Checking Author Background
When incorporating "expert" information from sources other than peer-reviewed journals (Web sites and blogs, but also books aimed at popular audiences) into a college paper, there are a few routine checks you should do on authors. Experts produce material for the Web, but so do passionate amateurs who are not involved with the larger body of scholarship in the field.
Step One: Find the Author's Own Statements
- "about" sections on Web sites
- "about the author" sections in books or at the end of articles
- resumes or curriculum vitae (c.v.) posted online at author's university or other place of employment
Step Two: Find the Author's Dissertation/Thesis and Publications
- Look up the author's name in Dissertation Abstracts (if the author's advanced degree is from another country, try other searches listed on this page).
- You may need to use the name of the university from the author's c.v., especially if the author has a common surname
- If author is a married female, you may need to be creative with advanced search or consult a librarian
- Do an Author Search in Academic Search Premier and/or a subject database.
- In Academic Search Premier, limit your search results to Academic Journals.
- If available, look for information on how many times the authors' works have been cited by other works in the database
Step Three: Identify Author's Employer and Funding
- Is the author working for a foundation, institute or other non-university setting?
- Check for financial disclosure statements in publications, on Web sites and through online searches.
Step Four: Evaluate
- Does the author have a Ph.D. or other appropriate degree in the field in which (s)he claims expertise?
- Does the author publish in academic journals?
- Do other scholars cite this author's works?
- Do the citations look circular (same people always citing one another's work)?
- Do funding sources point to any potential conflict of interest?