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Arkansas State University

Evaluating Websites: Authority

How to tell the good from the bad.

Authority

Because anyone can put anything on the Internet, it's good to pay attention to who made the web page.  If someone isn't willing to claim a page, it's probably not a good source to use.  A good webpage is one that lists its author and cites information.  If someone can't back what they're saying, then the information becomes suspicious.  Even when a site lists an author and gives citations, it's a good idea to examine the information.  Are they legit resources? 
 

Some questions to ask: 

Can you even tell who the author is? 

Do they have credentials? 

Do they have authority to speak on the subject?

Does the author cite their sources?

Can you contact the author?

Does the web page have a sponsor?

Examples

Data on Autism: Five Facts to Know   

Vaccines cause autism: Supporting evidence

 CDC - Data on Autism                 Vaccines Cause Autism Site
 This site is affiliated with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and pulls information from the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. It also links to scientific reports as well as other .gov websites and tools.   This site lists a non-medical author and quotes several books, all promoting the same ideology as the site (and all found on the site). This, the fact it is a .com site and the massive amount of ads, probably means this is not a good site to use.
         
Feline Reactions to Bearded Men   Martin Luther King, Jr. -
A True Historical Examination 
 Feline Reactions                               MLK Site 
While this humor site lists authors and cites several sources, citations include things like Seuss, Doctor, "Feline Responses to Hats"  (Dr. Seuss, Cat in the Hat).   This site has no authors, but it does give a citation.  However the citation is for a book review, not to the actual book.  Why? (Answer: the quote can be taken out of context easier from the review than the book)