The internet is now a major source of health information for lay people. Within the
medical, sociological and popular literatures there have been three main responses
to this development. They may be classified as 'celebratory', 'concerned' and 'contingent'.
This paper falls into the third category and, drawing on techniques of discourse
analysis, examines people's accounts of their use of online health resources. It
identifies six implicit rules – which is called 'rhetorics of reliability'–
that people readily draw upon when articulating why they trust some online sources
and not others. In addition participants locate their accounts within broader discursive
frameworks in order to present themselves as 'sensible' users. The article concludes
by suggesting that there is an emerging concordance between the lay use of the internet
for health and illness and dominant (generally) biomedical conceptions of what constitutes
'good quality' health information.