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Author Credibility: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Author Credibility
  • 0:20 Determining Author Credibility
  • 2:30 Websites as Sources
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Firestone
Find out what author credibility is and how it makes a difference to your research paper. Learn how to determine author credibility and where to find reliable sources.

Definition of Author Credibility

Author credibility refers to the credentials and other qualities that indicate whether or not a source is reliable. An author's credibility helps support your ideas and arguments in an essay or research paper. If your sources lack credibility, it undermines the effectiveness of your paper and perhaps your own credibility.

Determining Author Credibility

Be sure you're looking in the right places for your sources. College and public libraries subscribe to aggregated databases which have thousands (or maybe even millions) of scholarly journals, so this is a good place to start. Other sources of reliable information are trade journals, professional association websites (American Medical Association, for example), reputable newspapers and their websites (The New York Times, for example), and TV network websites. Many articles from these sources are in aggregated databases as well.

When you find an article or book that suits your topic, spend some time researching the author or organization. Are they represented by a reputable organization or company? What degrees does the author have? If they have advanced degrees in the field they're writing about, they have met the minimum requirements for credibility. If the article is on the website of a reputable university or widely respected organization, it is probably a credible source. However, you are the best judge of whether or not the author's work is suitable for your paper.

Additional things to look for:

  • Evaluate the article and decide if the author's ideas have merit.
  • Determine if the author stands to gain financially from the conclusions. If the author only supports an organization's bottom line (a drug company's new product, for example), then this undermines the author's credibility.
  • Check for a list of sources at the end of the article. A credible author will provide the sources used in his research.
  • Make sure the material is up to date. The source might have been credible at one time, but might be out of date now.
  • Consider your audience and choose sources they're likely to recognize as credible. For a research paper, peer-reviewed journal articles are a good bet. 'Peer-reviewed' means that the articles have been read and approved by professionals in the same academic discipline as the author. For a non-academic paper, audiences will recognize and respect newspapers and magazines as credible sources.

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