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Evaluating Information: Expertise

A research guide to evaluating print and online resources

Expertise

  • Who is the author?  If the work is a website, who maintains it?
     
    • James I. Robertson, Jr. wrote an essay on General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson for the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War.  A quick check in any search engine reveals that Robertson is a noted Civil War scholar and one of the preeminent authorities on Jackson.
       
    • The author of The True but Little Known Facts about Women and Aids is Dr. "Juatta Lyon Fueul." The author writes that "according to a new Belgian study, spread of AIDS in Europe may be linked to sharing elevators with politically correct ambulance drivers."  (Read the author's name again, this time slowly.)
       
    • The Mississippi Writers Page is maintained by the Department of English at the University of Mississippi and is designed "as a source of accurate and timely information for the serious literary scholar."
       
      • The article on author Eudora Welty for the Mississippi Writers Page is by Carol Ann Johnston.  Johnston's biography on the website notes that as a professor of English, she teaches courses on southern women writers and has written a critical study of Welty. 
         
    • Arthur R. Butz believes that the Holocaust is "the hoax of the twentieth century."  Does he have any professional credentials in this area of study? His home page, which has not been updated since 1997, notes that he is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Northwestern University.
       
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or an email address?  If the work is a book, what do reviews indicate?  Does the website provide any biographical details?
     
    • Jean Hastings Ardell is the author of the critically acclaimed Breaking into Baseball: Women and the National Pastime (2005). The book includes biographical material on the author.  On Ardell's home page she lists her phone number and email address as well as information about herself as an "author, editor, speaker, researcher, [and] teacher."
       
    • Causes of the Civil War, an extensive collection of links to primary documents, is updated often by James F. Epperson, a member of the Ann Arbor, Michigan, Civil War Round Table and a person with a "life-long interest in the American Civil War."
       
    • A reviewer of Stacy Schiff's The Witches: Salem, 1692, writes that the book "is a must read for anyone intrigued by this baffling and horrifying chapter from America's Puritan past."  Schiff's home page reveals that she has won numerous awards for her books.