Instructional Science

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 43–63 | Cite as

Web site credibility: Why do people believe what they believe?

  • Marie K. Iding
  • Martha E. Crosby
  • Brent Auernheimer
  • E. Barbara Klemm


This research investigates university students’ determinations of credibility of information on Web sites, confidence in their determinations, and perceptions of Web site authors’ vested interests. In Study 1, university-level computer science and education students selected Web sites determined to be credible and Web sites that exemplified misrepresentations. Categorization of Web site credibility determinations indicated that the most frequently provided reasons associated with high credibility included information focus or relevance, educational focus, and name recognition. Reasons for knowing a Web site’s content is wrong included lack of corroboration with other information, information focus and bias. Vested interests associated with commercial Web sites were regarded with distrust and vested interests of educational Web sites were not. In Study 2, credibility determinations of university students enrolled in computer science courses were examined for 3 provided Web sites dealing with the same computer science topic. Reasons for determining Web site inaccuracy included own expertise, information corroboration, information design and bias. As in Study 1, commercial vested interests were negatively regarded in contrast to educational interests. Instructional implications and suggestions for further research are discussed.


Web site credibility Web evaluation Critical information evaluation College students Credibility determinations Web site veracity 


  1. Alexander, P. A. (2003). The development of expertise: The journey from acclimation to proficiency. Educational Researcher, 32(8), 10–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Benotsch, E. G., Kalichman, S., & Weinhardt, L. S. (2004). HIV–AIDS patients’ evaluation of health information on the Internet: The digital divide and vulnerability to fraudulent claims. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(6), 1004–1011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Crosby, M. E., Iding, M. K., Auernheimer, B., & Klemm, E. B. (2002). Judging the veracity of Web sites. Proceedings of the International Conference on Computers in Education (ICCE 2002) (pp. 251–252).Google Scholar
  4. Escoffery, C., Miner, K., Adame, D., Butler, S., McCormick, L., & Mendell, E. (2005). Internet use for health information among college students. Journal of American College Health, 53(4), 183–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Farah, B. (1995). Information literacy: Retooling evaluation skills in the electronic information environment. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 24(2), 127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Flanagin, A. J., & Metzger, M. J. (2007). The role of site features, user attributes, and information verification behaviours on the perceived credibility of web-based information. New Media Society, 9, 319–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fogg, B. J., Soohoo, C., Danielson, D., Marable, L., Stanford, J., & Tauber, E. R. (2002). How do people evaluate a Web site’s credibility: Results from a large study. Retrieved 2 Oct 2008 from
  8. Iding, M., & Klemm, E. B. (2005). Pre-service teachers critically evaluate scientific information on the World Wide Web: What makes information believable? Computers in the Schools, 21(1/2), 7–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Iding, M. K., Auernheimer, B., Crosby, M. E., & Klemm, E. B. (2002a). Users’ confidence levels and strategies for determining Web site veracity. Proceedings of the WWW 2002: The Eleventh International World Wide Web Conference. [CD ROM-Author index, 1–3].Google Scholar
  10. Iding, M., Landsman, R., & Nguyen, T. (2002b). Critical evaluation of scientific websites by high school students. In D. Watson & J. Anderson (Eds.), Networking the learner: Computers in education: Seventh IFIP World Conference on Computers in Education Conference Proceedings. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  11. Kalichman, S. C., Cherry, C., Cain, D., Pope, H., Kalichman, M., Eaton, L., et al. (2006). Internet-based health information consumer skills intervention for people living with HIV/AIDS. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(3), 545–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Klemm, E. B., Iding, M., & Speitel, T. (2001). Do scientists and teachers agree on the credibility of media information sources? International Journal of Instructional Media, 28(1), 83–91.Google Scholar
  13. Liberman, V., & Tversky, A. (1993). On the evaluation of probability judgments: Calibration, resolution, and monotonicity. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 162–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lundeberg, M.A., Fox, P. W., Brown, A., & Elbedour, S. (2000). Cultural influences on confidence: Country, and gender. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 152–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lundeberg, M., Fox, P. W., & Puncochar, J. (1994). Highly confident, but wrong: Gender differences and similarities in confidence judgments. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 114–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Metzger, M. J., & Flanagin, A. J. (2008). Introduction. In M. J. Metzger & A. J. Flanagin (Eds.), Digital media, youth, and credibility (pp. 1–4). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  17. Metzger, M., Flanagan, A., & Zwarun, L. (2003). College student Web use, perceptions of information credibility, and verification behavior. Computers and Education, 41, 271–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Nguyen, T. T. (2000). OASIS: Student evaluation methods for World Wide Web resources. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Hawai`i, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.Google Scholar
  19. Princeton Survey Research Associates (2002). A matter of trust: What users want from web sites. Retrieved 2 Oct 2008 from
  20. Rader, H. (1998). Library instruction and information literacy. Reference Service Review, 26(3/4), 143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Stanford, J., Tauber, E. R., Fogg, B. J., & Marable, L. (2002). Experts vs. online consumers: A comparative credibility study of health and finance web sites. Retrieved 2 Oct 2008 from
  22. Tormala, Z. L., & Petty, R. E. (2004). Source credibility and attitude certainty: A metacognitive analysis of resistance to persuasion. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 14(4), 427–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie K. Iding
    • 1
  • Martha E. Crosby
    • 1
  • Brent Auernheimer
    • 2
  • E. Barbara Klemm
    • 1
  1. 1.College of EducationUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.California State UniversityFresnoUSA

Personalised recommendations