Assignment Objective: Evaluate the merit of a nutrition article and identify nutrition quackery in products and literature, familiarize students with role of a registered dietitian/nutritionist, and use informatics principles and technology to collect and analyze data. Directions: go to www.webmd.com and choose a nutrition-related article under News and Experts in Health News to critique using the CARS checklist.
The critique should include answers to the following questions:
Because people have always made important decisions based on information, evidence of authenticity and reliability or credibility, believability has always been important. If you read an article saying that the area where you live will experience a major earthquake in the next six months, it is important that you should know whether or not to believe the information. Some questions to ask about general credibility might include these: •Is there sufficient evidence presented to make the argument persuasive? •Are there compelling arguments and reasons given? •Are there enough details for a reasonable conclusion about the information? There are several tests you can apply to a source to help you judge how credible and useful it will be: Author’s Credentials. The author or source of the information should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable, and truthful. Some questions you might ask would include the following: •What about this source makes it believable (or not)? •How does this source know this information? •Why should I believe this source over another? As you can see, the key to credibility is the question of trust. Here are some clues to credibility: •Author’s education, training, and/or experience in a field relevant to the information. Look for biographical information, the author’s title, or position of employment •Author’s contact information (e-mail or postal mail address, telephone number) •Organizational authorship from a known and respected organization (corporate, governmental, or non-profit) •Organizational authorship reflecting an appropriate area of expertise •Author’s reputation or standing among peers.
: The goal of the accuracy test is to ensure that the information is actually correct: up-to-date, factual, detailed, exact, and comprehensive. For example, even though a very credible writer said something that was correct twenty years ago, it may not be correct today. Similarly, a reputable source might be giving up-to-date information, but the information may be only partial and not give the full story. Here are some concepts related to accuracy: Timeliness Some work is timeless, like the classic novels and stories, or like the thought-provoking philosophical work of Aristotle and Plato. Other work has a limited useful life because of advances in the discipline (psychological theory, for example), and some work is outdated very quickly (like technology news). You must therefore be careful to note when the information you find was created, and then decide whether it is still of value (and how much value). You may need information within the past ten years, five years, or even two weeks. But old is not necessarily bad: nineteenth-century American history books or literary anthologies can be highly educational because they can function as comparisons with what is being written or anthologized now. In many cases, though, you want accurate, up-to-date information. An important idea connected with timeliness is the dynamic, fluid nature of informa-tion and the fact that constant change means constant changes in timeliness. The facts we learn today may be timely now, but tomorrow will not be. Especially in technology, science, medicine, business, and other fields always in flux, we must remember to check and re-check our data from time to time, and realize that we will always need to update our facts. Comprehensiveness. Any source that presents conclusions or that claims (explicitly or implicitly) to give a full and rounded story, should reflect the intentions of completeness and accuracy. In other words, the information should be comprehensive. Some writers argue that researchers should be sure that they have “complete” information before making a decision or coming to a conclusion. But with the advent of the information age, such a goal is impossible, if by “complete” we mean all possible information. No one can read 20,000 articles on the same subject before coming to a conclusion or making a decision. On the other hand, an information source that deliberately leaves out important facts, qualifications, consequences, or alternatives may be misleading or even intentional-ly deceptive. And since no single piece of information will offer the truly complete story, even if accuracy and fairness are intended, we must rely on more than one source to provide us with a fuller view of the situation. Evaluation Tip You can use your browser to find out when a Web page was last modified, even though there may not be a visible date on the page itself. In Netscape, use “View,” “Page Info” and you will see a “Last Modified” field with a date. In Internet Explorer, using “File,” ”Properties” you will get the date the information was transferred to your disc, not the date the page was modified. Audience and Purpose For whom is this source intended and for what purpose? If, for example, you find an article, “How Plants Grow,” and children are the intended audience, then the material may be too simplified for your college botany paper. More impor-tant to the evaluation of information is the purpose for which the information was created. For example, an article titled, “Should You Buy or Lease a Car?” might have been written with the purpose of being an objective analysis, but it may instead have been written with the intention of persuading you that leasing a car is better than buying. In such a case, the information will most likely be highly biased or distorted. Such information is not useless, but the bias must be taken into consideration when interpreting and using the informa-tion. (In some cases, you may be able to find the truth by using only biased sources, some biased in one direction and some biased in the other.) Be sure, then, that the intended audience and purpose of the article are appropriate to your requirements or at least clearly in evi-dence so that you may take them into account. Information pretending to objectivity but possessing a hidden agenda of persuasion or a hidden bias is quite common in our culture. Indicators of a Lack of Accuracy In addition to an obvious tone or style that reveals a carelessness with detail or accuracy, there are several indicators that may mean the source is inaccurate, either in whole or in part: •No date on the document •Assertions that are vague or otherwise lacking detail •Sweeping rather than qualified language (that is, the use of always, never, every, completely rather than usually, seldom, some-times, tends, and so forth) •An old date on information known to change rapidly •Very one-sided view that does not acknowledge opposing views or respond to them
Reasonableness The test of reasonableness involves examining the information for fairness, objectivity, moderateness, and consistency. Fairness. Fairness includes offering a balanced, reasoned argument. ment, not selected or slanted. Even ideas or claims made by the source’s opponents should be presented in an accurate manner. Pretending that the opponent has wild, irra-tional ideas or arguments no one could accept is to commit the straw man fallacy. A good information source will also possess a calm, reasoned tone, arguing or presenting material thoughtfully and without attempting to get you emotionally worked up. Pay attention to the tone and be cautious of highly emotional writing. Angry, hateful, critical, spiteful tones often betray an irrational and unfair attack under way rather than a reasoned argument. And writing that attempts to inflame your feelings to prevent you from thinking clearly is also unfair and manipulative.
The area of support is concerned with the source and corroboration of the information. Much information, especially statistics and claims of fact, comes from other sources. Citing sources strengthens the credibility of the information. (Remember this when you write a research paper.) Source Documentation or Bibliography. When facts or statis-tics are quoted, look to see whether their source is revealed, so that you could check their accuracy. Some source considerations include these: •Where did this information come from? •What sources did the information creator use? •Are the sources listed? •Is there a bibliography or other documentation? •Does the author provide contact information in case you wish to discuss an issue or request further clarification? •What kind of support for the information is given? •How does the writer know this?