|Critically Evaluating Online Resources
Information Literacy is the ability to evaluate what
you read and write, to recognize when information is needed and to be able to
independently locate, evaluate, and apply the needed information.
In the five step model of Evidence
Based Medicine, Information Literacy specifically addresses how to APPRAISE
the evidence/resource to examine its worth and reliability.
Assess the patient and the problem to
determine the pertinent issues which may include differential diagnosis,
treatment decisions, or prognosis
Ask a clear, answerable question to be
Acquire the evidence from appropriate
Appraise the evidence to further examine its
worth and reliability.
Apply the evidence to the patient
The TRAAP Test (Timeliness, Relevance, Authority,
Accuracy, Purpose) is an evaluation technique you can use to determine if the
website or resource is appropriate for you to use in your research so you
dont get trapped by sources--learn how to evaluate them!. You can apply
these criteria to school assignments and personal research. In the health
sciences field, doctors and nurses use these same criteria to determine whether
or not the information they are looking at to treat a patient is appropriate.
Relevance of Topic
- When was it published and/or posted?
- Has it been revised, updated, superseded?
- Is it considered current or outdated in its field?
- Does your topic require current info only?
- Are the links functional?
- How well does it relate to your topic or answer your
- Is it more useful to you than other results?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is it at an appropriate level of discussion for your
- Have you considered a variety of sources before
Authority of Creator
Accuracy of Content
- Who is responsible for it & is contact info
- Are they qualified to write on the topic?
- Can their credentials be verified?
- What are their organizational affiliations &
- What does the URL reveal? .com, .edu, .gov, .org
Purpose of Existence
- Is it supported by evidence?
- Has it been reviewed or refereed by experts?
- Can it be verified in other reputable sources?
- Does the tone seem unbiased and free of emotions?
- Are there spelling, grammar, or typographical errors?
Digging Deeper to Evaluate Online
- Is it meant to inform, persuade, or entertain?
- Do the creators make their intentions clear?
- Are biases (personal, ideological, institutional, etc)
- Is the POV based in fact, opinion, or propaganda?
- Does it use emotional or objective language?
The websites of many medical resources are designed to
attract subscriptions from Medical Students. Their main pages often do not
provide the information needed to critically evaluate the resource. Some online
resources assume students will be surfing the web and getting anecdotal advice
from other students/residents. Other denigrate the curriclum provided by
Medical School and/or make claims for services with no evidence behind those
You may need to dig deeper by:
Popular MUSM Library Online
- Looking beyond the main pages to investigate pages such
as FAQs and support pages.
- Contacting the publisher/vendor for more
For an A to Z list of Databases subscribed to by MUSM
Libraries, visit https://med.mercer.edu/library/resourcesatoz.htm
There are publishers/vendors with a long standing track
record of providing peer-reviewed information vetted by content experts. Here
are some of those popular MUSM library resources.