Answered By: Jennifer Harris
Last Updated: Jul 12, 2017     Views: 74

When evaluating a source by its authority, you need to find some basic information about the author: 

  • Who is the author?
  • Is he/she a subject expert on the topic?
  • What are the author’s credentials?

Who is the author?

Most sources will list an author but some, such as websites, may not readily identify the author’s name. The author may also be an entity, such as an organization, a government office, or a corporation.

Is he/she a subject expert on the topic?

Identify the author’s academic background and areas of research, if possible. If your source is a book, look for an author’s note, a foreword, or an “about the author” section towards the beginning or the end of the book. If your source is a website, look for an “About Me” section.

Books and articles might also identify the author’s university affiliation or academic credentials (advanced degrees, etc.). If so, you can use this information in a general Internet search to find a university-hosted biography page or a professional LinkedIn profile. If the author is a university professor, they may also have a published curriculum vitae (CV) that you can find online.

What are the author’s credentials?

Look for other information can be used to determine if the author is qualified to write about the topic. For example, where is the source located? Is it published in a peer-reviewed journal, hosted on a university website (.edu), or published on a blog or a social media site? The level of authority of the medium of publication can speak to the authority of the author.

Look for other publications by the same author. You can search by the author’s name using the Online Library Catalog or the Multi-Search.

Does the author have a reputation for being an expert on the topic? If your source is a book, book reviews are a good resource to answer this question, and you may be able to find several using the library’s Multi-Search.

Another helpful criteria is how often the source is used by other scholars. Google Scholar has a helpful “Cited by” number that can identify how many other sources use that particular resource as source material.

For more assistance in finding information about a specific author, please contact the Reference Desk using the chat button, at ask@snhu.libanswers.com, or 844.684.0456 (toll free), and we can offer additional suggestions.

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