Tagged: information literacy

Blinded by science

Don’t just read nursing research – analyze. Be critical! Does the data make sense to you? Do you even know what a p-value is? Don’t be dazzled by fancy numbers –find out what it all means.

Reading about a new and unfamiliar drug? Look it up! Learn about dosage, side-effects, alternative names.

Always go to the primary source of the information. Some students find a piece of information in a journal article that has been written by another author, accompanied by the appropriate in-text citation. Instead of tracking down the original article through the reference list, students want to reference a “source within a source”, known as a secondary source citation. This is a bad idea, as you are relying on someone else’s interpretation of the original source, and you lose the wider context of the information. This watered down approach can lead to strange interpretations of studies – and before you know it, we are drinking more red wine than ever in the hopes that it will cure all our ills.

So don’t let the impressive jargon and confusing numbers slip past you – find the best evidence, and then actively engage with the material. Lively debate is what science is all about, so ask questions, fill the gaps in your knowledge and share what you find with your colleagues. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Image: Medieval dentistry. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1a32lyy


Fake Journals and Critical Evaluation

My focus as an information-literacy instructor (AKA librarian) is to get people to critically think about the information in front of them according to certain criteria. I encourage students and staff to judge information on its individual merits and ask themselves, “does it pass the C.R.A.A.P. test?”

There is no definitive list of “good” or “bad” sources. Youtube can be a valuable source of information, with universities now posting lectures online, or conferences posting presentations. These videos will be adjacent to parody songs, political rants, and footage of cats riding vacuum cleaners. The internet is both the best and worst place to find information – it just depends on the type of information you are looking for, and how skilled you are at evaluating it.

Fake Chickens at Night. Retrieved from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/endangeredhuman/5873460077/lightbox/

Fake Chickens at Night. Retrieved from

Students may think that they are safe using scholarly journals – thinking that if something is peer-reviewed, then it is above reproach and doesn’t need to have the same critical evaluation process applied to it. However, even information presented in the most reputable scholarly journals is not the gospel truth – it can (and should) still be analyzed, critiqued, and disagreed with.

In the era of easy, open-access publishing, a slew of scam journals has emerged, often with fake editorial boards, and extremely poor peer-review processes. The blog Scholarly Open Access, written by an academic librarian, reviews these shady journals, which often charge exorbitant prices for publication and prey on scholars who are new to academia and keen to publish. In some cases, scam journals will lift the names of prominent academics and attach them to journals or conferences without permission (or even notification).

So keep critically evaluating journal articles, and check out the Scholarly Open Access blog for examples of what to watch out for. It’s a strange new world of publishing out there.