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Michigan State University

NSC 495-Researching your topic in Human Biology: Identifying Reliable Sources

Identifying reliable sources

When finding sources, especially on the web, you need to be careful about quality and source.  Ask these questions to help you determine whether a Web site is worth using for your paper:

  1. Author:  Who is the author of the site?  This can be a person (credentials are needed) or an agency (such as the National Institutes of Health).  You'll want the information to be coming from a credible source .
  2. Date:  When was the information you want to cite written or last updated?  You want this to be fairly recent. 
  3. References:  Does the site reference the scientific literature or other reliable sources?  Information presented without citation of the literature is not scholarly.  You want to cite as many scholarly sources as possible and minimize the information you get from non-scholarly sources.
  4. Audience:  Who is the audience of the site?  If the audience is the patient or layperson, the information might be good but not in-depth enough for a senior biology student's paper. 
  5. Funding:  What is the funding source of the site?  Advertising should be clearly distinguishable from content.  Look for evidence of bias. 


If you do a Google search about your topic and some results come back from Google Books, you'll find that you aren't able to read all of the pages of the book online.  Check the title of the book and look it up in our Library Catalog to see if we own it. 

Biology Librarian and Health Sciences Coordinator

Michigan State University