While there is an expected level of intial research required for questions, and there is advice on how to write and research a good scientific answer, there are a lot of posts with no sign of initial research, and if there is any, there are no references. In order to try and improve the situation, I thought maybe a discussion would benefit the site on what sites would be good for research purposes. This question could then be linked to in comments suggesting sites for initial research.

Note that this is not a whitelist. This is just for suggestions if you need a site and want to know that at least one other person approves.

Published studies are good sources. How about NHS? Are independent articles written by doctors good?

What do you think some reliable sources are?


3 Answers 3


Wikipedia maintains a list of academic databases and search engines, including the topic areas covered by this stack.

Additionally, it may be beneficial to describe how to determine if a given source is valid. Valid sources should be:

  1. Evidence-based. The easiest example of this are primary sources, such as scientific (peer-reviewed) journal articles describing original research (experimental design) and findings. However, primary sources are often not ideal references, as they may not be representative of the literature as a whole. Secondary sources, such as meta-analyses or literature reviews, and tertiary sources, such as encyclopedias or online wikis, are preferable - on condition that they are evidence-based; that is, all claims made are based on and refer to other valid sources.
  2. Topic-specific. It is easy to refer to the entire Internet as a source ("just look it up!"), as virtually any evidence-based claim is supported by some valid source published online. It is similarly easy to reference entire books or documentaries as sources. However, books of several hundred pages and hour-long documentaries contain much information not necessarily pertinent to the question. So whenever appropriate, citations should narrow down the source - to the relevant chapter, section, or page of any broad text.
  3. Content-appropriate. There are many kinds of questions asked on Stack Exchange. Answers to questions about scientific knowledge should reference valid sources in the scientific literature. Most of the time, this should not include opinion papers, editorials, popular media, or other literature promoting a viewpoint or agenda not based exclusively on evidence, potentially including hypotheses or purported theories not yet established. However, references should be content-appropriate, so questions about the opinions of scholars, speculated hypotheses, philosophical viewpoints, etc, would logically be answered with references to such sources. For example, questions about diagnostic criteria are often answered with reference to the DSM or ICD regardless of their evidence base.

Note that source reliability is not a binary property. Publications may have different levels of validity, with some being better or more appropriate than others. Similarly, articles within a single publication may be better or more appropriate than others. Ultimately, it is the onus of the poster to validate the particular source for their claims as evidence-based, topic-specific, and content-appropriate.


These sites are reputable and I would use as a reference. I have made this a Community Wiki Answer, please edit to include more. Note that this is not a whitelist. This is just suggestions if you need a site and want to know that at least one other person approves. Please use citation not inline link style.

Although the NHS do very good reviews of research, they unfortunately don't cross-link from pages aimed at the general public. However, there are pages which cite scientific references such as this one from January 2018. As the NHS is a reputable health organisation, they would be okay to cite, however where possible, sources need to have citations themselves unless they are talking about results from their own studies.


Forensic Science




  • I would really like to see Wikipedia to be deleted from this list. Further, there are a lot more excellent [Neurology] journals out there not mentioned here - so I am at a loss what your answer really is supposed to tell us? It's not an exhaustive list or anything?
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 20:22
  • Neurology is not my area of knowledge and if anyone is able to add to it, they are free to as it is a Wiki Post. It is there as a discussion in order to try and improve the situation whereby there are a lot of posts with no sign of initial research, and if there is any, there are no references. This post can then be linked to in comments when there are no references. Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 20:27
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    As for Wikipedia, I thought that Wikipedia would be a good reference point as articles on there need citations for them to remain. Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 20:28
  • It has happened quite often to me that when I start searching for the primary source on wikipedia that stuff is circularly referenced, such that, while clicking through to obtain the primary source, you end up at your starting wiki page. Wikipedia is open for everyone to change and add stuff. Even worse, content is volatile, such that things may disappear on the long run. The only thing I use wikipedia for is to add links to clarify essential terminology. I would urge everyone to base answers on anything but wikipedia. I tend to downvote answers that only use a wiki page as their only source.
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 20:48
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    I would say that wikipedia is a poor place to find claims but typically is very good for terminology including questions where the answer is basically a terminology answer. I know at biology.SE there are a lot of questions that fit that category, where ideally one could cite a textbook but it's much less likely that answer and question writers have access to the same textbook - Wikipedia can be a reasonable fill-in within that context. I have found most errors in Wikipedia to be misleading rather than incorrect - and published textbooks are not immune to this either.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 16:59
  • ...especially the poorly-translated texts that a lot of our users from India use over at biology.se.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 16:59
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    – Arnon Weinberg Mod
    Commented Apr 21, 2018 at 6:35

What about Wikipedia?

Some express that Wikipedia should only be used as supportive resources, as it is volatile for edit and frequently circularly referenced. However, for terminology questions, I feel that it is suffice. Frequently such questions are asked from non-professional, and citing journal papers may be overkill.

In this example question, the OP seems to be non-professional. After I suggest in the comment to lookup a term, the OP confirms that this is what they need. Now:

  • We don't want answers as comments, since they can't be downvoted
  • Writing an answer with proper literature review from journal papers are intimidating for non-professional users (me included)
  • Wikipedia sometimes can do a better job than I can do, in both the knowledge it presents and the organization of that knowledge
  • Professional answers are not necessary for OPs, and may even be overkill. They just need to have a good direction

So I think for questions from non-professional using Wikipedia is fine. It has links to other concepts, which is a bonus.

One concern is that if we accept Wikipedia for non-professional questions, then what about other resources: TED talks, random blogs, magazines, Psychology Today?

Read more:

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    Spot on if you ask me, but seems the community is a bit divided on this.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 16:45
  • @AliceD Do you have evidence to support your assertion that Wikipedia is not reliable? The link that both Ooker and I posted above re the Reliability of Wikipedia contains a lot of research evidence to suggest that it is as reliable as any other comparable source.
    – Arnon Weinberg Mod
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 17:30
  • maybe in his field Wikipedia is a bad source?
    – Ooker
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 17:31
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    If you look at my comments under my wiki answer, you can see I support Wikipedia, but I do think that if you use Wikipedia as a source, the Wikipedia article you use must be well referenced itself. There are unreferenced articles on Wikipedia, which are flagged by Wikipedia for review. Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 12:23
  • @ChrisRogers maybe the best solution here is to find a research about the usefulness of Wikipedia on learning new concepts for newcomers. One factor is obviously reliability, but it may not be the only one.
    – Ooker
    Commented Mar 14, 2019 at 0:57

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