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How to Evaluate Scientific Information

How to Evaluate Scientific Information

Description:

This lesson will explain how to evaluate scientific information to be sure it is credible and usable. It will also describe how and why science is relevant and important to your everyday life.

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Tutorial

Evaluating Scientific Information

Source: Created by Amanda Soderlind

Video Transcription

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Welcome to this lesson on evaluating scientific information. Today, we will be discussing how to properly evaluate scientific information and make sure that information that you are looking up is credible. So we're going to start by defining three terms right here for this lesson that will help us to understand how to properly evaluate scientific information.

The first one that we're going to define is a fact. A fact is verifiable information. A fact is something that we know is true and that we can verify is true.

An example of a fact might be, it is 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside today. That is something that we can prove is true and that we can verify. So that's a fact.

The next term that we're going define here is opinion. An opinion is something that is based on personal judgment and might not be based on fact. It's something that a person, themself, is judging. It's based on a personal judgment that a person might have.

An example of an opinion might be, it is hot outside today. So our fact was it's 100 degrees Fahrenheit. An opinion based on that fact might be, it is hot outside.

This is based on personal judgment and it could vary from person to person. So one person might think that 100 degrees Fahrenheit is hot. But another person might not. That's an example of an opinion. It's something based on personal judgment.

And our third term is bias. A bias is a swayed opinion. It's based off an opinion, but it's a swayed opinion based on a person's personal experience.

An example of a bias might be, I live in Minnesota, so Minnesota is the best state. My opinion is that Minnesota is the best state. But it's a swayed opinion based on my personal experience, because that's where I live. So we have fact, opinion, and bias.

When we're evaluating information and trying to figure out if information is credible, we need to look at these key points right here to help us figure out, is that information credible or not. Credible information should always be peer reviewed. Credible information should be thoroughly checked, have a reliable source, and be backed by scientific evidence.

Now, when we talk about a reliable source, how do you know if a source is reliable or not. When you're trying to figure out if information is credible, you should always think critically about that information or about the source of the information. Thinking critically means using systematic strategies to help judge that information.

For example, if we were looking up information, which source would be more credible? Would a scientific journal be more credible, or would Wikipedia be more credible? We know it would be the scientific journal would be more credible, because it's been peer reviewed, thoroughly checked, and backed by scientific evidence. Whereas, Wikipedia is kind of more of a public domain area. And it might not involve all of this right here.

So again, if you're looking up, let's say, information on cancer, would a friend be more credible? Would you get credible information going to a friend, or do you think that information would be more credible on the American Cancer Society website? It would be the American Cancer Society website, because again, we know that information is peer reviewed, thoroughly checked, and backed by scientific evidence.

So credible information should be based on facts-- things that we know are true and we can improve are true. Credible information is not based on opinions or bias.

Back to the example about asking your friend or going to the American Cancer Society website, your friend's information might involve some opinion or some bias. Whereas the American Cancer Society website is based strictly on facts. That's the difference between finding credible information and information that might not be as credible. So using this information here, to determine if information is credible, will help you evaluate scientific information.

This lesson has been an overview on evaluating scientific information.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Bias

    An opinion swayed by personal experience.

  • Opinion

    ​A piece of information that involves personal judgment.

  • Fact

    ​A piece of information known to be true and can be verified.