Tips for Finding Credible Health Information on the Internet
One thing this world doesn’t have a shortage of is information to be found. But, many people can be overwhelmed, confused, conflicted and/or scared due to “research” they find online. Is the source offering credible health information? Can I trust what I am reading?
As a supporter of people educating themselves and taking control of their health, I find myself encouraging them to continue to do their own research, but not believe everything they read. Just because the information is out there doesn’t mean it’s valid, accurate, useful or safe. I propose doing “smarter research”; reading information with a bit more scrutiny than they may be used to.
Below are some quick tips that may help to discern which information is more credible than others.
Who Wrote It?
Who is the author of the information? What are their qualifications/credentials? How are they connected to the subject matter? Is there reasonable evidence that the author has expertise regarding the information they’re discussing?
This can be particularly important with regards to naturopathic medicine, because in an unlicensed state such as Virginia, even those who didn’t attend an accredited 4-year medical school can call themselves a “naturopathic doctor”. If the author and their credentials are not clearly identified, I would be wary of the information.
In What Tone is the Information Being Provided?
Is the information provided based mostly on opinion or backed by facts? Is the author overly emotional one way or the other? Is it only one-sided information or does it give negatives/positives, alternatives, etc. Does the article provoke fear? Are words such as “always”, “never”, or “guaranteed” used frequently? Is it a personal account of one individual’s experience with something?
Look for objective information that doesn’t inflame any strong emotions while reading. If you finish one article thinking that you ABSOLUTELY must have or must avoid the topic of discussion I’d question the validity of the information.
Is the Information Biased?
Are there particular products or tests being recommended for purchase in the article? Does the author/website have any connection to the products being recommended? If it’s a research study, was it funded by anyone who would benefit from a particular outcome?
Does it Sound “Too Good To Be True”?
If it sounds this way, it likely is. “Cure all’s”, guaranteed results or “magic bullets” should all be red flags. Cross-reference the information. If something sounds great, look for the information to appear elsewhere from an unrelated source. If this information were to be true – and there was something THAT beneficial – chances are it would be much more widely known and used. Make sure you can verify the information in more than one location.
When was the Information Published?
Information can become outdated as new research is completed. Check on the timeliness of your source. If it seems to be an older source, cross-check to make sure there is updated information verifying the advice.
Are There Clearly Identified References/Citations?
Where did the author get their information? Be sure there are clearly identified references and that they’re cited properly. Check the references and make sure they are valid sources, too. Are they peer reviewed, are they up to date, etc.? Unless it is obvious that the information is based upon the author’s opinion only, information written without a given source may be worrisome.