Evaluating Health Information

Health Information: Fact Check

Credible authors are more likely to point to where they found their information and provide evidence for their claims. Look at the original source of information. Check other trusted sources - do they give similar information?  

What is the information that you’re reading based on?  

  • Find the original source of information.
  • If a research study is mentioned, get a copy of it. Try a search engine like DuckDuckGo.
  • Good search terms are the researcher’s name(s), their institution, and a term or two from their research topic.

screenshot of an article on smoking bans and drunk driving, with search terms "smoking bans" "drunk driving" and author name highlighted

Smoking bans image screenshot on 1/16/2021

Screenshot of a DuckDuckGo search of "smoking ban drunk driving" results taken in January 2021

Screenshot of "smoking ban drunk driving" DuckDuckGo search created January 2021

  • Sometimes publications are behind a paywall
  • If you can’t get full text for a publication, search your library or Ask a librarian to help you get a copy

Is an image part of the health information that you’re checking?

  • If you see a striking image that is part of the message, it’s important to know whether the image really is what the author is claiming it is
  • Use a reverse image search to investigate what the image is and where it is from

Do other sources give similar information on this topic?

You can contact a library for help finding other sources on the topic. Keep in mind: librarians can’t give medical advice or interpret medical information. 

  • Always consult a health professional before making medical decisions, especially to find out about the risks to you.

Remember that science is a process, not a set of facts.

  • Current understanding of a topic changes based on new findings, feedback on research methods, and more.

So health sources should be current.

  • There’s no set rule for what is current.
  • For many health topics, researchers want sources created or updated within the past 5 years.

Quick Checks:

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