How to Determine a Reliable Source on the Internet

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It can be frustrating to conduct online research because internet sources can be quite unreliable. If you find an online article that provides relevant information for your research topic, you should take care to investigate the source to make sure it is valid and reliable. This is an essential step in maintaining sound research ethics.

It is your responsibility as a researcher to find and use trustworthy sources.

Methods to Investigate Your Source

Investigate the Author

In most cases, you should stay away from internet information that doesn't provide the name of an author. While the information contained in the article may be true, it is more difficult to validate information if you don't know the credentials of the author.

If the author is named, find their website to:

  • Verify educational credits
  • Discover if the writer is published in a scholarly journal
  • See if the writer has published a book from a university press
  • Verify that the writer is employed by a research institution or university

Observe the URL

If the information is linked to an organization, try to determine the reliability of the sponsoring organization. One tip is the URL ending. If the site name ends with .edu, it is most likely an educational institution. Even so, you should be aware of political bias.

If a site ends in .gov, it is most likely a reliable government website. Government sites are usually good sources for statistics and objective reports.

Sites that end in .org are usually non-profit organizations. They can be very good sources or very poor sources, so you'll have to take care to research their possible agendas or political biases if they exist.

For instance, is the organization that provides the SAT and other tests. You can find valuable information, statistics, and advice on that site. is a non-profit organization that provides educational public broadcasts. It provides a wealth of quality articles on its site.

Other sites with the .org ending are advocacy groups that are highly political. While it is entirely possible to find reliable information from a site like this, be mindful of the political slant and acknowledge this in your work.

Online Journals and Magazines

A reputable journal or magazine should contain a bibliography for every article. The list of sources within that bibliography should be pretty extensive, and it should include scholarly non-Internet sources. Check for statistics and data within the article to back up the claims made by the author. Does the writer provide evidence to support his statements? Look for citations of recent studies, perhaps with footnotes and see if there are primary quotes from other relevant experts in the field.

News Sources

Every television and print news source has a website. To some extent, you can rely on the most trusted news sources such as CNN and the BBC, but you should not rely on them exclusively. After all, network and cable news stations are involved in entertainment. Think of them as a stepping stone to more reliable sources.

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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "How to Determine a Reliable Source on the Internet." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Fleming, Grace. (2021, February 16). How to Determine a Reliable Source on the Internet. Retrieved from Fleming, Grace. "How to Determine a Reliable Source on the Internet." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).