The battle to identify potentially false information
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, there has been a tremendous amount of misinformation floating around, with around-the-clock info coming from the web, news outlets, chatrooms, and private conversation.
“Here is a quick refresher on how to look at resources in a mindful way before relying on their messages,” says Katie Sullivan, Associate Librarian at Oceania University of Medicine (OUM). “One simple test is called the “CRAAP” test. CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.”
When was the information published and how does it relate to your topic? A breast cancer article that is six-months-old may be quite current, while a COVID-19 article from six months ago could be dangerously outdated.
Do your search results truly align with your research topic? Even though an article contains the key words and/or subjects you searched, still be mindful and ensure that it relates to your research needs.
Who wrote this article? What are his/her subject matter expertise and credentials? A world-renowned neurosurgeon has great authority on an article written about brain surgery, but notably less authority writing about the migratory patterns of birds. In academic articles, the author’s affiliation is often included with his/her degrees and titles. Where they work and whom they work with should be examined.
How reliable is this information? If it is a trial or experiment, can it be replicated? Where and how was information gathered? Can statements or results be verified by other sources – are they verifiable facts? When you look at cited sources, are authors using the sources responsibly, quoting out of context, or repurposing information to fit into a desired/preferred goal of the article?
Why was the article written in the first place? Articles may be written to entertain, to inform, to sell, to convince, to manipulate, or even to confuse. How information is presented and where it is ultimately published tells much about an author’s original intent.
“Thankfully, when working within OUM databases, a lot of this work will be done for you by editors of peer-reviewed journals and the companies/services we subscribe to,” says Sullivan. “But, you must still be aware of data that potentially could be flawed or outdated.” The goal of the University’s research requirement is to prepare you to recognize these ongoing challenges.
While checks-and-balances exist, whether authoring a paper or caring for a patient, it remains your responsibility to ensure that you are working with accurate, timely information. Your research reputation and, most importantly, the health of your patients depends on it.