Authority

Part of evaluating an information source involves evaluating the credentials or other qualifications of the individuals or organization that created it.

* Many articles and books are written by groups of scholars, and many web sites are created and maintained by “corporate authors” meaning the entire organization as a group is responsible for the content.

Authority refers to the author’s qualifications to write on a particular topic.  To determine whether an author is, indeed, an authority in the field, try to ascertain:

  • who the authors are?
  • what are their credentials, if any?
  • do they hold a relevant position with a reputable institution?
  • do they have prior publications in the field?
  • is their work cited in other publications in the field?
  • do they have relevant experience or education?
  • other qualifications?
  • is contact information available for the authors?

You’ll find some tips on where to look for this information, here.

Note: Occasionally, reliable publishers will publish an anonymously authored article because they don’t want their readers to pre-judge the content based on the authors, or because the authors don’t want their names to be associated with a controversial idea. This is a special case, and it isn’t the same as a web site with no author information. You can reasonably assume that the author is reliable because the journal or publishing company is reliable.