How university students evaluate online information about a socio-scientific issue and the relationship with their epistemic beliefs

Fang-Ying Yang, Yu Hsin Chen, Meng Jung Tsai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of the study was to explore the judgment criteria used by university students for evaluating online information about a socio-scientific issue and the associations, if any, with their epistemic beliefs. The problem context was a socio-scientific issue concerning the impact of electromagnetic waves on human health. The participants were 36 university students, who were asked to read a news report, briefly state their thoughts, and then proceed to the web search activity in order to determine if their thoughts were legitimate. The students' search processes were recorded by web camera. After the search activity, all students were interviewed about the criteria used to determine the credibility of the online information. The students responded to the interview questions as they were watching their own web search processes. Epistemic beliefs were then assessed using questionnaires. A coding scheme was developed to analyze the students' oral responses. It was found that these university students determined the credibility of the online information mostly with reference to the richness and explanative power of argument, the presence of evidence, and the authority source of information. However, few of them went further to examine the validity of the evidence. Correlation analyses and ANOVA showed that the use of overall criteria for judging the online information was associated significantly with students' epistemic beliefs regarding authority. Meanwhile, the number of criteria used for justifying evidence was significantly associated with the students' beliefs about learning ability and justification in science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-399
Number of pages15
JournalEducational Technology and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Sep 19



  • Epistemic beliefs
  • Media and science education
  • Online information credibility
  • Web-based learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Engineering(all)

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