This chapter was published in The Information Literacy User’s Guide: An Open, Online Textbook by Allison Hosier, et al, SUNY Albany, 2014. It includes sections on Distinguishing Between Information Resources, Choosing Materials, Identifying Key Points and Arguments, and Evaluating Resources in Practice.
This chapter was published in The Research Process: Strategies for Undergraduate Students by Rebecca M. Marrall and Jenny K. Oleen, Western Washington University Libraries, 2016. In this chapter, you will be able to: Identify the concepts of web literacy; learn about Google and Wikipedia as research tools; and explore the Digital Divide phenomenon.
Questions to ask about the authority of a source
Ask yourself these questions when thinking about the authority, or credibility, of a source and its author/publisher:
Who is the author? (Remember that authors can be organizations or institutions.)
Consider the organizational affiliation of the author—respected organizations publish the work of respected authors!
What makes the author an "expert" in the field he or she is writing about? What are his or her qualifications? Does he or she have education or work experience in the field? Has he or she published anything else about the subject?
Can you contact the author? Are there telephone numbers, addresses and/or email addresses listed?
How do I do this?
This information is often given in a section labeled “About." If you’ve arrived in the middle of a web site, you may need to make your way to the main page of the author/sponsor to find this information
It may take some detective work to find information identifying the author/sponsor of the site
Consider the qualifications and organizational affiliation of the author—is the level of authority/credibility solid enough for your purposes?
Look up the organization which produced the web site (if it's unfamiliar) to identify its credentials, viewpoint, or agenda
If the source is an E-journal, discover whether it is refereed (reviewed by scholars) before it is accepted for publication.
Remember the context!
It can be very important that the author is trustworthy.
Are you using information for a research assignment? For example, if you are researching about the importance of bilingual education, you would want to use sources written by experts in the educational fields. Likewise, if you were searching for information about how to fix your vehicle, you might consult a local mechanic because he or she is knowledgeable about cars.
Sometimes, though, the authority of the source might not matter that much.
For example, you might use Yelp to read reviews of restaurants in your area. In this case, it doesn't matter if the reviews at Yelp are written by average people who are not "experts" in the restaurant industry.
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