Electroconvulsive Therapy: Comparison of an Internet Source to Peer Reviewed Journals

The purpose of the paper is to elicit information regarding electroconvulsive therapy. With the advent of the new media, there is an overload of information through the internet. This paper evaluates and compares an internet source on electroconvulsive therapy to articles presented in peer reviewed journals. According to Robert Harris (2007), source evaluation or determination of the quality of information is an art. In order to ensure that information obtained from any particular source is reliable, valid and true, it should mean certain criteria regarding quality. Harris suggests the CARS Checklist- CARS is the abbreviation for “Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness and Support”. These four factors may be used to filter quality information from poor quality information. In this paper is evaluated using the 4 evaluation criteria of Harris and compared with similar articles in peer reviewed journals.

The first of the four evaluation criteria put forth by Robert Harris is “credibility”. Credibility refers to the authenticity or reliability of the information. All information cannot be taken as true on face value. For example, one may read of global warming in newspapers and magazines. But in order to decide if it’s truly believable, it is necessary to know whether this source is believable, how the source has acquired this information, and why this source can be trusted. Credibility depends on several factors such as author’s credentials, author’s education, training or experience, author’s contact information, organizational authorship, author’s reputation and position, and evidence of quality control. Accuracy is assured when the information is up to date, factual, exact detailed and comprehensive. Reasonableness as a criterion involves examining the information for fairness, objectivity, moderateness, and consistency. The area of support deals with the source and corroboration of the information. In fact, citing sources increases the credibility of information. During corroboration other information is found that supports or reconfirms the information that has been already found.

The article “All about ECT” is credible, accurate, and reasonable but does not have much support. It is written by seven medical specialists. These doctors are well qualified to write about electro convulsive therapy. They have provided details of the medical centers in which they work and also their telephone numbers. This adds to the authenticity of the information. There is evidence of quality control as the article was posted by D.J. Jaffe on behalf of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill/Friends and Advocates of the Mentally Ill, a NYC Chapter of the mentally ill. It is clearly stated at the end of the article that this article is only meant for general information and not to be considered as medical instruction. As such, it is detailed, factual, and comprehensive and the purpose of providing general information regarding ECT is fulfilled. There is no date given and hence it cannot be considered timely. Hence it is not totally accurate. The article does engage the reader thoughtfully and reasonably. It has a fair, balanced tone throughout. The authors accept the fact that some of the readers might be biased against the issue of ECT due to some bad press and due to the Ken Kesey’s ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ where ECT had been wrongly depicted. The article is definitely concerned with the truth. No external reference is mentioned in this article. The only quoted reference is that of Dr. Demitris Popolos, one of the team of writers. But then, the phone numbers provided of the doctors and of the AMI/FAMI do give the article a certain degree of support. There is a lot of information that involves statistical details, but they are not supported by citations. Overall, the internet article “All about ECT” is highly credible, somewhat accurate, reasonably presented and not adequately supported.

For any information to be considered comprehensive it should be complete and accurate. Here the information is truly comprehensive taking into account the fact that it is meant as general information to the reader. But in the realm of corroboration, there is a lot left to be desired in this article. Corroboration is especially important when dramatic statements are made. For example, it is stated in the article that “ECT has a higher success rate or severe depression than any other form of treatment”. This statement is not corroborated through other information. Sometimes, the article does use other sources to corroborate, but these other sources are not provided in detail. For example, according to the article, short-term memory loss has always been a concern to patients who receive ECT. They just say that ‘several studies’ conclude that patients who received unilateral ECT performed better on memory tests. It would have added to the accuracy if the authors had mentioned some specific study. The article also uses the word ‘experts’ without giving further details of these experts or their studies. There are many other external sources cited to corroborate but these sources are not properly cited and hence they are weak in credibility.

The article titled “What you should know about electroconvulsive therapy” by Grace Uko-Ekpenyong (2007) RN, BSN, MSc, is one that offers a detailed overview of ECT from a nursing point of view. As a journal article, it is aimed at addressing students and researchers from the medical profession. Hence it is very detailed or in some cases, the article provides links to more details. The tone adopted in the article is very formal as in text books whereas in the internet article the tone is less formal. The author is a registered nurse with excellent qualifications. The information provided is logically arranged with sub-headings and very complete. This article has appeared in the Nursing 2007 issue and therefore, the information is up to date. References and resources are cited and they are mostly within the last five years. Hence, this journal article satisfies all the criteria provided by Robert Harris and has high quality information. The internet article is similar to the journal article Uko-Ekpenyong, Grace in content. It aims at providing a general overview of ECT.

