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Shapiro Library

Evaluating Sources

This guide will provide you with information that you can use to critically evaluate sources including websites, articles and reports, books and ebooks, etc.

Authority


Evaluating a source by authority means that you are asking: Does the author have expertise on the topic about which he/she is writing?

When considering authority, ask yourself

  • Who is the author? Is he or she a subject expert on the topic? What are the author's credentials?
  • Is the source sponsored or published by a reputable organization or institution?
  • Is the author the original creator of the information?

Where should you look to determine the authority of a source?

 

Print & Database Sources 

  • Examine or look up the author's credentials and affiliations
  • Try to find more sources written by the author(s) and examine them - are they scholarly?
  • Look for the author's contact information
  • Examine the publisher's credentials

Websites

  • Examine or look up the author's credentials and affiliations
  • Try to find more sources written by the author(s) and examine them - are they scholarly?
  • Look for the author's contact information​
  • Examine the domain extension (i.e. .com, .edu)

What to avoid

  • Authors who have no credentials or affiliations, no expertise on the topic
  • Personal websites. These are usually indicated by the text (e.g. "Personal Homepage Of..."), by specific characters in the web address (e.g. the use of a tilde ~), or by a username in the web address (e.g. ~jsmith).
Authority Questions
Examples Questions To Ask
Eating Disorders
  • Is the author qualified to write about this topic?
Country Joe McDonald's Florence Nightingale Tribute
  • Is the author an expert, or a credible source of information?
Rooftop Gardens
  • Are you able to find information about the author? Is it a personal website?