Framework Focus: Authority

Information resources reflect their creators' expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required.

5. Authority is Constructed and Contextual

Key Sentence: Novice learners may need to rely on basic indicators of authority, such as type of publication or author credentials, where experts recognize schools of thought or discipline-specific paradigms.

Knowledge practices:

  1. define different types of authority, such as subject, societal, or special;
  2. use research tools and indicators of authority to determine the credibility of sources;
  3. understand that disciplines have acknowledged authorities: scholars and publications considered "standard";
  4. recognize that authoritative content may include sources of all media types;
  5. acknowledge they are developing their own authoritative voices and responsibilities;
  6. understand the increasingly social nature of the information ecosystem where authorities connect.


  1. develop and maintain an open mind when encountering conflicting perspectives
  2. seek out authoritative sources, recognizing that authority may be granted or displayed in unexpected ways
  3. develop awareness of their own biases and worldview
  4. question traditional notions of granting authority and recognize the value of diverse ideas and worldviews
  5. apply frequent self-evaluation when determining authority

We teach:

  • Evaluating sources through problem-based learning (CUFS 100)
  • Finding and evaluating peer-reviewed information (ENGL 101, NURS 100 and many others)
  • Discipline-specific databases (ENGL 102 and throughout the majors)
  • Evaluating author credentials and their relationship to credibility (ENGL 101)
  • Avoiding plagiarism (workshops and on demand in classes)
  • Citation-ranking database tools like Scopus (PHSC 514 and EXER 451)
  • Informational texts versus storytelling (EDUC 450)
  • Using multiple source types for comprehensive evaluation (BADM 100, 200, and 536)
  • "Quality of evidence pyramid" for clinical source evaluation (DPT 702/764, OMED 502 and above; MSBS 544)
  • Supplementing “standard’ Bible commentaries with recent articles (various CHRS and DIVI courses)
  • Legal versus social science perspectives on "truth" (HSEC 495)
  • Encourage use of video and maps as sources (HIST 351, HIST 448)

“Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.” Association of College and Research Libraries, 11 Jan. 2016, Accessed 21 June 2016.

Download Framework Resources for Librarians.