Research Matters: Assessing Sources for Health Writing

Posted on May 23, 2013 by Caitlin C

Sources for Health WritingGood health content can strike that sweet spot between evergreen and newsworthy if your writers know how to cull the web for credible, research based sources. When assigning health, nutrition, exercise, and even some beauty articles, be sure to give clear guidelines to your freelance health writers to make the most of your content. By using solid research, the resulting articles will be more valuable and offer greater opportunity for naturally embedded links, which helps strengthen search positioning. Conversely, poorly sourced articles can reflect poorly on your agency, opening the door to plagiarism or even shoddy health related advice that could endanger someone’s health.

Domain Diligence

Encourage your writers to research health related articles by pursuing sources backed with credible research and verifiable claims. A good way to separate the scams from the scholars is by looking closely at domain names. Typically, websites that end in .org, .gov, or .edu will offer informative content linked to reliable studies. Too often, health information at .com domains can be uncredited or even factually inaccurate. It can be useful for writers to check out the language used on .com sites to help translate scientific information into laymen’s terms, but try to discourage linking to for-profit sites that tout health benefits of products, foods, or supplements.

Beyond Wikipedia

Wikipedia is an incredible source for beginning health research, but even more useful is the list of resources included at the end of each entry. Encourage your writers to follow up on the references and further reading sections offered at the end of each entry to get additional primary evidence to strengthen the credibility of their health content.

Hospital and University Sites

Depending on the health topics you assign, you may want to point your writers towards hospitals that are backed by a major university, like the University of Maryland Medical Center. For an even greater variety of resources, try nationally funded organizations, like the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which links visitors to a range of scientific studies in the fields of DNA, genetics, nutrition and more.

User Friendly Sites

If you’re looking to assign a batch of articles that doesn’t require wading through technical jargon, there are plenty of easy-to-use sites for health related research. For simple blog posts or white papers on nutritious foods, your writers can try World’s Healthiest Foods, a nonprofit site devoted to compiling research, news, and nutritious recipes. HealthFinder is another approachable site and includes a range of information on health topics, all backed by the support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

While it may be time-consuming to establish guidelines and vet sources, a solid plan for assessing the credibility of your health content is key to making, ahem, “healthy” contributions to this robust niche market.

Caitlin C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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