Evaluating Research Sources

Authorship

A second criterion to examine is¬†authorship¬†, which can be thought of in this way: who wrote or compiled the information that you are considering, and how much knowledge does this person have of your subject? Would your audience immediately recognize the name of the author because s/he is well known or is considered to be an expert in her/his field? What credentials does the author have that make you feel that s/he is knowledgeable in this area? Perhaps you’ll find that this person has a degree in that area or that s/he has written fifteen books on the subject. Examining the author’s position in the organization and/or her/his title Director of Research, Head Investigator, Certified Mechanic, Vice President, etc. may also give you a better idea of the author’s level of knowledge and experience.

Keep in mind, however, that while titles and degrees do provide insight into a source’s overall competence, these are not the only indicators of validity. Personal experience or eyewitness accounts can be equally compelling and reliable. A book researched and written by a university history professor might provide important details and dates to support your topic of famous WWII battles. However, audience members would probably also find that a veteran’s personal account of these battles is equally valid.