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Educational Psychology & Counseling 602: Research Principles: Web Sites

In addition to books and journals, Web sites can be a valuable source of information as long as you use sound judgment. For guidance in choosing Internet sources, see Evaluating Print & Internet Resources. The following Web sites are recommended:

  • American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/) is the producer of PsycINFO and other literature databases, over 50 journals, countless books and, of course, the APA writing style guide. With 150,000 members, it is the largest association of psychologists worldwide. There is a page specifically for students (http://www.apa.org/students/) which includes a free job bank. Student membership in APA is $43 a year for graduate students.
  • GLSEN Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (http://www.glsen.org/) is an advocacy group for members of the PreK-12 school community stuggling with issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Educators Resources Page offers lesson plans, curricular tools, information on teacher training programs, a listing of local chapters and student clubs, a library of free online resources, and a book shop.  
  • MedlinePlus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/) from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. Excellent source of consumer-level information on many diseases and conditions. Also provides links to MEDLINE searches, a medical encyclopedia and dictionary, Spanish-languange materials, drug information, and numerous links to other websites. 
  • Teaching Tolerance (http://www.tolerance.org/) from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Provides free educational materials that promote respect for differences and appreciation of diversity. There is also content for kids, teens, and parents. Publisher of the award-winning magazine Teaching Tolerance (http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/archives).

Evaluating Internet Resources

Internet resources can be even more challenging to evaluate because dates and authors are not always readily available. Plus, we all know that anyone can create a website. Using the CRAAP test will help you thoroughly evaluate your source, but the following are some important things to consider when reviewing internet sources. 

Who Created the Information?

Websites do not always have authors so you'll need to find information on who or what organization is responsible for creating and updating the webpage. The following are links to look for on webpages that should provide more information on who is behind the website.

  • "About Us": usually provides information about the organization or company that is responsible for the webpage.
  • "Mission Statement": this will provide information on what the organizations values or goals are. 
  • "Contributors": provides information on who contributes content to the website, sometimes they'll even list the qualifications of their contributors. This section may also provide information on who funds either the website or the organization. *Beware of websites like Wikipedia where anyone can create an account and edit webpages.

Publication Dates

Finding the date a website was created or last updated can be difficult sometimes. If you can't find a date on a particular webpage, click around and look at the other resources on their website, can you find a date anywhere? Are there links to other sources that are out of date or dead links?

URL Domain Extensions

The following is a list of the most popular domain extensions, which can be used to help determine authority and objectivity. However, domain extensions alone cannot determine if a web source is quality or if it's right for your research.

.gov - Government. The intent of the site is to present official information collected by or about the workings of a government.

.edu - Educational institution. The intent of the site is to educate as well as present information collected by or about the educational institution. *Look out for student work or papers that haven't been published in an authoritative source.

.com - Commercial. The intent of the site is to sell goods or services, as well as provide information about the company.

.org - Organization, usually non-profit. The intent of the site is to present information collected by or about the organization. Sometimes, the intent of the site is to promote a particular point of view. *For more information about the organization check out Idealist.org

.net - Network, usually personal Web pages. The intent of the site is as varied as the individual(s) responsible for the content. *Usually not scholarly in nature, so if it is a personal page then make sure you research who that person is and what their qualifications are.

A more complete list of top-level domains is also available.

When to be skeptical?

  • There is no author or organization associated with the website.
  • There are a lot of advertisements and pop-ups. Just because a website looks professional does not mean that it's authoritative.
  • Websites that ask you to take some sort of action: donate money, sign a petition, give your email, etc. 
  • A website that only cites itself, providing links that only lead you to other resources within the site.