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An information source's context--where it came from, its audience, format, and how it is used--help determine its authority and appropriateness.
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1. Ask students to find several scholarly sources on the same topic that take very different stands. How was it that the authors came to different conclusions? Does it have to do with authority?
2. Have students look at a blog, a video on YouTube, a collection of tweets, or some other type of social media regarding a contemporary event. Ask them to describe how they would analyze and evaluate the authority of the author(s) of the information. Are there ways to determine whether the individual was an actual witness or participant in the events? Are there ways to identify whether the individual or group that developed a collection of information has a particular political bias? Can they determine whether the author(s) has a particular status within the group s/he represents or is the individual reporting as an "average citizen"?
3. Assign students a scholar/researcher in the field. Ask students to explore that person’s career and ideas by locating biographical information, preparing a bibliography of the scholar’s writings, analyzing the reaction of the scholarly community to the researcher’s work, and examining the scholarly network in which the scholar works.
(From D. Leonard Corgan Library, King's College. "Term Paper Alternatives: Ideas for Information Based Assignments")
4. Identify significant people in a discipline. Consult a variety of biographical resources and subject encyclopedias to gain a broader appreciation for the context in which important accomplishments were achieved.
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