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“I went home to Google”: how users assess the credibility of online health information


Klawitter, Erin; Hargittai, Eszter (2018). “I went home to Google”: how users assess the credibility of online health information. In: Hale, Timothy L.; Chou, Wen-Ying Sylvia; Cotten, Shelia R.; Khilnani, Aneka. eHealth: Current Evidence, Promises, Perils and Future Directions. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited, 11-41.

Abstract

Purpose: Many Internet users search for health information but they struggle with assessing the quality of the information they find. By drawing on a multi-modal approach to data collection, this study aims to understand further the nuanced cognitive processes that people utilize as they acquire and evaluate online health information. Design: We used a mixed-methods approach that includes surveys, interviews, and observations of 76 diverse adults of all ages in the Chicago area completing various health information-seeking tasks. Findings: Most participants begin their information-seeking process on search engines. We identified the most popular credibility assessment strategies used on the search engine results’ pages (SERP) as well as on websites. We also explored how the process of executing such strategies reveals greater and lesser savvy among users. Research Limitations: While the sample size and methods limit its generalizability, this study included a larger and more diverse group of participants than most observational work, which results in data about a wider range of behaviors than is typical of such research. Social Implications: Our findings showed that most of our participants could use additional education regarding credibility assessment of online health information. Additionally, since a great deal of credibility assessment occurs on SERP, search companies bear a particular responsibility for ensuring the quality of the information their results highlight.

Abstract

Purpose: Many Internet users search for health information but they struggle with assessing the quality of the information they find. By drawing on a multi-modal approach to data collection, this study aims to understand further the nuanced cognitive processes that people utilize as they acquire and evaluate online health information. Design: We used a mixed-methods approach that includes surveys, interviews, and observations of 76 diverse adults of all ages in the Chicago area completing various health information-seeking tasks. Findings: Most participants begin their information-seeking process on search engines. We identified the most popular credibility assessment strategies used on the search engine results’ pages (SERP) as well as on websites. We also explored how the process of executing such strategies reveals greater and lesser savvy among users. Research Limitations: While the sample size and methods limit its generalizability, this study included a larger and more diverse group of participants than most observational work, which results in data about a wider range of behaviors than is typical of such research. Social Implications: Our findings showed that most of our participants could use additional education regarding credibility assessment of online health information. Additionally, since a great deal of credibility assessment occurs on SERP, search companies bear a particular responsibility for ensuring the quality of the information their results highlight.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:700 Arts
Uncontrolled Keywords:Health, credibility assessment, information seeking, search engines, search process, health search
Language:English
Date:14 June 2018
Deposited On:22 Feb 2019 12:05
Last Modified:22 Feb 2019 12:05
Publisher:Emerald Publishing Limited
Series Name:Studies in Media and Communications
Number:15
ISSN:2050-2060
ISBN:978-1-78754-322-5
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1108/s2050-206020180000015001

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