What words come to mind when you hear the word "accuracy?" Do you think of an archer nocking an arrow to a bow and then hitting the center target? Or perhaps you think of a diagnostic medical test's reliability. When conducting research, you should consult resources that are "accurate." But how can we determine accurate?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines accuracy as: "The extend to which something is accurate; precision, exactness," or, "The Closeness of a measurement, calculation, or specification to the correct value."
Stemming from these definitions, in research, we should seek resources that provide information that is reliable, truthful, free from explicit bias, and free from errors.
Accuracy matters. Bad information can have bad consequences.
Accurate resources are written by field experts, cite scholarly sources, describe the research methodology employed, and transparently provide data that was collected or used in the study.
There is a lot to consider when evaluating accuracy. Start slow by incorporating the guiding questions one at a time into your work, or choose the questions that best fit your information need. As a researcher, ask bold questions about the resources that you want to consult in your work.
Peer-review is a process where a source is evaluated before being published in an academic journal. Peer-review teams are usually comprised of an editorial board, with each member contributing their discipline expertise. There are different types of peer review, including open, single blind, double blind, and triple blind, among others.
The peer-review process is intended to provide articles with greater accuracy, as the source is evaluated by other experts. Peer-review is often very rigorous, and authors usually complete several rounds of review before their work is published. This provides authors with opportunities to make changes to their work, to create a stronger final research product.
The intent of peer-review is noble and good-- but it can also easily go awry.
Factors that complicate peer-review:
What should I do now?
When consulting an article, do some background research about the journal. Many databases provide hyperlinks to journal information. Or, you could preform a Google search to find the journal's publisher, which should also have publication information. Look outside of the journal itself to find resources that point to the resource's creditability.
Even though an article may be peer-reviewed, you still need to keep your eyes peeled, which is why source evaluation is so critical!