Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required.
Experts understand that authority is a type of influence recognized or exerted within a community. Experts view authority with an attitude of informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought. Experts understand the need to determine the validity of the information created by different authorities and to acknowledge biases that privilege some sources of authority over others, especially in terms of others’ worldviews, gender, sexual orientation, and cultural orientations. An understanding of this concept enables novice learners to critically examine all evidence—be it a short blog post or a peer-reviewed conference proceeding—and to ask relevant questions about origins, context, and suitability for the current information need. Thus, novice learners come to respect the expertise that authority represents while remaining skeptical of the systems that have elevated that authority and the information created by it. Experts know how to seek authoritative voices but also recognize that unlikely voices can be authoritative, depending on need. Novice learners may need to rely on basic indicators of authority, such as type of publication or author credentials, where experts recognize schools of thought or discipline-specific paradigms.
Learners who are developing their information literate abilities
define different types of authority, such as subject expertise (e.g., scholarship), societal position (e.g., public office or title), or special experience (e.g., participating in a historic event);
use research tools and indicators of authority to determine the credibility of sources, understanding the elements that might temper this credibility;
understand that many disciplines have acknowledged authorities in the sense of well-known scholars and publications that are widely considered “standard,” and yet, even in those situations, some scholars would challenge the authority of those sources;
recognize that authoritative content may be packaged formally or informally and may include sources of all media types;
acknowledge they are developing their own authoritative voices in a particular area and recognize the responsibilities this entails, including seeking accuracy and reliability, respecting intellectual property, and participating in communities of practice;
understand the increasingly social nature of the information ecosystem where authorities actively connect with one another and sources develop over time.
Learners who are developing their information literate abilities
develop and maintain an open mind when encountering varied and sometimes conflicting perspectives;
motivate themselves to find authoritative sources, recognizing that authority may be conferred or manifested in unexpected ways;
develop awareness of the importance of assessing content with a skeptical stance and with a self-awareness of their own biases and worldview;
question traditional notions of granting authority and recognize the value of diverse ideas and worldviews;
are conscious that maintaining these attitudes and actions requires frequent self-evaluation.
Evaluate information and its sources critically
FRAMEWORK: AUTHORITY IS CONSTRUCTED AND CONTEXTUAL
Lesson Objectives: Upon completion of information literacy instruction, students should be able to:
Identify qualities that help determine currency, relevance, accuracy, and purpose in a source.
Defend source credibility using indicators of authority.
Assess content critically and with an awareness of source and personal biases.
Source Evaluation! (SR code added)
These are the 5 Ws of source evaluation. Each W has a series of questions to ask so you can evaluate your source. This is a quick cheat sheet to help with that.
Who: Who is the author? Are they experts in the subject? Can they be contacted?
What: What is the purpose of the source? Is it fact or opinion based? Are the claims and conclusions supported?
Where: Where did you find the information? Are citations included? Where does the research money come from?
Why: Why would you use the source? Why is the source reliable?
When: When was the information created or updated? Has new research been done? Does it matter to you if it’s current or not?
Content created by Georgia Highlands College library, creative commons license C-BY-SA (2019)
Accuracy infographic (SR code added)
Source Evaluation for Accuracy
To evaluate a source for accuracy, you should ask yourself questions like the following:
Where does the information come from?
Does the evidence provided support the facts / information?
Can you verify the information?
Does emotion make the argument seem "wild and crazy"?
Does the source have poor spelling and grammar?
Authority infographic (SR code added)
To check a source for authority, ask yourself these questions:
What are the author's credentials?
Who is the author affiliated with?
What are the author's qualifications?
Is the website connected to a reputable agency or organization?
Does the URL tell you anything about the source?
Is there any contact information available?
Does the website say who they are or why they exist?
Purpose infographic (SR code added)
To evaluate a source for Purpose, ask these questions:
What is the purpose of the information?
Are the author's intentions clear?
Is the source presenting facts or trying to persuade with opinions?
Is the point of view objective and impartial?
Is there evident favoritism for one "side"?
Relevance (sr code added)
When evaluating a source for relevance, ask youself:
Does the information relate to the topic?
Who is the intended audience?
Is the information written at an appropriate level?
Have you looked at different sources?
Would you (or your instructor) use the source in a paper?
Currency (SR code added)
To evaluate a source for currency, ask
When was it published?
Has it been revised?
Is the information current?
Do the web links work?
Questions to ask for recognizing bias
Does the writer use overly positive or overly negative language about the subject
Does the writer use emotionally charged language about the subject
Does the writer use vague or generalized language about the subject?
Does the writer omit important facts?
Does the writer add information and evidence that seems unnecessary just to bolster their point?