How do I research an accuracy of an article?
In order to tell how accurate information is, it is best to corroborate that information. This means doing additional research.
If, for example, you read an article that says drinking 6 cups of a coffee a day will make you smarter, you would want to verify that claim before you go on a coffee-binge. To do so, you would do some or all of these steps:
- Determine who is the author of that information. Perhaps it is the author of the article, if so, who is that person? Does he or she have a degree in that field such as chemistry or neurology?
- If the author is not the person who came up with the information, then there should be a Reference at the end of the article for where the information came from originally. Find the original article. Who is that author? Is that person an expert?
- Once you establish if the author is an expert in the field, then you want to closely examine the finding. What does the data say? How did the author reach his/her conclusion? Is there a flaw in the logic? Is the argument sound? Is the argument biased? Is the argument based on facts or opinions? What is the author trying to accomplish with the argument?
- You also want to pay attention to who is publishing the information. Is it published by a scholarly journal? Is it from a website known for biased articles? Is it from The Onion?
- The age of the information does matter. If the information is 10 years old, you will want to look for newer research in the field, as new information may have altered this finding.
- If you can reasonably verify that the author is an expert in the field of study, the article is based on sound facts and not opinions or conjectures, and the article was published in a reputable publication, then you can be reasonably sure that it is a credible source. The next step is to see if this data agrees with other data published in that field on the topic.
- When further researching the topic and/or field of study, first use your article's references and read those. (Remember to evaluate each source as you did above.) If you tracked down an original study, also use the references from that original study.
- Once you have read that research, you can get an idea of how the topic is being discussed in the field. You can then run your own searches using the Online Resources to see if there are any newer findings or findings that disagree with your author.
After you have verified the credibility and authority of your source, and then checked it against other sources, you can be reasonably sure about whether or not the information in your source is accurate.
Thank you for using ASK US. If you need assistance tracking down references or doing additional research on your information, please contact your Campus Library/ARC.