Authority is a very important criterion. You want to know the source of the information -- who is responsible for writing or producing it and is this person/group qualified. Look for various clues about the individual's credentials (academic degrees, professional experience, etc.) or about their affiliations with organizations that might indicate either expertise or bias.

Questions to ask [from Chico]:

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

.edu -- educational sites

Generally, an educational site can be trusted. Colleges and universities will have certain criteria established before a page gets published. But not always!

.gov -- U.S. government agency

Again, information on a .gov site should be valid. But not always!

.com -- commercial site

Anyone can get a .com domain. If it's a company site, the purpose may be to sell something.

Pay attention to the domain extension in order to evaluate the information found there.

Additional Questions:

  • Does the item even list an author or responsible party? If so, does it give information about the author?
    • For Web sites, it is often difficult to find an author or a party responsible for the information.
  • For Web sites, does an institution support the site?
  • is it a university, research institute, or government agency?
  • is it a reputable institution?
  • is there any bias inherent to this institution's mission?
  • if an Internet site, note the address (whose server is it on? the institution's? or free network server?)
  • Does the research cite any sources? If so, is the full citation given for any studies cited?
  • Are these sources reputable?

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