Monday, September 27, 2010

Finding Credible Information on STD Prevention

One of the most difficult things today is trying to filter through all the information on the internet and find a credible and unbiased source. The internet has given a platform to every person with an opinion, no matter how unfounded or misinformed that opinion may be. These opinions are floating out in cyberspace disguised as fact and waiting for the next novice searcher to click on them. Fortunately there are ways to weed out the useless information and get to the facts.
One of the first ways to find sites that are more credible, especially in the field of STD prevention, is to look for sites that end in .gov, .edu, or .org. If you are unfamiliar, .gov stands for a site produced by some part of the government, .edu indicates the site is maintained by an institution of education, and .org stands for organization. You have to be a little more cautious of sites at a .org address because technically anyone can use a .org site, they are just typically used by non-profits whose work is essential to STD prevention. It is possible to find credible information at a .net or .com site but you need to look in to the site owners and their motives. For example, the following site:, could at first seem biased but if you look at their section listing their partners you can see that they are supported by the California Department of Education and the Red Cross.
Another source of credible information on the internet are the scholarly, peer reviewed articles and studies. Peer reviewed articles are those that have been reviewed by peers of the author or experts in the subject of the article. There are a handful of ways to find these types of articles on the internet. One method is to do a google scholar search which google describes as a "simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature." Another method, the one that I prefer, is to use the research port provided by my university's library. Most schools offer this type of search engine that allows you to search different databases like "public health" or "medicine."  You still need to be careful with peer reviewed articles and look into the study to make sure it is unbiased. Some studies are funded by a company that has an invested interest in the study having a certain outcome. For instance, if you found an article on the benefits of getting vaccinated in order to prevent HPV, you would want to see who funded the study. If a company like Gardasil, a manufacturer of an HPV vaccine, was the main contributor you would want to use caution and discretion when citing it. 
Ultimately the best way to find the most credible information is to research your topic thoroughly and to find both sides. If you are informed of the different perspectives on a topic you can educate yourself more effectively. Sometimes finding the most accurate information is not as black and white as we would  like it to be. For example, when it comes to determining the best way to educate children on safe sex and STD prevention, you will come across different perspectives based on the differing views on what is right. As a researcher faced with the decision of what you believe to be fact, you must use some discretion and judgement of your own. 

Here are some sites to get you started on educating yourself on the topic of STD prevention:

1 comment:

  1. Good information. I was particularly interested in your point about how .org sites can often "partner" with other agencies, which CAN appear to add credibility. The big question, however, is whether the .org folks obtained the permission to associate or list other agencies. If not, it would seem that some sites might be able to (for a period of time anyway) list affiliations in an attempt to build credibility when in fact the other agencies have no clue that their names are being used. Hmmm.....not sure if this is being thoroughly discussed in the field. I would have liked to have seen more examples of sites that are NOT credible ...