The journal article titled “ECT damages the brain: Disturbing news for patients and shock doctors alike” by Peter R. Breggin(2007) MD investigates the effect of ECT and concludes that electroshock causes permanent brain damage and dysfunction. He cites numerous studies in detail. This fact gives this article some support, as the author refers to other people’s work, and does not plainly throw loud statements at the reader. The fact that the author is MD gives the article good credentials. The quality control is also maintained, as the article is published in the “Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry” journal. The article is well structured and up to date as it was published in 2007 therefore its timeliness is fine. It is comprehensive, well arranged, and written in a persuasive form. Unlike the previous two articles that suggested ECT as an effective way of treatment, this one adheres to an opposite point of view. It is intended for an audience of ECT opposers – medical professionals as well as patients who underwent this procedure and suffered permanent neural damage, or those who are planning to have this procedure. Its purpose is to persuade psychiatrists to give up the use of ECT, and persuade patients with medical condition that may require ECT treatment to refuse being treated by this method. The objectivity of this paper is clearly visible as apparently the author has been studying this issue since 1986, when he published his first ECT criticizing article. The author is basically taking a one sided view of the problem, criticizing the ECT supporters by writing how he disclosed the fact of shock machine manufacturing company ownership by one of the major figures among ICT followers. This makes the article not very balanced. Another negative aspect of this paper is that it lacks trustworthy sources of support. The author does cite a few studies, but seven out of thirteen articles that he refers to are his own, and 10 of them were published before the year 2000. They are not very credible, as a lot has changed in the past five years in terms of ECT methods. This makes the support of this study not a very efficient one. Thus, this article does not correspond to such Harris’s criteria as support, and completely disagrees with the website and the other journal articles reviewed.

The third reviewed journal article is taken from 2007 issue of “Harward Medical School” journal, from a rubric titled” Harward Mental Health Letter”. The article is called “Electro Convulsive Therapy” and it is basically an overview of ECT procedure intended for psychiatry-related medical specialist audience. The author of this article is undisclosed, however it seems that the quality control has been maintained. This provides some credibility. This paper is written in a formal manner, explaining the practicability, mechanisms, dangers, and current status of ECT. It is very complete, providing subheadings for better understanding of the material. The audience and purpose are clearly visible, hence the accuracy is good. The pro-ECT disposition demonstrates its similarity to the website article as well as the first journal article reviewed above. The article is fair, moderate, its objective is evident and it is consistent, as all the subsections emerge smoothly. There are plenty of indicated references, and all of them have been published after the year 2000. This corroborates the paper with good support. Therefore, for this article all Harris’s criteria are met, except for credibility, which is not quite sufficient.

A website based article from a health related internet website was reviewed and analyzed according to “CARS” Checklist of the “Evaluating Internet Research Sources” guidelines (Harris, 2007). The website article was also compared to three other sources that were evaluated as well according to the above Checklist. The initial article from the internet corresponded to credibility, partially accuracy, reasonability criteria, but was in great need of support. Having analyzed the journal article titled “What you should know about electroconvulsive therapy” it was revealed that it corresponded to all criteria mentioned by Harris. Whereas the analysis of the “ECT damages the brain: Disturbing news for patients and shock doctors alike” and “Electro Convulsive Therapy” articles demonstrated a deficiency according to such criteria as support and credibility correspondingly. In fact, the article by Peter R. Breggin provides convincing evidence that discredits all other articles analyzed in this essay. Having assessed the comprehensiveness and corroboration of the initial article by comparing it to three other non-web based sources on the same subject it can be concluded that the above article appears to be a medium quality research source.


Breggin, P. (2007) ECT damages the brain: Disturbing news for patients and shock doctors alike Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry 9(2).

Electroconvulsive therapy. (2007). Harward Mental Health Letter, 23(8).

Harris, R. (2007). Evaluating internet research sources. Web.

The Alliance for the Mentally Ill. All about ICT. 2007.

Uko-Ekpenyong, G. (2007) What you should know about electroconvulsive therapy. Nursing.