Use this link to access videos and tutorials about evaluating health information.
You might be asked to cite scholarly or peer-reviewed articles for your papers or projects. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they amount to much the same thing.
A scholarly journal is one that contains articles authored by experts and reviewed by other experts. The article will be published only if it passes this peer review process. The "peers" who evaluate articles before they are published are called referees; sometimes you will hear the phrase refereed journal rather than peer-reviewed journal -- don't worry, they mean the same thing.
Look for the following components when evaluating a research article:
Title and abstract.
Author or authors. Typically the authors will be identified with their credentials and will most often include contact information for at least the first or primary author.
Research question or objective. The aim of the research should be easy to identify, whether the research is asking a question or has one or more objectives to meet, these should be clearly stated in the introduction.
Introduction and background. The introduction may include a literature review or the literature review may be a separate section.
Research design and/or Methods. The research article should have a methods section that describes the sample and how the research was conducted.
Data analysis or Results.
Discussion and conclusions. Look for any limitations of the study.
References. References should be consistently formatted and easy to track down.
Medical Library Association's Information Evaluation Guidelines for Web Sites
Can you easily identify the site sponsor? Sponsorship is important because it helps establish the site as respected and dependable. Does the site list advisory board members or consultants? This may give you further insights on the credibility of information published on the site.
The web address itself can provide additional information about the nature of the site and the sponsor's intent. What should you know about .com health sites? Commercial sites may represent a specific company or be sponsored by a company using the web for commercial reasons—to sell products. At the same time, many commercial websites have valuable and credible information. Many hospitals have .com in their address. The site should fully disclose the sponsor of the site, including the identities of commercial and noncommercial organizations that have contributed funding, services, or material to the site.
A government agency has .gov in the address.
An educational institution is indicated by .edu in the address.
A professional organization such as a scientific or research society will be identified as .org.
Commercial sites identified by .com will most often identify the sponsor as a company, for example Merck &; Co., the pharmaceutical firm.
The site should be updated frequently. Health information changes constantly as new information is learned about diseases and treatments through research and patient care. websites should reflect the most up-to-date information.
The website should be consistently available, with the date of the latest revision clearly posted. This usually appears at the bottom of the page.
3. Factual information
Information should be presented in a clear manner. It should be factual (not opinion) and capable of being verified from a primary information source such as the professional literature, abstracts, or links to other web pages.
Information represented as an opinion should be clearly stated and the source should be identified as a qualified professional or organization.
The website should clearly state whether the information is intended for the consumer or the health professional.
Many health information websites have two different areas - one for consumers, one for professionals. The design of the site should make selection of one area over the other clear to the user.