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Transcript - Assessing the reliability of information for your assignment

INSTRUCTOR: Welcome to this recording of assessing the reliability of information for your assignment. This session is usually quite interactive and involves discussion, so at various points during the recording you may wish to pause and have a go at some of the activities yourself.

The learning outcomes of this session say that by the end of this session, you should be able to assess the reliability of information, be able to use a framework to assess the reliability of information, and to be able to assess the usefulness of information.

I'm going to share something with you. Please look at it for 30 to 60 seconds, and then share your gut feeling about whether this is a good source of information. If you want to do this yourself, this might be a good point to pause the video and have a look at the link provided in the description. 
I'm going to share my screen with you. OK. So you should be looking at something called Nutrition and Productivity-- How Foods Can Affect Your Performance. And I don't want you to spend ages looking at this, but just have a quick scan through. And have a think about whether you feel that this is a good source of information. And we'll go through it in a bit more depth in a minute. So I'm just going to scroll down through this, but obviously if you're doing this yourself, you'll have the link open and you can have a look. Lots of tasty looking things on this page. 

OK. Hopefully by now you would have had a quick look at this. I'm going to go back to my slides. Now hold onto your thoughts, and we'll go through it in a little bit more depth in a second. So would this blog be a good thing to use? And what things would you look for when deciding whether to use this blog entry or not? 

I would wonder a few things, like who'd written it, how old it was, that kind of thing. I'd have a look at if there were any links to any research. And I'd have a nose around, really, to find out a little bit more because this is something called an advertorial. And this is an advert with some editorial content. It doesn't necessarily mean that the content, the information, in the advert is not helpful, but you have to bear in mind it's been written particularly to promote the things that they're selling on this site.

So I'm going to have a look at this in a little bit more depth using a framework called WWW. An easy way to make a quick judgement about information you find online is to use a framework. The WWW framework, or the who, why, when, asks you to think about those three questions.

This is a really quick evaluation method. It's really good for websites and blogs. WWW can also help you reduce down huge lists of search results. Another place that you can use this is in your personal life when you see something online you're not sure about. And the information in our blog post may not be incorrect, but it is written by a company who sells the products heavily advertised and linked to from the blog post.

So do any of the things that you've thought about sit under the WWW headings? Now I thought it constantly refers to research, but there are no references. It's written by the Food to Live team, so that's your who. And if you even look at the comments, somebody in the comments is asked who the author is. So we know it's written by the folks who are a team, but we don't know the individuals of the team and we don't know anything about whether they have any expertise in this area.
I can't identify what science they are referring to in most cases. So they talk about things but they don't often link to them. And in fact, because there's a lot of promotion and advertising, this really wouldn't be considered top academic material. It hasn't been written that long ago, if you want to think about when, 2017. But there might be some updates, and there might be more up-to-date information about nutrition and some of these products. So again, that's something you'd have to check. 

WWW is a great tool for a quick evaluation but it's useful to use a more rigorous evaluation tool for academic purposes. So PROMPT is another framework which helps you to think about your sources. So let's go through this now. And where I can, I'll relate it back to WWW. The P, the first P in PROMPT is for presentation. Is the information clear? Is the language right? Can I find what I need here? Is it succinct?

Relevant, now that can be really important. Does this information match my needs right now? I don't know about you, but I've often found interesting things when I've been looking online and I get distracted, but they don't actually answer the question that I have to answer. So what you need to do is to scan the resource quickly to get an overview and get a real feel for what it's mostly about.

Now the O in PROMPT stands for objectivity. It's important to beware of opinions and hidden agendas. What are you being sold here? A particular product or a corporate view? So in our food liveblog, we are actually being given a bit of a hard sell where it relates to products that they sell. 
So you'd be a little bit cautious taking everything in that blog entry as the absolute truth. And you're really thinking about, what's their agenda here? And they're trying to sell something to you. And it may be that the information is completely fine, but they are trying to sell something to you, so you just have to be a little bit cynical sometimes.

And these are other things that you can look at, is the language being used emotive or are opinions expressed? Are there sponsors? What are they selling? What are the vested interests? So in our WWW, why ties in really nicely with objectivity in PROMPT. So if you start thinking about the why, you'd start thinking about objectivity here.

So the M in PROMPT is about the method. And this is often about how experiments, for example, or data is presented and what is it based on? What are statistical data based on? How is the data given? How is the data gathered? Was the sample used really representative? Were the methods appropriate? 
Provenance, this ties up really nicely with our who in WWW. Is it clear who produced this information? Where does it come from? And whose opinions are these? Do you trust this source of information? So that our who. 
And timeliness, and this one ties up really nicely with our when in WWW. Is this current? When was the thing I'm looking at written and produced? Has the climate or situation changed since its information was made available? Is it still up-to-date enough? And that's something that's going to depend on your assignments and your subject area.

OK. At this point, we would normally go through an activity. So if you'd like to do this yourself, the resources that I'm talking about will be provided as links so that you can have a go. And this would be a great place and second to pause the video and try this for yourself. 
So what I'd like you to do is to have a look at something called 60 Seconds on Clingfilm from the BMJ or British Medical Journal. This slide is a summary of PROMPT, which we've just gone through. And I can keep that up on the screen for you. 
I'd like you to go through PROMPT with the article and then think about whether the article is reliable information or not. And the second question, if you were writing a TMA on hospital and the care home hygiene, is it relevant? This is a great place to pause the video and have a look at the BMJ article for yourself using PROMPT. 

Assuming you've had a chance to have a look at this, I'm going to go through PROMPT now with what my answer is. And you can see how they match up with yours. So if we have a look at presentation, the information in this is pretty succinct and nice and clear. 
If you look at relevance, there is a section called Seems Pretty Airtight, and this section covers where the researchers think this material could be most useful, and that includes hospital and medical services. If we look at objectivity, this article is written by a staff writer at the BMJ, which is a very famous medical journal, who doesn't seem to have any connection to the original researchers, so there's no reason to think that this news article isn't objective.

If we look at methods, there is a summary of what they did but not a lot of detail. So if you needed further information, you'd have to consult the original article, which is handily linked to from this news article, and that's always a good sign. Provenance, the information is published in the British Medical Journal, which is one of the world's oldest general medical journals. It published its first weekly edition on the 3rd of October, 1814. 

Now one of the BMJ staff writers has written this news article. Elisabeth Mahase is the clinical news reporter at the British Medical Journal and winner of the Medical Journalist Association's award for best newcomer in 2019. And she has a degree in biomedical science. Another nice thing to know is that there is a link to the original article this news item summarises.

How about timeliness then? Well this was published on the 31st of December in 2019, which is, at the time of recording, quite recent in publishing terms. Depending on when you use this you might want to see if there's been anything further published about this.

So on this page there are two links to some help on evaluating resources. The first is a page on the library website, which talks about WWW and PROMPT. It links to the second link on this slide, which is a Being Digital tool activity all about using PROMPT. It's only a few minutes long and is a good reminder of what I've talked about with you today. If you want any further help with the credibility of the sources you find, you can always contact the library help desk. Details of how to do this are on every page of the library website.

OK. So during this session, we've looked at how to assess the reliability of information. We looked at the frameworks WWW and PROMPT to assess the reliability of information, and we've been able to assess the usefulness of information. So we've come to the end of the recording. The slides, handout, and links should all be available to you already in the description. And don't forget, if you have any questions about any of the content in this session, please contact the library help desk.