Peer review is a quality-assurance check on research. Experts in that topic (who were not involved in the research project) read through research reports before they can be published. The reviewers' main job is to make sure that the research project's methods were properly done, and that the study's findings and conclusions are in line with good scientific practice. The reviewers don't have to agree with the study results - but they do have to approve its science before it can be published.
In checking health information, it's also important to know if it's evidence-based. See this page for explanations.
Think of each set of questions below as giving a +1 (TRUST) or -1 (TRASH) rating for the information. After going through these questions, add up those numbers to get an overall trustworthiness score.
When was it written?
Who wrote it?
What is the source of the medical or scientific facts supporting this information?
Who paid for it?
Do other sources confirm this information?
Source: Based on the Trust It or Trash It toolkit produced by the AccessTo Credible Genetics Resource Network cooperative, whose lead organization is the Genetic Alliance. Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
This link has another really useful set of questions to ask:
The Trust it? or Trash it? is also available as an interactive quiz online, to help you home your critical thinking skills:
And this advice was written especially for young people:
Preprints of scientific articles are exactly that - articles written in hopes of being published, that either have not yet been accepted by a scholarly journal, or that have been accepted for publication but are still going through editorial and peer review. They are advance reports, that have not yet been analyzed by anyone except their authors (or possibly an editor or colleague).
These are a great place to look for new ideas, intriguing new research methods, or suggestions for further research.
With an unknown disease like COVID-19, it is tempting for journalists and other interested parties to explore websites that display preprints to look for the latest information. By itself, though, information in a preprint is not safe to base someone's medical treatment upon. Here is some advice for journalists on how to use information in preprints responsibly, also good advice to anyone looking for cutting-edge medical research.
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