03 October 2012

The CRITIC method for evaluating the Internet

The other day I came across a profile of Wayne Bartz, a professor of psychology who has offered the acronym CRITIC for undergraduates to use as a method to evaluate stuff they read. In brief:

C Claim? (What is the claim?)
R Role of the claimant? (Who is the claimant? Where are they from, and cui bono?)
I Information supporting the claim? (Does the claimant offer anecdotal evidence, or results of a peer-reviewed inquiry following the scientific method of evaluating empirical findings, or something in between?)
T Testable? (Can the claim be tested?)
I Independently repeated? (Has anyone else re-tested the claims and repeated the claimant's results?)
C Cause proposed? (What kind of mechanism does the claimant offer that causes the claim to occur -- is it something reasonable, or is it something that flies in the face of current scientific understanding?)

The full article (PDF) discusses the CRITIC steps from the perspective of teaching it to first-year college students. I think it's useful for evaluating blogs, informational websites, and YouTube videos offering information that an urban home economist may use. For Rowhouse Livin', purposes, we've been all about food preservation lately, as the farmers market season wraps up. For example, for my next trick I'll be pressure-canning some winter squash some forthcoming weekend. I figure it'll be nice to have on hand some quart portions of pre-cooked chunks of squash for quick soups and side dishes as the school year progresses. Some school nights we don't roll in until after 7:00 p.m., and if I don't have dinner on the table within about a half hour of coming home, I feel like a bad mom. Or very hungry, anyway. So we've been looking up and trying to evaluate canning recipes and methods. But what to do when a recipe says, "I've been water-bath canning my pumpkin puree for 50 years and haven't killed anyone yet," or a video shows someone inverting jars after taking them out of the canner? Run the suggestions through CRITIC.

I still have a few questions about canning winter squash. It's supposed to be a good source of Vitamin A, but how well does Vitamin A hold up to canning? I've wasted time, money, and jar lids if the squash loses all its nutritional value in processing. (Approximate answer is "go ahead and can it," from a source that home economists should bookmark)? I've found a helpful home video, but after he removes the canner lid, shouldn't the dude in the video let the jars sit in the pressure canner and cool a little bit more before removing them (not necessarily, but I do)?

I think I have a good handle on what I need to know for the project, but I'll poke around a few more resources before I get started. What kind of critical thinking checklist do you go through when you look on the Internet for answers to a question?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you have the freezer space for it, could you occasionally double your dinner recipes and freeze some lightly-cooked fresh meals, for those nights when you get home so late? It would make for quick and easy meals, and freezing generally preserves nutrients and flavor well. (Some flavors will fade, others will be stronger, but you can usually adjust as you're reheating.)

-Annie

Anonymous said...

My thought was, both freezing and canning (heck any kind of cooking) reduce nutrient levels, and which reduces what by how much varies a lot from food to food (it might even average out the same in the end, depending on what you eat I suppose). But in general, I think of preparing extra servings of what I'm already cooking and then freezing it as being much less trouble than canning, at least for the purposes of being able to whip up a quick meal. But of course, I have the luxury of a large freezer. Actually, I don't think of it as a luxury at all. It's been essential for keeping 5 people in a busy household, plus frequent random (but welcome) guests, happy and well-fed!

-Annie

Michele Grant said...

We have very limited freezer space as well as limited square footage for a deep freeze, and I fear power outages anyway. (We don't lose power often at all, but personally I'm wary of my fridge, which is at about the end of its expected lifespan and -- bizarrely -- bolted to the floor in a way that prevents cleaning the coils.) So freezing is not an important part of our pantry strategy to begin with. Also, usually what happens is I make 2 1/2 to 3 portions of dinner and use the leftovers, if any, myself for lunch the next day.

I also do a lot of slow-cooker meals during weeks when I expect after-school activities to run late: start cooking a starch, add a couple of frills to whatever was cooking all day, and sit down to eat within 20 minutes of walking through the front door.

Michele Grant said...

Also: one way I like to add vitamins to meals made out of the pantry is to offer fresh sprouts. I have a multi-tiered seed sprouter that sees periodic heavy use, especially in the winter and spring.