Whether you’re looking for a quick bite of information or want to drop some knowledge on your dinnertime companions, here’s our Featured 5 of the Week!
Because of the internet and social media platforms, information spreads in a split-second, reaching thousands of users in minutes. However, this means that false news spreads just as fast. If you’re wondering how to know if what we read is accurate and credible, we’re here to help!
5. Check the references
Information that’s scientifically credible will have references to peer-reviewed articles. This means that multiple institutions have verified the research to be accurate. They’re also found in accredited medical journals, written by professionals with credentials in their related industry, or cite credible sources like government organizations and universities.
It’s a good idea to start here when trying to determine if something is credible. If there are no references cited, it’s probably best to ignore that article.
4. Is there bias?
Checking for bias is another critical first step when deciding if something is credible or not. One way to do this is to check if the organization is cherry-picking data. This means that they’re only using current and outdated data that supports their specific agenda and ignores anything that conflicts.
Another way to check for bias is to see if there’s a political pull. Any site can have an agenda, even if they don’t explicitly state it. Read the “About Us” page to see an organization’s policies, actions, campaigns, donors, and lobbies they promote.
3. Do other sites use the same facts?
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if research is reputable. Looking at other websites to see if they use the same research is an excellent way to check. It can also help you determine if an organization uses credible, peer-reviewed research because this research will be cited repeatedly.
It’s also a good idea to see how an organization is using the facts. Are they describing them the same way they were described in the research, or are they using it to support their own agenda?
2. What does the article look like?
Every article should have a few things: an author, a title, and quality writing. If it’s not clear who wrote the article, it could have been written in-house to promote an agenda. The same is true if there are no references at all. Credible organizations will cite their information from scientific studies or other well-known, credible sources.
The quality of writing should also be good. That means no typos, wrong words used, poor grammar, etc.
1. How much do they spend researching their cause?
And, how much do they spend on marketing that information?
All non-profits must publicly disclose their financials on their website. For example, EWG’s Statement of Activities page states that 13% of their expenses went toward marketing and fundraising. But, if you dig deeper, their Functional Expenses reveals a higher figure where each subcategory has its own marketing expenses. This compares to only 2% of their expenses going to research and data.
For an organization that releases a list that leads people to fear certain foods, there is not much research happening there.
Check out the full Discerning Dozen below:
The Bottom Line
As social media becomes a more popular place to find information, it’s critical to know how to decipher the good from the bad. Always check for scientific references and bias, especially if an organization is trying to force its agenda onto you.