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How do I research an author's credibility?

Last Updated: Mar 16, 2017  |  12400 Views

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Thank you for your question about determining an author's credibility.

A source being credible is a very important part of finding good and reliable research. There are several different ways to research an author's credibility, depending on the type of source you are using. While there are more than just these three types of sources, the strategies you use for these three, you can use for any source.

Books:

  • When you are determining the credibility of the author of a book, you will first check the book in the following places: Author's note (if there is one), Foreword and/or Introduction (if there is one), and the About the Author (often found on the back cover).
  • These sections usually provide information about who the author is and what sort of expertise he or she has on the topic.
  • Check to see if the author has any advanced degrees in the subject area.
  • If the book has any reviews, you can see if the reviews are from credible sources which you have actually heard of as opposed to random people.
  • If you need more information, you can search in the Baker database,Baker Library Search, for the author and see if there are any published reviews or biographical information available.

Articles: 

  • Articles can be tricky to verify if the author hasn't published many articles. Your first step is to see what clues are available in the article and in the publication.
  • Does the author list his or her credentials such as advanced degrees?
  • Is the publication a peer reviewed journal or is it a newspaper or magazine?
  • Does the publication have high standards?
  • Once you have answered those questions, you may want to check to see if the author has written other articles (especially if they are on a similar topic, as this increases the author's credibility). One way to do this is to search the database you found the original article in for that author.
  • You may also want to try searching Google Scholar for the article and the author. One of the nice features of Google Scholar is that it tells you how many other articles have cited that particular article.
  • Underneath the article will be a link, "Cited by #" which you can click on to see what other articles/authors found this to be credible information. A high "cited by" number increases the likelihood that the author is credible.

Websites:

  • Websites are even more tricky to verify. Many websites do not give much information about the content's author, if they even list an author.
  • The first step in verifying the credibility of a website's author is to make sure that there is an author.
  • Then, check to see if there is an "About Me" section of the website.
  • You also need to pay attention to when/if the website has been updated. A credible website keeps their site updated, even if the articles are not.
  • Articles that are more credible will have a date attached to indicate when they were either written or posted to the website.
  • You should also pay attention to where the article is hosted. Is it a .com website? Or is it a more credible .edu or .gov website?
  • Finally, you may need to search for the author's name in Google. You will want to put the author's name in quotation marks, ex: "John Smith". This may or may not find you additional information about your author.

Answered by Tessa BettsBookmark and Share

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