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HCOA: Health Care Office Administration Program: Evaluating the Quality of Information

This Research Guide will help students in the HCOA program find information about diseases, medical procedures, human anatomy, and the management of health information.

Tips for Evaluating Online & Print Resources


Beware of baloney!

An important part of the research process is evaluating the quality of information you find, regardless of its physical format (print or online), or where you found it (periodicals, databases or the Internet). Be skeptical of any health-related information that seems to promise something that is "too good to be true." Watch out for:

  • Pharmaceutical companies trying to sell their product. Look for drug safety information reported by sources that have nothing to gain by selling the medication.
  • Celebrities and other non-experts selling a health book or diet plan. These people are not doctors, and have no medical training. They're just hoping you will buy their book because you like them.
  • Quacks selling "miracle cures" or "secret treatments" that they say "doctors don't want you to know about." Many of these people have been investigated for fraud -- or should be. Look for articles from peer-reviewed journals that test the validity of their claims.

Questions to ask when evaluating online and print sources:

·      Who are the authors or sponsors of this website or publication?  Is the person, agency or corporation knowledgeable in the field? [AUTHORITY]

·      Where did the information come from that is used in this website/publication?  Are references (“works cited”) given?  Can the information be confirmed elsewhere? [ACCURACY]

·      What is the purpose of this website/publication? Does it give facts or opinion? Is it biased toward one side of an issue?  Does it give different viewpoints? Is the site trying to sell a product? [OBJECTIVITY]

·      When was the information published? (Check copyright date or date last updated.) [CURRENCY] 

·      Why is this site appropriate for college work (or why not)?  Is the material comprehensive or general?  Is it written for professionals, college students, general readers or children? [COVERAGE]

 Remember: Not all information found on the Web is appropriate for college research.


Library Liaison for OFAD

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Anne Bittner
Mack Library
Northampton Community College
College Center, 4th Floor
Subjects: Business, Paralegal