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A is for Authority

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  • Greetings from Drake Memorial Library! This module will explain the A in TRAP. A stands for Authority. When you think about authority, you think about whether the author or creator of a source can be trusted as accurate and reliable. A scholar is an expert. Just like an expert athlete, scholars become experts slowly, over time. They develop their skills by practicing, or studying and publishing repeatedly, just like an athlete. Scholars are usually experts about a specific topic, the same way an athlete usually specializes in a single sport.

  • 1) Which of the following is a true statement about Authority? *
    1) Which of the following is a true statement about Authority?
  • 1) Great job!

    You answered the question correctly.

  • 1) Good try!

    The answer is: All authority, or level of expertise, is constructed over time and contextual based upon the field of study. If you think about something you're good at, you likely did not just wake up one day as an expert. You had to practice and build up your skill over time. Your expertise in that area also doesn't make you an expert in related areas, right? For example, being a great pastry chef doesn't automatically make you good at making soup.

  • Scholarly expertise, or authority, may look different in different fields, but it is always important to consider. And, on good sources, it’s often easy to see if the author or creator is an authority. When you look at a high quality source, you often see the expertise of the author on the source itself. For example, on many peer-reviewed scholarly articles, you can find a section where the authors are listed, along with their qualifications.

  • 2) Your instructor is likely a published authority in the subject area they are teaching to you, and even may have a specialization within the field. *
    2) Your instructor is likely a published authority in the subject area they are teaching to you, and even may have a specialization within the field.
  • 2) Great job!

    You answered the question correctly.

  • 2) Good try!

    However, your instructor IS likely a published authority in the subject area they are teaching to you, and even may have a specialization within the field. You may even be able to look up something they've written to see what their specialty is!

  • Sometimes, information about the author or creator is harder to find. For example, to find out more about the creator of some websites, you may have to look in the “about us” section, or sometimes a separate web search. For some sources, you might have to look for clues about the reputation of the creator, like government agencies or institutions.

  • 3) The authority of a website's author may be more difficult to determine because... *
    3) The authority of a website's author may be more difficult to determine because...
  • 3) Great job!

    You answered the question correctly.

  • 3) Good try!

    The answer is that both statements are true. Anyone can publish online, and you may have to search harder for information about them or the organization for which they work. You often have to look in the About Me/Us section, look for contact information, or even do a separate search to find out more about the author of a website. Often, authors' credentials and/or institutional affiliation are listed along with their names in a scholarly source.

  • There are questions you can ask to help determine if your source is appropriately authoritative. For example:

  • Who is the author, publisher, or creator of the source?

    Who is the author, creator, or publisher of the source you have found? It maybe a person, or it could be a government or non-profit organization, or a company. If nobody is willing to take credit for the information, that may be a warning sign.

  • Does the source tell me anything about the author?

    Does the source indicate anything about the author? Authority may be inferred from the source. The authority of a government official publishing on the official CDC website is harder to refute than someone publishing in a blog about food poisoning.

  • Is the author a qualified authority on this topic?

    Is the author an established authority in this field? In other words, do they know what they're talking about, and how do I know that? How long have they been in the field? Have they published before on the topic? Is this their specific area of study?

  • Do I know where the author got their information?

    Where did the author get their information? You should question the authority if there is no evidence of the author's research. Look for the resources the author used to put their own information together (like a references list or bibliography).

  • Think of it this way:

    When you buy shoes, the authority factor might affect your decision. You may want to buy a specific brand of shoes. Maybe you know that this brand is always stylish, or maybe you know that brand fits your feet better than other brands.

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