It isn't just about thinking about how to evaluate the results, but also how to evaluate the types of results you are getting. Most academic/scholarly databases are populated by content that might have a high level of evidence because it has gone through a peer-review process, but many of the academic/scholarly resources have also been criticized for gate keeping and perpetuating a heteronormative, western, white, male-centric voice.
So when you are reviewing your results you might want to ask yourself - is there a perspective or a voice missing here?
If the answer is yes, how could you layer your research to search resources that are more patient-centric or non-traditional in addition to the scholarly/academic resources?
It is important to consistently check your own biases and your own preferences for reading one source over another. If you are looking for information that merely supports what you think is or should be the case or aren't checking your own search biases then you are committing confirmation bias.
The Pew Research Center has done research on news audiences and has rated news sources by the ideological leanings of their followers. A chart of this information can be viewed at: Ideological Placement of Each Source’s Audience.
You need to think about the:
Studies need to be funded. Think about asking yourself these questions to evaluate the information presented and to check for any biases
|Accuracy/Bias||Does the information presented appear truthful / impartial or incorrect / biased?|
|Who funded this study? Was it government funded, private donations, a private company? Hint: Government-funded, private donations?|
|Leadership||Who was in charge of the study / who runs the entity that funded it? What Information can you find on them? Hint: Can you find more through a web search?|
|Mission||What is the stated purpose of the study and mission of the entity that funded it?|
|Reputation||What is the reputation of the authors and the funders? Are they well-known, well-regarded? Have you heard of them before? What information can you find on them?|
Quick Tip: Many times clicking on an author, publication, or organization name in a database (like PubMed) record will take you to more information on the entity. However, you can also find information by running a web search.
Use these tips to evaluate the websites of organizations. Keep in mind that these are only a starting point and not guaranteed to be failsafe in every situation.
|Does the information presented on the website appear truthful / impartial, or incorrect / biased?|
|Funding||How is the organization funded? Hint: Government-funded, private donations?|
|Leadership||Who runs / founded the organization? What can you find out about them? Hint: Can you find more through a web search?|
What is the stated or implied mission of the organization? Hint: Look at the "About" page.
|Reputation||Is this a well-known, well-regarded organization? Have you heard of it before?|
|Web Address||Does the URL end in: .edu, .gov, .org? Note: This is not always full proof. URLs of all types can be bought.|
Clinical Case Study: "Case reports that include disorder, diagnosis, and clinical treatment for individuals with mental or medical illnesses." Definition derived from American Psychological Association.
Clinical Trial: From the National Institutes of Health, "Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Treatments might be new drugs or new combinations of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments. The goal of clinical trials is to determine if a new test or treatment works and is safe. Clinical trials can also look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses." These can be useful in researching psychology if you are wanting to look into treatments and/or drugs for a particular mental disorder/illness.
Empirical Study: "Study based on facts, systematic observation, or experiment, rather than theory or general philosophical principle." Definition derived from American Psychological Association.
Literature Review: "Survey of previously published literature on a particular topic to define and clarify a particular problem; summarize previous investigations; identify relations, contradictions, gaps, and inconsistencies in the literature; and suggest the next step in solving the problem." Definition derived from American Psychological Association.
Meta-Analysis: A quantitative analysis that reviews data from previous research done on a particular topic to better draw conclusions about that research and topic. These are usually from the medical perspective, but can sometimes be fruitful when looking for information on mental disorders/illnesses.
Systematic Review: A literature review that not only compiles, but also analyzes all the pertinent literature on a specific topic. The review attempts to answer a research question and it can be a very valuable source of resources for your work. See Cochrane's What is a Systematic Review for more information.