Source Evaluation Series Week 5: Sources and Accuracy of Information Provided

directory-229117_1280Last Monday, we focused on funding sources and their function as a possible conflict of interest. The American Lung Association has a reputation as a credible source of information on lung health and contains many references to their own research and findings. However, it is possible to conduct research of peer-reviewed journal articles and see similar findings from a variety of resources. The site also contains an extensive list of in-depth references specifically geared towards researchers and academics. Additional sources include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Congressional Budget Office, United States Environmental Protection Agency (American Lung Association, n.d.). These are all well-known and highly respected sources for accurate data. This is not to say that one should not question the reliability of the data. The Eclectic Data Hunter is a firm believer exercising critical thinking skills.


Some things to look out for: If this site were to use only pharmaceutical or for-profit companies and sources who lack expertise in the field, I would have some serious concerns. I would like to note here that if you see a “Dr.” in front of someone’s name, it does not guarantee they are authorized to discuss anything health-related. As long as one has a PhD, regardless of subject, they can use “Dr.” before their name. While an individual with a Doctorate in history is brilliant in that subject, I certainly would not go to them for advice on a broken leg. In a similar vein, MDs carry their own specialty areas, and as such, they are not necessarily the best source of information outside of that specialty.


It is difficult to determine the extent the ALA reviews their website information, particularly in terms of frequency. The entire ALA website has a copyright date of 2015, but most pages do not have any indication on the recentness of review. This is probably the most annoying thing for a data hunter, especially one working in a health-related industry. There are always new developments and it is essential to keep track of the latest data and trends. Happily, individual pages such as Influenza Fact Sheet provide resources with dates (American Lung Association, n.d.), so it is possible to assess how current their resources are and make determinations from there. Press releases include month, date, and year information, while ALA publications only cite the year of publication. There is a section for the press as well as forms where one can gain additional information from their experts. The Webmaster responds to queries regarding this information, but one is unable to ascertain this information readily. However, there is clear procedures for reviewing proposals for research and funding. “The American Lung Association’s Review Committees are comprised of accomplished and diverse researchers with the necessary expertise to review and assess each proposal for its scientific merits, technical feasibility, innovation and significance in meeting the organization’s mission” (American Lung Association, 2015f).


*The Eclectic Data Hunter is not affiliated with the organization or website used in this post. All rights belong to their respective owners and authors. Usage does not convey endorsement. Use of the mentioned and hyperlinked websites are for educational purposes only.

If you have questions about the series or a particular website, please comment below or send your query to eclecticdatahunter@gmail.com.

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2 thoughts on “Source Evaluation Series Week 5: Sources and Accuracy of Information Provided

  1. I like your tips on source evaluation. Good points on PhD vs Dr.
    A little due diligence on the source of the data can completely sway an editorial.

    One point about the copyright. Many websites want to look like they have the most current information, so they don’t put an actual date on their post. The copyright at the bottom is just updated for the current year.
    Perhaps using the Way Back Machine internet archive: https://archive.org/web/ could key you in on when an article was written.
    You can see the lung.org’s leadership page (http://www.lung.org/about-us/our-leadership/) and the history on that leadership page back to 2013.
    Not all websites and articles are archived over time, but it can definitely point you in a good direction.

    Like

    • Thank you for your comment! Copyright dates are often tricky and I have seen ones that span several years (i.e. 2010-2015). It is always preferable that a date appear directly on the post. I really love to see when they list the original date of publication, as well as the date for the most recent changes and reviews. I was unaware of the Way Back Machine internet archive. That is really fantastic! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

      Like

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