Why does this matter?
Being a savvy consumer will help you determine if the information you find is reliable.
For a Nursing course, you have to write a research summary geared towards new parents about the importance of childhood vaccines. To get started you need to find relevant and accurate information on the topic. You’ve seen lots of references to vaccines recently on social media and in the news. What tools and skills might you use to determine the accuracy of the information you find online?
|Name of Tool||Description||Use for Consumers|
|Fact-checking websites||Use the search box to verify the accuracy of your information (including images).|
|How to Evaluate Information Sources*||Library website listing critical questions for evaluating information sources.||A useful list of questions to guide you through the process of critical evaluation of information sources.|
|Google Reverse Image Search||Share a link or upload an image to find out where else that image has appeared on the web.||This tool can be used to determine the original source of an image and whether it has been modified or is being used in a misleading context.|
|How to Spot Fake News||An image for evaluating news sources.||A quick visual with 8 tips for evaluating news sources.|
*Tools officially supported at the University of Saskatchewan.
So in this complex information ecosystem, how do we go about evaluating information for credibility? This video, Credibility is Contextual, helps illustrate that information source are not always 'good' or 'bad'; rather we have to dig a bit deeper and understand why we are using a specific information source and for what purpose.
While "fake news" is a very popular topic at the moment, the term itself does not represent the complexity of the issues surrounding this phenomenon. Rather, First Draft's report for the Council of Europe, recommends examining the current state of 'information disorder' using the typology of mis-,dis-, and mal-information.
SIFT is a helpful acronym (from Mike Caulfied) outlining things to do to verify information online. These habits are not meant to take much time, rather, they allow you to do a quick initial assessment to gauge whether a source or a claim deserves a closer look (much like a journalist or professional fact-checker would do). In general, you can try these moves in any order, and if you are successful, your work might be done.
To learn more about the SIFT method, consult this short course.
There are other models or techniques you can use to test the credibility of your sources:
i) IF I APPLY is a tool to question your sources while being aware of your own potential biases:
The Personal Steps: IF I
The Source Steps: APPLY
ii) ACT UP is a more critical method that pushes against privilege and dominant narratives: Author, Currency, Truth, Unbiased, Privilege.
Confirmation bias is the act of seeking out information and opinion that supports your own opinion or worldview. This video Escaping the Internet Echo Chamber (University of Alberta: Video) provides tips for busting out of your echo chamber (i.e. avoiding confirmation bias), using the acronym RACES:
You may have heard conflicting views on Wikipedia ('you can't trust Wikipedia', 'don't use Wikipedia for your research', etc.). While we all use Wikipedia for a variety of reasons and purposes, here are some tips to help you use it more effectively: Evaluating Wikipedia: Tracing the evolution and evaluating the quality of articles.
This video also demonstrates how to use Wikipedia for academic research.
Are you curious to learn more about Wikipedia? Wikipedia: Beneath the Surface (video) describes how information gets into Wikipedia and what goes on behind the scenes.
Chapter 6: Evaluating Sources (from the e-book Choosing and Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research) provides practical information on how to identify relevant and credible sources. As noted: "In order to evaluate a source, you have to answer two questions about it: