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Transcript - Assessing the reliability of information for your assignment

TRAINER: Hello. My name is Claire, and I'd like to welcome you to this session on assessing the reliability of information for your assignment. By the end of the session, you should be able to assess the reliability of information, be able to use a framework to assess the reliability of information, and be able to assess the usefulness of information. The session involves looking at three different sources to assess their reliability. 

I'm going to share a source with you. And I would like you to think about what your first impressions of it are. You will see the source appear on your screen momentarily. On your screen, you should be able to see a blog entry titled Nutrition and Productivity: How Foods can Affect your Performance. I'd like you to take between 30 to 60 seconds to look at this blog post. And you can reach the full blog post at 

I would like you to think about your first impression of this article, which you might note down for the next part. And I invite you to pause the video to open up the URL and think about this for 30 to 60 seconds now. So now you've had some time to have a look at this blog post, I'm going to go back to the slides, which should appear on your screen now. 

I'd like you to think about what things you would look for in this particular article to decide whether the Food to Live blog entry is a reliable source to use. We found that it is an example of an advertorial, which is an advert with some editorial content alongside it. We are now going to take a longer look at it using a framework called WWW. 

An easy way to make a quick judgement about information you find online is to use a framework. We'll start with the WWW framework, which asks you to think about these three important questions-- who, why, and when? This is a quick evaluation method and is very good for websites, blogs, and other social media. WWW can also help you reduce huge lists of search results. 

You might also consider using WWW in your personal life when you see something online that you're not sure about. The information in our blog post may not be incorrect, but it is written by a company who sells the products heavily advertised and linked to from the blog post. 

So now we have the WWW framework in our minds, let's just have a look at that article again. And it should appear on your screen now. Some of the things that we found when looking at this article is that it references a lot of research, but it doesn't actually provide full references to that research. So it mentions research throughout, but it doesn't give us the references to follow up that research and check to see what they use to inform this research. 

At the top of the screen, you'll see that it is written by the Food to Live team. So there isn't an associated individual name ascribed to this blog post. That means it's a little bit more difficult to identify the aims of that particular author. And we don't know the background of the people that wrote this blog post.

 You might have noticed if you opened the URL that someone in the comments actually did ask who the individual author is, and there was no response. So we're still not entirely sure which individual or individuals wrote this. One thing you could do to counteract that somewhat is to have a look at the About section on the Food to Live website. And that's at And that gives you some indication about the aims of the company, why they've created the website, and their aims and the things that they'd like to achieve. 

The blog post does also mention a lot about science. However, it doesn't make it clear what science they are talking about. They don't identify the specific science that they've used to inform the blog post in most cases. There are adverts that appear frequently for their own products throughout the blog post. And the date is 2017, which I'll scroll back up to the top to look at now. 

So while this is fairly recent, it might still be worthwhile looking for more recent research to see if it backs up what this blog post is saying or if it suggests something different. Because of these factors, it wouldn't be considered top academic material. I'm going to go back to the slides, which should appear on your screen now. 

And next, we're going to be taking a look at a news article, which is at And what I would like to do as an activity is give you about two minutes to look at the source. So you can open it up at the URL and apply the WWW framework to it. 

So as a reminder, this involves finding out who wrote it, why did they write it, and when was it written. I'm going to put the source up on the screen. So you should see it on your screens now. And I invite you to pause the video for two minutes. And we'll take a look at it in a bit more detail once you've had a look. 
Now that you've taken a look at the Ramblers news article, I'd like you to consider what you noted down about it, whether you think this is a good article to use and if you found any problems with the article. I'm just going to scroll down. 

So one of the things that we found was that this article talks about research, but it doesn't provide references to that research. So you'll see there's lots of figures quoted in this particular piece. But it doesn't give us the research that informed those percentages that we can see throughout. It looks like the Ramblers are using the article to promote the Ramblers Association. So it's told from a very specific point of view. And because of this, it does feel like there's heavy bias in this article because they want people to pay to join their association. 

I'm just going to hide this and take you back to the slides. And they should appear on your screen now. WWW is a good tool for a quick evaluation. But it's also useful to use a more rigorous evaluation tool for academic purposes. This is more important as you come to write assignments and you consider the sources that you want to use in those assignments. 

We're going to have a look at PROMPT, which is another framework to help you think about your sources. As we go through, you might find that some of the WWW criteria are present in this framework too and expanded on. There is a summary of the criteria on this slide, and I'm going to go through those now. 

