Fact From Fiction

Author Credibility

Not all authors are created equal.  As an information user, you should always check to see if a person has the authority to speak or write on a given topic.  You must consider the credentials of an information source. Credentials may include professional affiliations, academic and professional credentials, reputation, and prior publications.

What to Look For

Who is the author? Credible sources are written by authors respected in their fields of study. Responsible, credible authors will cite their sources so that you can check the accuracy of and support for what they've written. (This is also a good way to find more sources for your own research.)

What is the author's purpose? When deciding which sources to use, you should take the purpose or point of view of the author into consideration. Is the author presenting a neutral, objective view of a topic? Or is the author advocating one specific view of a topic? Who is funding the research or writing of this source? A source written from a particular point of view may be credible; however, you need to be careful that your sources don't limit your coverage of a topic to one side of a debate.

Who is your audience? If you are writing for a professional or academic audience, they may value peer-reviewed journals as the most credible sources of information. If you are writing for a group of residents in your hometown, they might be more comfortable with mainstream sources, such as Time or Newsweek. A younger audience may be more accepting of information found on the Internet than an older audience might be.

Be especially careful when evaluating Internet sources! Never use Web sites where an author cannot be determined or is listed as "anonymous", unless the site is associated with a reputable institution such as a respected university, a credible media outlet, government program or department, or well-known non-governmental organizations. Sites such as Wikipedia, which are collaboratively developed by users, vary in the quality of the content. Because anyone can add or change content, the validity of information on such sites may not meet the standards for academic research.

adapted from Purdue's Online Writing Lab: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/

Social Media Account Verification

On Twitter and Facebook, it's hard to distinguish authentic accounts from fan and fake accounts. The blue check mark next to an account is a verification that the account is authentic. Can you spot the fake account?