Evaluating information sources

Evaluating information sources 

Here are some questions to ask yourself when assessing the quality of a resource.  (If you are doing a detailed systematic review, you might like to consider using a toolkit like DISCERN.)

Source

  • Who has written your source?  Can you contact them to feedback or discuss applications to practice, inaccuracies etc?
  • Are they credible within the academic/healthcare world?
  • How credible is the source of the publication?  Has it been peer-reviewed before it is published?

Currency

  • When was the source published? 
  • If the source was published a long time ago, is it out of date?
  • How frequently is the resource updated and is that adequate?
  • Is the model or theory still accepted within academia?

Population

  • Is the information only relevant for one gender, age or cultural group or geographical area?
  • Is the information scalable to a larger population?

Presentation & purpose

  • Is the website professionally presented? Is it a personal website, or possibly work in progress?
  • Does it provide proper references to materials cited? Is glossy presentation disguising lack of content?
  • Is there a quality kite mark (such as Health on the Net Foundation)?
  • Why is the material being published?  Is it commercially or politically biased?
  • Has the research been sponsored by someone?  Is this explicit?

Justifiability of claims

Use your professional judgement to critically examine the information contained within the resource.

  • Does the resource cover the subject in sufficient depth?
  • Are the claims supported by appropriate, balanced evidence?

Testability

  • Is it possible test the claims made?
  • Has the information been tested by other experts?  Did this prove or contradict (falsify) the claims?
  • Has the resource been favourably cited by others?

Relevance

  • How relevant is the information to your patient, problem, assignment...?
  • Does the material contribute something new to your understanding of the topic?  Does it express it better than other resources?
  • Can these findings be applied to practice?
  • Should you communicate this to colleagues or revise a treatment protocol?

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