Critical Analysis There are many sources for people to learn about biology. Traditional sources include newspapers, magazines and television and, the internet has become an important source for information and disinformation in today’s society. One of the internet’s strongest qualities, freedom from undue censorship, also presents some of the greatest risks to consumers when it comes to getting accurate information. How can we ensure that the information that is presented to us in any format is truthful and accurate?
The first thing to remember is to never accept a statement as fact until you can verify its accuracy. “Take everything with a grain of salt” is a good rule of thumb when it comes to biological claims. What is the basis for accurate claims? The answer is thorough research based on the scientific method. When applied to biology, there are several important points to consider when conducting research. Formulate Hypothesis Design and conduct experiments
o Experimental group and control group o To increase validity of human studies researchers must consider the following points: Randomization of participants Participants should have similar backgrounds Large number of participants Double blind experimental protocol Use placebos Replication of results (other scientists should obtain the same results when repeating experiments) Research should be submitted to the process of peer review If a claim has been submitted to this rigorous process then one knows that it is as accurate as possible in scientific terms. If information has not gone through this process or it cannot be determined if the scientific method was used then there are some other questions that can be asked to ascertain the accuracy of the information. These questions are: Who? Who is responsible for the information? Can you determine the author’s name? What are the authors credentials? When? How current is the information? Can you find current data or publications that support this information or are current data cited? Even if a web site, article or advertisement is new you have to ascertain when the information they are presenting was generated. You should be suspicious of citations that lack dates. Where? Where is the information coming from? What kind of entity is presenting information? Peer reviewed journals generally present reliable information. Whereas, popular magazines, newspapers, television reports, web sites and advertisements must be subjected to a large amount of scrutiny to verify their accuracy. On the internet, one can look at the URL to determine what kind of organization is responsible for the site: o .edu—educational institution o .gov—government agency o .org—organization, perhaps a professional organization o .net—varies, sometimes not-for-profit-organizations and sometimes businesses o .com—commercial interest
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