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Section: Evaluating Web Resources

Authoritativeness and Accuracy cont'd...

What credentials does the author or organization have?

If there is an author, try to determine exactly who he or she is. A good tactic is to search for information about them using a search engine:

  • Are they a professor, researcher, or acknowledged specialist in the field?
  • What else have they written on the topic?

If the information was produced by an organization, try to determine what sort of organization it is:

  • As discussed earlier, is it a commercial/personal site (usually .com), educational (often .edu or .ca), or a non-profit organization site (usually .org).
  • What expertise does the organization have in the field?

Depending on the nature of your topic, academic credentials or extensive publishing credits may not be of sole importance.  For example, the web can be a great source for primary materials; that is, it can provide first-hand accounts of an event or experience.  These may be provided by individuals close to the event who may not have any traditional 'expertise' in the area.  If you were doing research on labour conditions in the coffee industry, first-hand accounts of the experiences of coffee pickers may provide valuable research material that could enrich, expand upon, or challenge materials found from more academic sources. 

Some resources, such as Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute, have gained significant popularity.  Such resources can provide valuable and easily accessed information for research on many topics.  Again, however, one must be very critical when using such information, because in the case of Wikipedia, it is very difficult to determine the authority of the (often anonymous) author to speak about a certain topic.  In cases like these, always attempt to verify the accuracy of the information via another source.

Question: What information can you find about the author of, or publication containing, this article?

Simon Wiesenthal: Bogus 'Nazi Hunter' [opens in a new window]


arrow Ready to move on? Go to Discussion on Simon Wiesenthal: Bogus 'Nazi Hunter'



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