Learn how to evaluate websites for credibility, which websites are the best to use for academic research, and see some of our suggested websites to use when looking for psychology research on this page. See tips for using Google's Advanced Search feature.
Not everything found online is reliable or credible. We have to think critically about the sources we find online in order to determine if the information they provide is trustworthy and appropriate to use in academic research.
One of the first, and perhaps easiest decisions we have to make related to this is whether we think the source is relevant and useful. Does it give us the type of information we are looking for? To decide this, you might have to think about your reasons for the research (personal, academic, professional -- any guidelines or considerations related to this), your topic, what you need to learn about it, what you want to share about it, and the questions you or your audience have about it.
The challenge is not just finding a source, but the best source for what you’re doing. Ask yourself, is the source actually giving you useful information? Information you need or were looking for? Is it too detailed, not detailed enough, too vague, too specific, too impersonal? Is it off-topic or too far removed from your topic? Is the level of authority right for your need? Is it credible?
What helps us determine a source's credibility? What signals that we can trust the information it provides?
Authority is one factor and refers to the expertise, qualifications, knowledge, and experience of the author of the source. Authority can be achieved through a few different means. The answers to these questions can help you identify authority:
Different communities may value different types of authority or expertise over others, so authority might depend on the context and your topic.
Another factor is accuracy - is the information true? Factual? Is evidence provided? Is the information current or outdated? Have there been changes or new findings that are not included? Is newer information available elsewhere? Does the author cite other sources if the information did not originate from them?
Finally, we have to consider if the author or information itself is biased. Why is this information being shared? What is the author or poster’s intent? Are facts being omitted, ignored, or interpreted incorrectly? Are data and statistics missing context or other considerations? Is it based on opinion more than facts? Is only one perspective represented? Are the author’s motives ethical? Are they trying to advance an agenda? Harm someone or some group?
Because information can be shared for many different reasons and motives, in so many ways, in places that have standards and rules, and also in places that do not, it can be difficult to determine bias - and ultimately, credibility. There is now not only a flood of information, but a flood of misinformation, disinformation, and bias. You may need to investigate the source and information you are viewing by comparing or checking it against other sources and information you are finding or the orginal sources that the author cited. This process is called reading laterally.
Reading laterally requires you to look at the bigger context of the source you are viewing. You may need to consider the other sources you found, or look for new ones and compare the facts and information each presents. You may need to search for the author's or site's qualifications and reputation. If other reliable sources confirm the information you’re reading or the author or site's reputation, you can feel confident about its credibility.
When looking for credible psychology information online, authoritative and credible information suitable is often on websites sponsored or authored by:
The information on these sites is likely to be written or provided by experts and scholars, and the writing may be presented at an academic level. Focusing on original or primary sources, data, statistics, and reports is also another good strategy when searching for online information.
In general, it's best to be cautious of, or outright avoid: