Evaluating Information: Authority

  • Who is supplying the content?
  • Who is the author? Who is the publisher?
  • What are the author’s credentials?
  • Credentials do not provide authority across the board but apply to a specific area of expertise (e.g. an author with a PhD in Physiology is not necessarily qualified to write about parenting skills).
  • Is this a personal or official publication (or website)?
  • A personal publication / website is unlikely to include a rigorous review process and/or experts that act as editors. On the other hand, a sponsored publication / website is more likely to include a perspective that might lead to bias.
  • Has this source been cited?
  • Was it cited by any of your other sources (or your class readings)?

Evaluating Information: Accuracy

  • Are citations used?
  • This is the easiest way to check on a source’s accuracy.
  • Is a bibliography / works cited available?
  • A bibliography makes it clear that an author wants his/her work checked for accuracy.
  • Does the information appear complete?
  • Compare it to a source you already know is safe to use.
  • Are there grammar and/or spelling errors?
  • How was data collected?
  • All statistics should be cited or explained.
  • Can the information be verified?
  • Using background information and reliable sources, can you support the information presented?
  • Has the information been reviewed?
  • Is an editor listed? Is the information self-published?

Authority & Accuracy

Explore the image below — mouseover the targets to learn more about the anatomy of a trade publication. This example uses an article from a trade journal, but the characteristics discussed also apply to some magazines, and newspapers.

Callari, James J. "Making Old Bags New Again." Plastics Technology (2012): 36-41. Academic Search Premier. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.


.edu = educational institution e.g. american.edu

.gov = government agency e.g. epa.gov (the Environmental Protection Agency URL)

.com = commercial (or for-profit)e.g. amazon.com

.org = organizational (or non-profit)

e.g. un.org (the United Nations URL)' type="text">Check: URL / domain name

The URL can give you more information about the content you're viewing.

.edu = educational institution e.g. american.edu

.gov = government agency e.g. epa.gov (the Environmental Protection Agency URL)

.com = commercial (or for-profit)e.g. amazon.com

.org = organizational (or non-profit)

e.g. un.org (the United Nations URL)

Look for: affiliation with a larger site

Information about the site, or its parent site, may be found in the header, footer, or logo.


Look for: "About" or "More Information"

Before using a source you need to know who is responsible for the content. The "About" page should give you more information about the author and/or organization.

If a site doesn't have an "About" section, you should not consider using it as a source.



Use any information provided to determine the authority of a source.

Find out who may sponsor and/or influence the content you would like to use.

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