No doubt, the Internet has revolutionized the research process. Instead of spending hours in the library browsing through dozens of books, college students can now access thousands of statistics and articles in a matter of minutes without ever leaving their desks. The problem is, anyone can publish and edit information online, even if it’s false, and telling a good source from a bad one can be tricky. So here’s a list of websites that provide reliable information for every research topic.
Do you ever wish you could tell a search engine to retrieve only scholarly sources? Well, wish granted. An alternate Google search engine called Google Scholar searches for information only within journal articles and legal documents. It might just be the Web’s best kept secret on research. And it’s free.
One great database of scholarly articles is JSTOR. Enter a topic into the search bar, and JSTOR searches thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles for information. However, to fully access all of the material requires a subscription. Your college may have a subscription that you can use with a student login. To find out, contact your college library. In the meantime, check to see if there’s any material available that you can access on your own. A small portion of JSTOR’s material is available for free.
Government and Organizational Websites
Government websites – those with the .gov designation – are great places to find statistics on just about any subject. Because the research is backed by a federally funded agency, you can rest assured that the information is reliable. Organizational websites that represent professional or scientific groups can be great sources, too.
For health-related topics:
- American Cancer Society
- American Medical Association (AMA)
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
Labor, business, economics and government spending statistics:
- Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)
- Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
- Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Environment and agriculture:
Science and technology:
Hundreds – if not thousands – of online newspapers and magazines litter the Internet, but not all of them can claim to be reliable sources of information. Some, like The Onion, publish fake stories for humor and entertainment. Many others display a strong political bias that skews or distorts information.
The Web’s most reliable news sources tend to be the same as those with respected corresponding print publications, like the New York Times. While Reuters and The Associated Press do not have print publications, they supply the nation’s newspapers and media outlets with hard news stories. For students looking to National Public Radio (NPR) for information, their website usually offers transcripts of on-air interviews.
Respectable professors usually forbid students from citing Wikipedia as a research source, and for good reason. Anyone can write for or edit Wikipedia. Anyone. And since Wikipedia’s articles are published anonymously, there’s almost no way to trace the writer or editor’s identity to determine whether he or she is qualified to write on a particular subject. Information on Wikipedia, while sometimes helpful and insightful, is hardly reliable. Mistakes are discovered on the site all the time. Therefore, students should never cite Wikipedia as a scholarly source of information.
However, Wikipedia can be used as a research tool. Many of those who write for Wikipedia list sources at the bottom of each article so the information can be traced. Some of these sources come from scholarly journals and newspapers. Students can then look up the original source of the information and, if judged to be credible, use it in their essays.
Other Sites Available
Of course, this list of great websites is by no means exclusive. There are many more credible sources of information on the Internet, namely studies and papers published by top research universities. Students should just be careful to evaluate each source they find for reliability, or ask their professors if a source is credible enough to use for academic research.