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Information Interrogation (Wayne College)

Who = Authority and Credibility

Think critically about who has put this information out in the universe.  We are looking the author, publisher, or entity that has either created the information or made it possible for you to view the information.

Information Interrogation: Who?

Ask yourself: Who is responsible for the information I am consuming?

  • Who is the author?
  • What are the author's credentials?
  • Does the author have the authority and credibility to address this specific topic?

Ask yourself: What does it mean to have authority?

How do you know if someone has authority or credibility? Think about what makes someone an expert on a particular subject. Look for credentials, keeping in mind which credentials you would consider most valuable in judging expertise on this topic.

  • Do they have advanced education in the discipline?
  • Have they been working in the field for many years?
  • Do many others consider the author to be an authority? For example, have you found that other sources quote this author?

Special consideration: Information offering medical, health, or nutrition advice:

  • Who is saying it?
    • Think critically about the author's expertise in this specific area.
  • Who gains financially when I follow this recommendation?
    • Was the research funded by an industry?
  • What are the wide-ranging implications of acting on the advice?
    • If the advice leads you to believe you need to change your habits (eating, buying, etc.) what would you be eating or buying instead?  (More on this under "WHY")

General considerations:

  • What information is provided about the author on the source itself?  Keep in mind that publisher's blurbs are designed to promote the sale of the item.
  • Search the catalog and periodical databases to determine what else the author has written, or look up the author in the Gale Biography in Context database.

Considerations based on format:


  • Look for author(s) credentials on cover, flaps, or back of the book, or in the introduction.
  • Locate reviews of the book.  A well-written professional review will address the authority of the author.
  • If the book is very new, reviews may not be readily available.  Locate reviews of other books written by the author (if there are any).
  • Is the publisher an organization, publishing house, vanity press, university press, or is it self-published?
  • University presses tend to publish books or journals with articles who are recognized experts in their fields.
  • Look at the publisher’s website to see if any additional information is provided about the author.

Periodical Articles

  • Is the author listed or is the article not signed or anonymous?
  • Has the article been cited by other authors (use a citation index)?
  • Are the author’s credentials listed? Scholarly articles may include the author(s) degrees and additional authority information. Sometimes the fine print will also list where the authors are affiliated or performing research.  Look into these organizations.
  • Search the catalog and periodical databases to determine what else the author has written, or look up the author in the Gale Biography in Context database.


  • Is the responsible party an individual, an organization, or a company? How do you know? Examine the URL closely.
  • If no author is listed on the page you are evaluating, break down the web address to determine responsible party.
  • Look for information provided on the site under the “About us” or “Our company” or “Our Mission” portion of the website.
  • Is there contact information provided for the author or responsible party?
  • If it is an organization or association, look it up in The Gale Directory Library online database.
  • If it is a company, do a company search in Business Source Complete online database.
  • Who owns the domain? Enter the URL in a domain registry:


Discuss the difference between direct and indirect authority.

Think about the example of a journalist writing for the New York Times.  The journalist may not have specific authority on the topic of the article, but may include named sources.

What would the journalist's direct authority be?  

Would you need to look into the authority of the named sources?