Finding Information You Can Trust

    I have been wanting to write this post ever since I saw this article back in September of last year. I remember thinking it’s the perfect example of what I call bad journalism. Misleading articles like this confuse the heck out of people and leave them questioning “what’s right” and “what’s wrong”?

    I want to help make this decision process easier for you because who has the time to read something that has a much validity as a Dr. Seuss rhyme. Actually, Dr. Seuss’ work is brilliant and does not deserve the comparison, but you get my point.  I’m going to show you how to quickly determine if there’s any merit to an article or book by looking for key indicators.

    #1 Qualify the Author – I’d like to think that the author’s intentions were good but being a writer myself, I know that an eye-catching title is used to lure a reader in. Have you ever taken the bait only to realize that the article had absolutely nothing to do with the title? Yeah, I’ve been hoodwinked too. Matter of fact, it was said title, “Sorry, Your Megadose Vitamin C is Basically Useless” that struck a chord with me. That’s a bold statement to make. So I clicked. But before I started actually reading, I do what I always do. And what you should do too. Qualify the author. By that I mean, you need to make a determination that the person whose advice you’re going to absorb into your brain is actually qualified to be giving such advice.

    Author bios can usually be found at the end of a book or article or by link when you click the author’s name. So what did I find? The author appears to write regularly on the topic of healthy living for the Huffington Post, an online news source that is known for publishing some credible content. What’s more interesting is that the author notes her educational background as a double major in Rhetoric and Spanish. Hmm, so she studied the art of effective writing and use of exaggerated language. Interesting. Not exactly what I’m seeking when it comes to a nutritional advisor.

    badarticlepic2#2 Look for Credible Sources – Now that we know the author does not appear to have any education or experience in health and nutrition, let’s see if she did due diligence in using a credible source to back up her claim.

    You’ll note that the author references the Institute of Medicine’s RDAs or Recommended Daily Allowances. There’s two problems with this. First let’s look at the data. RDAs are basically what the suggested minimum intake should be. In this example, the IOM suggest that men should get, AT LEAST, 90 milligrams of vitamin C daily. However, the author acknowledges that the IOM actually suggest a much higher dose of 2,000 milligrams to ward of deficiency. Yep, you heard right. She just contradicted her own title by using data that supports high doses of vitamin C. And we’re only a quarter way through her article.

    badarticlepic3I have to assume here that the author thought this bit of data would lend support to her claim. There are two things that immediately stood out to me about this section. The first is that she does not name, identify or provide a link to the clinical trial research. You can’t see me but I’m SMH right now. Here’s how I interpret that. If an author wants to appear credible, they’ll show their work. A credible author should be able to prove how they came to their conclusion. They’ll even help you get access to the research by citing sources. If they don’t then maybe you should be asking yourself, “why aren’t they willing to show their work?”

    The second item to note is the date of the review and the outcomes. This data is 8 years old. Great if it’s a fine wine but you want your science to be a little bit fresher. More importantly, this review found “statistically significant” data to show that taking vitamin C is a powerful preventative measure. Is it me, or is this author throwing a lot of mix signals our way? By this point, I can’t tell if she’s pro vitamin C, if she thinks it’s a waste of time, or if she’s just happy to be using her rhetoric skills.

    badarticlepic5#3 Is There Evidence to Support Title? – The last point I want to make is about the author’s conclusion statement. Hopefully, you would have never made it to this point and would have moved on to watching a cat video. But I really want you to be able to weed out the “good” advice from the “bad”, so I’ll share this last tip. If an author actually writes that there is no research to prove or disprove their point (aka title) then press the mental delete button and move on. Why have you just wasted my time author who shall remain nameless?! (although I have clearly put her on blast, sorry but I have peeps to help).

    The lesson here is take a quick look before you leap. Check out the author, their bio, and their sources before you buy in to what they have to say. Not all information is good information. Remember, your time is extremely valuable so spend it only on those things that will bring more value into your life.

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