On the Web we have access to more information than we could ever hope to use. When it comes to health-related information, we need to know how to filter out the information we don't need and keep only what is useful to us. So how do we know we have the best health information we need? How do we know we can trust what is out there? It seems like a daunting task, but the good news is that asking yourself a few questions can help you quickly assess the usefulness of a website.
What are we looking for when we are deciding what to trust? In a word: credibility. For something to be credible, we need to feel that the source is both trustworthy and informative. We need to know that the people providing the information have the background or understanding in a certain area to know what they are talking about. We also need to know that the source is trustworthy. Many people may have the knowledge but that does not mean they have the skills or even the intention to share that knowledge with others.
Trusting health information can be especially scary on the Web, but there is a great deal of credible information out there. We just have to be savvy evaluators. Below is a list of six key questions you should ask yourself when you're visiting a website for the first time.
Our eyes can play tricks on us, especially when we are on the Web. A great deal of research has been done to understand how we determine if something we find on the Web is credible. Certain groups may use this information to better highlight their good information but others can use this information to trick us into trusting their not-so-good information.
Research found on a website that looks more professional or well-designed will be seen as more credible. The risk in this is that the actual content or information is not being evaluated. While a professional-looking site can be an indicator of quality information, it is important to take the time to look deeper at the quality of the content on that site.
Now you have the tools to approach the Web more confidently and not only find the information you need but find the best, most credible information you need. Ask yourself the six key questions. If a site doesn't meet your standards, move along. And if you find something really great, hold on to it.
Lauren Plews is currently the information specialist at CATIE. A certified bookworm, Lauren earned her Masters of Science in Information with a specialization in library sciences from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Before coming to CATIE, she worked in a public library and also assisted faculty and researchers at the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.
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