and other personal criteria for value. If you find information that is "too good to be true", it probably is. Never use information that you cannot verify. Establishing and learning criteria to filter information you find on the Internet is a good beginning for becoming a critical consumer of information in all forms. "Cast a cold eye" (as Yeats wrote) on everything you read. Question it. Look for other sources that can authenticate or corroborate what you find. Learn to be skeptical and then learn to trust your instincts.

— from Evaluating Information from Johns Hopkins University's research tools.  

(2016, November) Evaluating Information from Johns Hopkins University's research tools. Retrieved from http://guides.library.jhu.edu/c.php?g=202581&p=1334914

Fact Checking

Additional Links

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