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Evaluating Sources: Authority

This tutorial will help you evaluate and analyze sources critically in order to judge their appropriateness to your purpose.

Where to look: print

Often a book or article will have some biographical information listed about the author.  This can be found:
  • in the beginning or introduction of the book.

  • on the back cover or book jacket of the book.

  • in an "about the contributers" section of a journal/magazine.

  • at the beginning of the article as a kind of footnote
Where was the work published?
  • It should tell you on the title page or cover of the book/journal. If it is an academic press or publisher, you know it is authoritative.

Authority: Who wrote it?

  • Check the author's credentials. The author should have the appropriate education or training in the subject area being discussed.
  • If the author has written a book, check to see if it is published by an academic press.
  • If the author has written an article, check to see of it appears in an academic or peer review journal.
  • If the author has produced a Website, check to see if it sponsored by the government or a university.
  • Books published by an academic press, articles appearing in peer review journals, and Websites sponsored by the government or a university are generally regarded as being more reliable and as possessing greater authority.

Question Authority!

Where to look: web

  • Look for an author's contact information or affiliation.

  • Sometimes information can be found in the "About Us" section on a webpage.

  • What type of organization is putting out the information? A company? A non-profit? A university? Sometimes you can tell by the URL domain (.com, .org, .edu).

  • Not finding anything? Do an Internet search for the author's name and see what you find out!