If you are researching a condition, symptom or diagnosis, it’s important to make sure that you are utilizing well-respected websites. Anyone can publish anything on the internet so it is important to establish the credibility of the website and authors. The tips below can help you get the most accurate information available.
Scholarly articles and journals are good place to start.
- Look for articles that are “peer reviewed”. Peer review is the evaluation of scientific, academic, or professional work by others working in the same field.
- The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report on original research in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly world.
- Scholarly journal articles usually have an abstract or descriptive summary of contents before the main text of the article.
- Scholarly journals often contain many graphs and charts to display statistical data.
- Scholarly journals always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies.
- Articles are written by a scholar in the field or someone who has done research in the field. Their affiliations will be listed.
- The language of scholarly journals is that of the discipline covered. It assumes some technical background on the part of the reader.
- Many but not all scholarly journals are published by a specific professional organization.
Where to Search
- Websites ending in .com usually are reflective of businesses. Follow the money and it often will lead to those that are “self-endorsing” their services or products.
- Websites ending in .org. are typically purchased by organizations. In reviewing the information be aware of the following:
- Author – Information on the internet with a listed author is one indication of a credible site. The fact that the author is willing to stand behind the information presented is a good indication that the information is reliable.
- Date – The date of any research information is important. By including a date, the website allows readers to determine whether information is recent enough for their purposes.
- Sources – Credible websites, like books and scholarly articles, should cite the source of information presented.
- Writing Style and Site Design – Poor spelling, grammar and design are an indication that the site may not be credible. Good design and articulate writing make information accessible and easy to understand. Credible sites watch this closely.
- Websites ending in .edu are reserved for colleges and universities. .gov denotes a government website. For the most part these should be sites with credible information. However, you should understand the following:
- Check the Date – articles and publications done 10 years ago bring into question reliability of the information.
- Check Credentials – one of the best ways to verify objectivity and accuracy is to check the author’s credentials. If you’re researching headaches, then the author should be someone with a medical or holistic healing degree or certification.
- Check the Library – It is still one of the best places to do research. Most allow you to do research online and have access to research databases which may require subscriptions and aren’t available through traditional search engines.