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Info Lit Training 2021 (GAs) Student Workers

Authority is Constructed and Contextual


As we go throughout our day, we are constantly receiving information from all types of sources.  But how do we know if this information is credible? When we do research (whether it is for personal or academic reasons), we want to use credible sources. 

One of the ways to determine credibility is to look at the authority of the information by investigating the author and his/her credentials.  Does the author have subject expertise (e.g., scholarship), societal position (e.g., public office or title), or special experience (e.g., participating in a historic event)?

Credentials do not provide authority across the board but apply to a specific area of expertise or context (e.g. an author with a Ph.D. in Psychology may or may not be qualified to write about parenting skills; a politician may state facts that are not accurate.)

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Scholarly/ peer reviewed journals:

Several of our library databases (e.g., EBSCO, ProQuest) provide an option for locating "peer-reviewed" journal articles, meaning that these articles have been reviewed by experts in the field to determine the quality of the research before they are accepted for publication. We can generally rely on the authority of peer-reviewed articles. The author's credentials/affiliations (e.g., university or institution) should be available in the article details or in the article itself.

Non-scholarly resources:

For non-scholarly resources,( e.g., magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs), it may not always be possible to find an author.  Look for links such as "About Us," or "Staff."  Although you may find the name of an author, his/her background may not be provided.  In this case, try a Google search for the person's name.

Even if the author is listed, it is also important to note the publisher of the information. What kind of organization is it? What is their reputation? What is the purpose of the information? Could the information be biased in some way?  Again, look for an "About" link and also Google the organization's name.