How to validate sources for online research

Validating Your Sources for Online Research



Okay, we have all heard about so-called fake news at this point, and we all know that everything we find and read on the internet isn’t always true. But how can we evaluate online sources for school and make sure that we’re accessing appropriate information?

It’s not always easy to tell a fake news site or a reliable source of information from ones that aren’t so reliable.


If you are asked to conduct research for school, college or university, this used to mean that you want to the library and found books and hard copies of journal articles on the related topic.


These were already vetted by other scholars, so that you could feel comfortable and confident that they were filled with the kind of information you could rely on to help you get the grades that you want, bolstering your arguments for your teachers and professors, and helping you to showcase your own research abilities.


It’s not so easy anymore.


Now we can get a lot more information a lot easier, but not all of that information is any good. In response to all this, we’ve gathered together our top recommendations for conducting online research to reliable sources.


Top three tips for online research:


  1. Find research through your educational institution’s library portal.
  2. Use Google Scholar to limit your search to reliable sources.
  3. Engage in lateral reading to validate your findings.


While we can find whatever information we want anywhere on the internet, it doesn’t mean we should. Since anyone, literally anyone, can post anything online, there is a bunch of information out there that is at best simply wrong, and at worst designed to mislead.


If you are conducting research for school, there are a few things you should do to make sure that you are getting the right information the right way.


  1. Find research through your educational institution’s library portal: Schools, colleges, universities, museums, libraries, and other organizations where learning and research form the cornerstone of their work all have specific portals that allow signed in users to access validated scholarly sources. These include SCOPUS-ranked journals and the articles therein as well as peer reviewed books and other scholarly sources. 
  2. Use Google Scholar to limit your search to reliable sources: When you do a simple google search, Google’s algorithms search anything and everything out there, but if you use Google Scholar to limit the search to scholarly materials. You may still need to log into some of the databases through your institution to read the full text of the materials of interest to you, but at least you’ll be sure that you’re getting things that have been pre-vetted.
  3. Engage in lateral reading to validate your findings: If you find something to be true or argued convincingly in one reputable source -- a source with an author and citations -- then see if you can’t find another source that agrees with or engages with those findings or points of view. See if you can find more than one source echoing the same or similar insights. After all, a key principle of scientific inquiry is repeatability. If an experiment can’t be repeated with the same findings, then those findings may well be suspect. Similarly if no one agrees or supports a view that you find, it may be that the view is unsupportable.

Online Research


For other tips on online research our friends at Wize have online study guides to help you improve grades, a post dedicated to the top 6 tips to validate online sources, and their English course has some tips about online research you can check out.


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