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The cognitive authority of user-generated health information in an online forum for girls and young women

The cognitive authority of user-generated health information in an online forum for girls and... The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of one particular online discussion forum as a potentially authoritative health information source for its users. The concept of cognitive authority is used as a starting point for understanding information evaluation in this context. The focus is placed on the types of information users seek for from this forum, the ways they assess the credibility of information obtained, and their views on the impact of this information.Design/methodology/approachThe empirical data were collected with a questionnaire survey from the users of a Finnish online forum for girls and young women (n=290). The data were analyzed qualitatively with content analytic techniques and quantitatively by using descriptive analysis.FindingsThe forum was found to offer girls and young women the possibility to receive health information from peers. It was viewed as an appropriate source for experiential rather than factual health information and used to find information on sexuality, bodily functions and diets, for example. Author-related cues, argumentation and tone, veracity and verification were recognized as means to evaluate information credibility. Credibility evaluation was found to be linked with conceptions of the forum and the type of information sought. A share of the respondents recognized the information obtained to have influence on their thinking or behavior.Originality/valueBased on the findings, it can be argued that the members of the online forum – individually or collectively – can act as cognitive authorities for other users. The findings cannot be generalized beyond this online forum, to Finnish girls or young women, or even the users of the online forum. However, they provide insights into the ways young people evaluate user-generated information in a particular online setting and domain of knowledge and as such contribute to research on cognitive authority, credibility evaluation and information literacy. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Documentation Emerald Publishing

The cognitive authority of user-generated health information in an online forum for girls and young women

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References (54)

Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
0022-0418
DOI
10.1108/jd-05-2018-0083
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of one particular online discussion forum as a potentially authoritative health information source for its users. The concept of cognitive authority is used as a starting point for understanding information evaluation in this context. The focus is placed on the types of information users seek for from this forum, the ways they assess the credibility of information obtained, and their views on the impact of this information.Design/methodology/approachThe empirical data were collected with a questionnaire survey from the users of a Finnish online forum for girls and young women (n=290). The data were analyzed qualitatively with content analytic techniques and quantitatively by using descriptive analysis.FindingsThe forum was found to offer girls and young women the possibility to receive health information from peers. It was viewed as an appropriate source for experiential rather than factual health information and used to find information on sexuality, bodily functions and diets, for example. Author-related cues, argumentation and tone, veracity and verification were recognized as means to evaluate information credibility. Credibility evaluation was found to be linked with conceptions of the forum and the type of information sought. A share of the respondents recognized the information obtained to have influence on their thinking or behavior.Originality/valueBased on the findings, it can be argued that the members of the online forum – individually or collectively – can act as cognitive authorities for other users. The findings cannot be generalized beyond this online forum, to Finnish girls or young women, or even the users of the online forum. However, they provide insights into the ways young people evaluate user-generated information in a particular online setting and domain of knowledge and as such contribute to research on cognitive authority, credibility evaluation and information literacy.

Journal

Journal of DocumentationEmerald Publishing

Published: Jan 7, 2019

Keywords: Information literacy; Women; Communication; Health; Online communication; Cognitive authority

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