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Tips for finding reliable sources of information on the internet

Updated on March 26, 2013

Do you ever wonder how reliable the information is that you find on the Internet?

With people uploading vast amounts of data every minute it's hard to know which information is true. How do you choose which article or blog to believe, and what are the chances of you making the wrong choice.

Below are some ways that you can validate the knowledge that you're taping into in the interwebs...


Just because it's top of the list in google doesn't make it reliable...

Nowadays the first place we tend to turn to in answer to a question is google. We type in our query and wait for the hits to roll in.

We may decide to always choose the top result, and take that as the truth, but a better idea would be to consider why it's top of the list. Often entries are tagged and labelled and marketed by people who don't necessarily know that the information they're pushing is true or not. They may not even care if it's true, but are instead more interested in selling their own product or generating multiple streams of cash flow from revenue ads on their sites.


How can we be more sure that the information we find is true...?

There are several methods for determining the reliability of information. A few examples are listed below:

  • Consult sources that have a good reputation
  • Research more than one source of the information
  • Look for feedback relating to the information
  • Choose information that has been "peer reviewed"


Consult sources that have a good reputation

A good way to ensure you're have a reliable source to to look for information through a well established site that is related to an established organisation- preferably one that you have already heard of. This could be a Government site, or a charity site, or maybe another "not for profit" organisation which is designed to provide education.

Be wary of individuals setting themselves up as experts or gurus, when there is no evidence to back-up their claims. If you suspect that someone is conning you or spreading dangerous information, then google their name and see if there is any mention of scams or other pointers that would question their reliability. If their name brings up a biography showing years of experience in the field then they are probably reputable.

Often sites that look very unprofessional and disorganised are literally that. A word of caution though, not all professional looking sites are reliable either!!


Research more than one source of the information

Look into various sources of information on your subject or question and see what the general consensus appears to be. In what ways is each source in agreement with another? Generally, if several sources of information agree with each other in broad terms, then it is more likely that you have found the accepted truth.

Something to beware of though, is many sites showing exactly the same information, to the point of looking copied, or only slightly rearranged. In this case several people could have used the same source to create their own pages, and although this doesn't necessarily confirm that the original source was inacurrate, it could mean that unreliable information has been propagated.


Look for feedback relating to the information

Often, reliable information will include feedback in the form of comments or testimonials. Look for feedback that appears to be genuine, from other respected sources. People who are intending to deceive or mislead will add fabricated comments and testimonials to their site. One way to determine whether feedback is true is to check up on the source, if possible, via websites mentioned in the posts. Very reliable information will have good reviews and links to other sites that give supporting info.


Choose information that has been "peer reviewed"

It is usual for new information from experts, that is not widely established, to go through a process of "peer review". This means that other people with related experience, get chance to review the information before it's released to the public. In scientific terms, for example, this can mean trying out experiments to make sure they can be repeated, and checking calculations to see that they have been carried out correctly. The method of peer review is a way that information is screened before being added to paper journals, so that online versions of these documents are usually reliable sources. Also summary articles that mention journal articles, or other reputable sources, as references are more likely to be reliable.


The Extreme Searcher's Internet Handbook: A Guide for the Serious Searcher
The Extreme Searcher's Internet Handbook: A Guide for the Serious Searcher

This fun guide can help you to find what you're really looking for on he Internet.

 

Footnote

Often, from your own life-experience, you'll get a "gut-feeling" of whether a piece of information is reliable. It will somehow "ring true" or just "look right".


Remember that all knowledge is ultimately subjective and even the most renowned experts can be proved wrong sometimes...

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    • catsimmons profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Simmons 

      7 years ago from Mission BC Canada

      Thanks Nell, happy to help :-) Part of my "real" job involves researching information, so I have quite a bit of experience. It's one of the problems with using the internet for people who are trusting, and it can be scary too when misleading info is provided...

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi, I must admit that I had the same sort of feeling about the info too, I write for webanswers and always try to research my answer before giving it, but some people just write such a load of rubbish! In fact it can be dangerous because they either copy the person above, and add their little piece of info, or just gabble on without a clue! luckily they do reward the right answer, but if they don't really know what that answer is, how can they reward it?! really good info here, cheers nell

    • catsimmons profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Simmons 

      7 years ago from Mission BC Canada

      Hi Cathylyn, thanks for your comment:-)

      Certainly you're right about .gov and .edu. All the .gov sites belong to the US Government and .edu is for registered educational establishments.

      However, there isn't actually any restriction on who buys .org domain names (although they may be more expensive to obtain). The chances are good that most .org sites are reliable, but it is by no means certain.

    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 

      7 years ago from northeastern US

      the way to know if a site is one that is from a reliable organization like you recommend is if it ends in .org, .edu, or .gov.

    • catsimmons profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Simmons 

      7 years ago from Mission BC Canada

      Also not that The Mayo Clinic's site is a good resource for information on diseases and conditions:

      http://www.mayoclinic.com/health-information/

    • catsimmons profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Simmons 

      7 years ago from Mission BC Canada

      Thanks for commenting Flora. You highlighted a very good reason to look for content from organisations

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 

      7 years ago

      One of the problems I had in writing about PKU is that there is a lot of misinformation about the disease over the web. My friend with a daughter with PKU has stated repeatedly that nearly everything that was written was incorrect. One of the reasons her organization exists is to make sure people have the correct information.

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