Skip to Main Content

FYI/FYH - Goss-Peirce


Understanding authority is a critical aspect of information literacy because "information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility" (ACRL, 2015) and picking credible sources of information makes our own work more credible as well. Expertise can be created or evaluated in several ways and, depending on our own needs and the context of our own work, the type of expertise and authority we are looking for in a resource may vary. There is rarely a time where there is a single form of authority and expertise on a topic, so it is important to evaluate information with an eye toward the perspectives, identities, and potential missing voices in the discussion of the topic.


Authority is constructed

There are several ways for a creator to establish expertise in certain areas, but scholarly materials tend to favor education and professional experiences when it comes to establishing authority. Meanwhile, other material forms of information sources may be more inviting to creators whose expertise is drawn more from lived experiences and identities when it comes to establishing authority. In this way, authority is constructed because the different types of authority communities may recognize varies.


Authority is Contextual

Because it is rare for a single authority to exist on a topic, the way we evaluate and reconcile different authorities directly connects to our own purposes. The information sources we select reflect the perspectives, voices, experiences, and/or types of sources we are looking for to answer/inform our inquiry or work. In this way, authority is contextual because the types of authority we engage is determined by our own needs.


Why does authority matter?

Because authority is constructed and contextual, it is critical to recognize that different authorities' information on a topic can have simultaneous validity. It is also vital to understand that certain biases may lead to some types of authority to be privileged over others, especially when it comes to lived experiences and identities. To do this, we must ask:

  • Who gets to be an authority in this discussion? Where is their authority coming from?
  • Why are we choosing certain sources of information over others?
  • What material types of sources do we presume to have more authority and credibility?
  • What voices, perspectives, or experiences are missing from this discussion?
  • What types of authority do we need to inform our own work?


All of this being said, not all evaluations of authority are subjective! Regardless of the context, there are always going to be sources that are better or more trustworthy and sources that are objectively less credible.


Association of College & Research Libraries [ACRL]. (2015). Framework for information literacy for higher education.