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Anthropology: Student's Practical Guide to Writing Papers: Ascertaining Whether a Source is Authoritative and Reliable

Authoritative/Reliable Sources

NO matter what kind of resource you are using: a webpage (and there are many kinds of webpages -- those created by governments and those created by businesses, blogs, news, etc.), an article in a journal or magazine, or a published book, it is important that you go through certain steps to determine how authoritative the source is.  Use the Drop-Down Tabs beneath this one to learn more about evaluating sources:

  • The Information Cycle: Identifying the stage in the Information Cycle in which a particular kind of resource is disseminated or published can help you determine how authoritative it is.  An initial category of resources (which includes news, blogs, discussions in various media) generally report on or discuss the initial appearance and early stages of a particular phenomenon, while people are still gathering facts and have not had time to reflect significantly on what they are observing.  Scholarly article and books come out later, after at least the initial stages of a particular event, development, or process have unfolded and after the authors have had time to review other sources and/or carry out their own research.   
  • Web Sites

  • The Peer Review Process (Which applies to some Books and Journals)

  • Additional ways to Differentiate Between Scholarly and Popular Article Literature (besides identifying whether a Publication Practices Peer Review)