Viral Science and Information Literacy

There’s an interesting article making the rounds about a scientific reason not to make your bed. As a librarian, I’m an information literacy geek so when I see an article making a major claim, or suggesting a lifestyle change, I have a strong desire to check it out and practice my information literacy skills. The American Library Association defines information literacy as a set of skills including the ability to “evaluate information and its sources critically.”

Looking at this article, I wanted to find the original source, see if it was reputable and accurate, and then check to make sure that the data supported the conclusion that we shouldn’t make our beds. Because I really, really don’t want extra dust mites in my bed.

Step 1: Find the source.

It was a bit difficult to find the original source since most of the sources linked to each other. After checking the various links the original source appears to be a 2005 BBC News Article with the headline “Untidy Beds May Keep Us Healthy.”

Step 2:  Evaluate the source

The article is 10 years old, an eternity in terms of science writing. The original article includes input from Dr Stephen Pretlove who talking about some preliminary research findings and not completed research. The next year Pretlove is part of a team that published a comprehensive article the next year; a dry academic article that doesn’t even discuss bed making. The results of the final study do not appear to have been widely reported in the media.

Step 3: Evaluate the Information. Do the conclusions match the data?

The 2005 article finishes with Dr. Pretlove’s caveat “I find it hard to believe that simply not making your bed would have any impact on the overall humidity.” So, even the original article doesn’t full justify the conclusions being made.

I thought this article provided an interesting case study since the internet goes back and forth on bed making. Buzzfeed recently listed reasons to make your bed every day  suggesting that bed making keeps sheets safe from dust and pet hair. They also cited a 2010 study performed by the National Sleep Foundation that states that links bed making to improved sleep quality. Our beds are, apparently, a popular topic since in March 2015 Snopes debunked the myth that your mattress doubles in weight after 10 years this was meant to combat a post on disturbing “facts” that were, in fact, not entirely true.

Next time you see a cool looking “scientific” source check where they’re getting their data and don’t forget to look for wonderful, free sources that offering differing opinions and perspectives. Peer-reviewed databases are an excellent resource and you can databases like Consumer Health Complete or Alt Health Watch for free with your WPL library card. Or check out one (or more for a balanced perspective!) books on relevant topics. For example, at WPL we have a variety of books to consider if you’re concerned about household cleanliness you can always try one of our many books on the subject and if you’re interested in sleep in general we’ve got books to help you with that too!

Written by

Miss Kate is a Public Service Librarian and has been with the Windsor Public Library since 2010. She's passionate about music, children's programming, book clubs, literacy, reference services, blogging, and libraries in general!

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