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Evaluating Sources


Why Evaluate Scientific Sources?

Popular science news and scientific journals are prone to bias in reporting, either through selecting which articles are published or by exaggerating claims.

By looking at how the information is presented you can often learn a lot about the accuracy of the information itself.

How to Read Science News

Questions to Ask

When reading science articles, especially science news in popular magazines or newspapers, you don't have to be a scientist to figure out if it's a well skeptical chihuahuapresented scientific study, you just have to be skeptical.

Questions to Ask

  • Is there a clearly stated hypothesis?
    • Do the authors explain their expected outcomes if their hypothesis is true?
    • Do the authors explain their expected outcomes if their hypothesis is not true?
  • Are the experimental methods explained?
    • Experimental methods, data analysis methods, controls used, potential variables
  • Do the authors present their data in a clear format?
    • Are their graphs, charts or other representations of the data?
  • Is there reasonable language in the results and conclusion section?
    • Do the authors use words like: correlation, linked, and association?
  • Do the authors explain what further steps may be taken in future studies?
    • Do they list or explain weak areas in their own study?
    • Do they list unexpected or planned for outcomes that may have arisen?
  • Have the authors provided information about their literature reviews or background research?
    • Are there clear citations?

If you don't understand any section of an article, look for articles on a similar topic or ask professors for help interpreting the information.

If the article you are reading is in a popular news source the journalist may not have a science background. Newspapers and magazines may also sensationalize science news and alter the orginal meaning of the report. If the article you are reading seems to be unreliable, look for a link to the original paper or search for the scientists' names to find a more reliable article or the original paper.

Chen, Yi (Photographer). (2009). The Skeptical Chihuahua, Taipei [Digital Photograph], Retrieved Jun 6, 2012
     from: /yiie/4865201576/