Authority: Questions to Consider
One thing to look for when trying to determine if a resource is credible is the authority of the person/people who created that resource. Look not only to see how much authority you would ascribe to the information creator, but also to determine the context and derivation of that authority. The following examples and questions may help you understand some possible methods of approaching this issue.
Why is your teacher an authority?
In most cases, when you walk into a new class, you generally accept that the teacher standing in front of you has some authority, at least in the relevant subject areas, and you respect what they tell you.
Once an authority, always an authority?
Sometimes it is easy to tell from someone’s title or job description where their authority lies, but often someone can have authority in areas that are less obvious. The following short exercise illustrates this point.
Everyone has authority in some contexts. For instance, if you have several years’ experience studying a certain topic, you are an emerging authority in that area. You can teach those with less authority than you even as you continue to learn from those with more. Take a few minutes to list areas where you might already be considered an authority. Is your authority in these areas recognized?
How did the authorities become authorities?
Ideally, the authority of a source is based on the expertise of the author(s) in the relevant subject area and on the influence their work has had. For a novice researcher this can be hard to determine, but a few things are usually good clues: