Students’ Trust Formation and Credibility Judgements in Online Health Information – A Review Article

Research paper by Mahmood Khosrowjerdi, Anneli Sundqvist

Indexed on: 24 Nov '17Published on: 16 Jun '17Published in: Tidsskriftet Arkiv


Health information is a frequent subject for online information seeking. Research on the phenomenon has to a certain extent included students. This review, based on an analysis of 61 articles, shows the current state of the art of research on students’ trust in online health information. The review covers methodological approaches and findings of previous previous empirical studies: research design; trustworthy health information sources; credibility assessment; and factors impacting on trust formation. The analysis of research designs reveals that the survey method was most frequent, but small qualitative studies were also occurring. More than half of the studies were administered in the USA, while only a smaller part concerned ‘non-Western’ countries. Female subjects were more frequent than male. The concept of trust was not always explicitly defined in the studies. The students' actual propensity to use internet was generally taken as an expression of trust. The antecedents of trust identified in the studies can be summarized as the perceived quality of the information, the perceived credibility of the source or source provider, the users’ general inclination to trust, the actual use of information, and the perceived intelligibility of the information. The findings show that Internet was among the main sources for health information, but parents or other family members, friends, schools, health professionals were also frequent sources of health information, and students were not immediately accepting online information as trustworthy. The students’ trust and credibility judgments were influenced by social and demographic, cultural, psychological, knowledge and skills-related, and source, system and content-related factors. Governmental and organizational websites were reported as the most trustful sources, although some issues regarding website features and presentation of content were reported as barriers. Easy access were of importance for using a particular resource, but there seemed to be a learning effect impacting on seeking behaviour and trust formation.