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. Readers should view authority with an attitude of informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought.
Citation Chaining: Look at whom the authority is citing and who is citing them. Citations are one way to follow the conversation that occurs among individuals interested in a common research topic. In many cases a source is cited often because other scholars or scientists believe the study provided useful information. However, a high citation count does not always mean a study is unflawed or highly regarded. In some cases a study may be cited frequently because researchers have raised questions about it. A careful citation analysis can give you a fuller understanding of how a source has been part of larger discussions.
Consensus: Not all experts in a field agree, but there may be a general consensus on a topic. Statements or articles produced by the national or international organization that represents a given field usually represent such consensus.
Audience Analysis: Consider which authorities are likely to influence or persuade the audience you are targeting with your research project. Think about the different types of authority you might choose to convince different audiences, such as your parents, your friends, your teacher or professor, or your city council. Even for audiences that seem similar (e.g. university professors who work in different disciplines), you may be more persuasive with different types of authority. Would you choose the same authority if your audience was a sociology professor, a chemistry professor, or a theatre professor?
Adapted from the New Literacies Alliance's "Question Authority":https://www.softchalkcloud.com/lesson/serve/z9RU6rMtunXm7a/html