So PROMPT covers presentation. This includes whether the information is clearly set out, whether the language is pitched at the right level, and whether it all makes sense. This also includes whether you can actually find the information that you require in the source and is it succinctly presented. 

PROMPT covers relevance. And what we're looking at here is whether the information in the source answers the question that you want to find out about. Does it meet your needs at that point in time? 

PROMPT covers objectivity. And this includes looking at what you are being sold here in the source. So if there is some sort of bias, is the source looking to sell you a particular product or a corporate view? And how is the language adapted to do so? Is it emotive language, or is it fairly neutral? You're also looking to identify whether there are opinions that are expressed in the source, whether somebody has sponsored the source. And if so, who are they, and what are their aims? We are looking for what they are selling by presenting the source to you and if there are any vested interests. 

PROMPT covers method. This includes, for statistical data, whether it provides the research that has produced the statistical data. Is it clear how the data is gathered? And was it an appropriate way to gather the data? When authors have used a sample, does it seem like a representative sample? Were the methods appropriate, rigorous, and ethical? And also whether all of the potential methods have been considered, and why the method they chose is the most appropriate to gather that particular data? 

PROMPT covers provenance. And that's all about who produced the information. Is it clearly stated who has produced and written the information? And where does the information come from? If there are opinions, whose do they belong to? And this all leads into whether you trust the source of information, and you need to make a judgement on that. 

PROMPT others timeliness. This looks at when the source was written and produced. And is it still current? It's important to look for any more recent research to identify whether the climate or situation has changed since that source was published and since it was made available. Is it still up to date enough? There is a full PROMPT criteria, which is expanded on on the library website. And you can find this at

Now we've had a look at the PROMPT criteria, I'd like you to take a look at a next article and apply the PROMPT criteria to the article. I'm just going to load the article. And it should appear on your screens now. So this source is called "Lake heatwaves under climate change". You can load it up in your browser by going to 

So I would like you to take a look at this article. If you have limited time, you may want to focus on the abstract, which summarises the article. If you have a little more time, take a look at the methods that are used in the article. And I'd suggest about five minutes for this activity. So you can pause the video now. 

So now you've had a little bit of time to look at this article, we're going to go through some observations. I'd like you to think about the extent to which they agree with what you thought about it. Having a look at this article, in terms of presentation, the information is clearly laid out. We have an abstract at the start, which summarises the article. And it's quite clearly presented, and the language is appropriate as you go through. 

In terms of relevance, with a title Lake heatwaves under climate change, it seems that this might be very relevant to people studying things like environmental science or climate change. And it's looking to study past heat waves and predictions of future lake heat waves. And it does this using past data and using this data to inform simulations. 

For objectivity, the study aims to look at future lake heat waves. And it does this by using past data. The authors of the journal article are presenting the results of this study. And they're all experts in environmental research. The study is based on data collected from various sources, and there isn't really a reason to think that it's not objective. The article does have a look at the methods, and it contains full details of the methods that it use to create the simulations. 

For provenance, the information is published in Nature, which is one of the world's leading multidisciplinary scientific journals. It was founded in 1896. Sorry, it was founded in 1869 and has been publishing since that time. The credentials of each author are clearly stated, and the article is peer reviewed. Peer review is the process by which articles that are due for publication are read by other experts in the field. 

For timeliness, it was published on the 20th of January 2021, which is quite recent in publishing terms. Depending on when you use this, you might want to see if there has been anything published since this study was published to see whether the information is still in date. So you could do that by looking at the authors to see if they have published anything else since. So you could do a search for them on library search. And you could also look for any related research to lake heatwaves and climate change. 

I'm just going to hide this article and take you back to the slides, which should appear on your screen now. So now we've taken a look at three sources. It's possible that you might need a little bit of further help at some point during your studies. And you're welcome to contact the library helpdesk in order to do so. There is a 24/7 web chat, which is available and linked to on most of the library web pages. 

During Monday to Fridays, 9:00 to 5:00 UK time it is staffed by Open University library staff. And outside of this time, you might be connected to one of our partner libraries, so that will be a librarian from another organisation, who can help you with finding and evaluating information. You can also email us at And you can also phone the library on (0)1908 659 001. 

There is some additional information and guidance that's available on the library website as well. And you can have a look at some of the activities, the quick evaluation of websites, evaluation using PROMPT, and evaluating the quality of information. These are all linked to from the library web page where this recording can be found. 

So you should now be able to assess the reliability of information, use a framework to assess the reliability of information, and assess the usefulness of information. So thank you for watching this recording. Bye for now.

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