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SHB PSY202 Research and Resources: Psychology on the Internet

Is it a database or a website?

Libraries purchase databases which index journal articles and often provide full-text copies of those articles.  Although purchased databases are accessed through the internet, they are not "internet sources" or "websites."  Instead, think of these sources as products designed to facilitate academic research.   Because they are purchased, they are not freely available to the public.

Sources other than licensed databases are freely available via Google or other search engines.  These may, or may not, be the kind of information that can be used for a research paper.  You should carefully evaluate these sources using the guide offered in the box on the right.

Some sites to know

The 5 W's on the Net

Evaluating internet information can be particularly tricky because the layout is different from a print source.  Important information for evaluation can appear in different places, often requiring clicking on two or more links.  Here are some helpful hints for web evaluation:

Who? is the author or publisher of the site? If you can't find a name on the page that you are on, check the "About us," "Contact us" or FAQ sections of the site.

What?  Look for information that indicates reliability. How is it presented?  Are sources cited? Try to identify the format of the information: is it an online newspaper, a blog, a scholarly article?

When? In addition to looking for a “last updated” notification, look for references to current information or events. Sometimes a site will have a “News” or “Media Release” section that will refer to dates. Numerous broken links are often a sign of age.

Where? What type of site is it?  Commercial, institutional, personal? Does the site contain advertisements?  The site’s domain often indicates where it is coming from. Not every .edu/.gov or .org site is guaranteed to be reliable. Generally speaking, however, those sites with domains indicating an educational, governmental or organizational entity will contain authentic information. 

Why? Is there an underlying purpose of the site? What is the word choice utilized in the site?  Do the words indicate particular values and opinions or are they more objective and neutral?