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Science and Public Controversy

A guide for Heather Schell's Fall 2020 UW 1020 class.

Not All Information Is Created Equally

As you know, some information is better researched, more reliable, and more balanced than other sources. Use these guidelines to help you evaluate your sources.

(Note: Depending on how you are using a source, you may have different criteria. For example, if you are using Tweets from Twitter to demonstrate a popular opinion, then that social media website is an excellent source. For other research projects, Tweets may be inappropriate, however.)

Authority

  • Is the author an expert in the field, or what are the author's credentials?  Do a Google search or look up what else this person has written.
  • When evaluating a web page check to see if an author is listed.

Timeliness

  • When was the information published or posted? Is the date of publication important for your research? It may or may not be.
  • If it's a web page, are the links functional? Has it been revised or updated?

Relevance

  • Does the information answer a part of your research question?
  • Who is the intended audience? Is a commercial site for the general public, like WebMD, appropriate, or would an article written by a physician for other physicians be a better fit?

Accuracy

  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has it been verified or put through a peer-reviewed process?

Bias

  • Who is the author, or sponsor, of the information? Does the author or website have an agenda? For example, the Salt Institute would not publish information that made salt appear unhealthy.
  • Is the information basically objective and fact-based, or is it an opinion or propaganda?

 

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