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Health Sciences Template

Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources Page Walkthrough

This video will walk you through how to use this page.

 

Evaluating what you find is an important part of your research. You need to be able to assess what you read for quality, accuracy, and be able to notice any biases. You cannot go wrong with asking, "Who?", "What?", "Where?", "Why?",  and "When?" when reading. Context is important as well, and you can take a look at the slide show at the end to see different ways to approach information in varying contexts.

Generally, you will be safe using peer-reviewed articles that you can find in GALILEO. A peer-reviewed article is an article written by an expert in a field, reviewed by other experts in the field. Peer-reviewed articles often contain original research or review and discuss original research. These are articles written by researchers for other researchers, so you can generally spot these articles by the level jargon that they use. For a closer look, take a look at Anatomy of a Scholarly Article from NCSU Libraries.  If you hear the words "evidence-based" from your instructors, peer-reviewed articles should be a part of your research strategy.

How do you find peer-reviewed articles?

  1. Use GALILEO or a Subject Database, and look for a check box that says "peer-review" or "academic articles." You can visit GALILEO: Articles & Databases or ask your librarians if you need help navigating GALILEO.
  2. Know that most credible news stories or blogs or, with extreme caution, social media may informally cite or you link you out to the peer-reviewed sources they are discussing. If you hit a pay wall, ask your librarians for help tracking down the article. For example, this article from Stat+ links you out to the peer-reviewed article and gives you enough clues to Google it. Always try to get directly to the source.
Evidence Based Pyramid
This is a screenshot of a Stat News article which includes the 'Study described in a new paper published in Nature Medicine...& Nature Medicine has a hyperlink to the paper and the sentence is circled with the following comment "This article from Stat+ links you out to the peer-reviewed article."

Evidenced Based Pyramid

Some peer-reviewed articles can be further broken down by their study design by using the evidence-based pyramid. All of these study designs serve a purpose in scientific discovery, but you may be able to be generalize or be more confident in your results using source types from the top of the pyramid, like Clinical Guidelines, than at the bottom of the pyramid, Expert Opinions. Know that things like systematic reviews and clinical guidelines rely on existing evidence. A systematic review where randomized control studies abound may reveal more convincing results over a systematic review where only case studies are available. 

Evidence Based Medicine
This is a pyramid with seven layers. The bottom represents studies and articles where you cannot generalize the results to rest of the population (less evidence). The top represents the best evidence. The first 4 layers are unfiltered information. The last three layers are filtered information. Layer One: Background Information and Expert Opinion. Layer Two: Case-Controlled Studies, Case Series, and Reports. Layer Three: Cohort Studies. Layer Four: Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs). Layer Five: Critically-Appraised Individual Articles [Article Synopses]. Layer Six: Critically-Appraised Topics [Evidence Syntheses and Guidelines]. Layber Seven: Systematic Reviews.

Since we're talking about evaluating sources, know that there is discussion about what and how to include different sources in the pyramid. Several different variations of the pyramid exist. If you are interested, take a look at this opinion piece: https://ebm.bmj.com/content/21/4/125

How do you find peer-reviewed articles by study design?

  1. Use the advanced search to filter by study designs in subject databases like CINAHL, MEDLINE, and ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health.
  2. If you Google, use the study design in your search "Randomized Controlled Trials" or "Case Studies."
  3. TRIP Medical Database neatly sorts results by study design. 

 

Different Ways of Evaluating Sources

Image of CRAAP

CRAAP

Currency
When was the information published or Posted?
Has the information been revised or updated?
Is the current or out-of-date for your topic?
Are the links functional?

Relevance
Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
Who is the intended audience?
is the information at an appropriate level?
Have you looked at a variety of sources before choosing this ones?
Would be comfortable using this source for a research paper?


Authority
Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
What are the author's qualifications to write on this topic?
Is there contact information, such as publisher or e-mail address?
Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

Accuracy
Where does the information come from?
Is the information supported by evidence?
Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
Can you verify any of the information in another sources?
Does the language or tone seem biased and free of choice?

Purpose
What is the purpose of the information?
Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
Is the information fact? Opinion? Propaganda?
Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

 

Breaking News Consumer's Handbook

  1. In the immediate aftermath, news outlets will get it wrong.
  2. Don't trust anonymous sources.
  3. Don't trust news stories that cite another news outlet as the source for information.
  4. There's almost never a second shooter.
  5. Pay attention the language the media uses.
  6. "We are getting reports"...could mean anything.
    "We are seeking information"...means they don't have it.
    "[News outlet] has learned"... means it has a scoop or is going out on limbs.
  7. Look for news outlets close to the incident.
  8. Compare multiple source.
  9. Big news brings out fakers. And photoshoppers.
  10. Beware reflexive tweeting. Some of this is on you.

On the Media. (2014, August 1). The breaking news handbook: Active shooter edition. https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/segments/breakingnews-consumers-handbook

Evidence Based Medicine Pyramid

The evidence based pyramid goes a step further than peer-review, and offers guidance on how to evaluate different study designs and papers. The top of the pyramid contains systematic reviews (higher quality) and the bottom contains expert opinion lower (quality).

The study designs are:

  • Systematic Reviews
  • Critically-Apprasied Topics [Guidelines]
  • Critically Appraised Individual Articles
  • Randomized Controlled Trials
  • Cohort Studies
  • Case-Controlled Studies /Case Series/Reports
  • Background Information/Expert Opinion

HLWIKI Canada. (n.d.). Evidence based pyramid. Reposted on https://s4be.cochrane.org/blog/2013/02/14/the-ebm-pyramid/

 

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