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Can I Use This?

Can I use This - Who

This is the third of seven video modules in Langara Library's Can I Use This? Evaluating Your Sources Tutorial. This video examines the "Who" criteria in the 5W method. Use this criteria to determine: Who is responsible for writing the information? What are their credentials? Who is responsible for publishing the information?

Video Transcript:

Who focuses on who wrote the content of the source and who is making the content available. In other words, we should be asking ourselves questions about the author and the publisher of the source.

The kinds of questions we can ask are:

  • What are the author's credentials?
  • Are they a scholar? A researcher? A journalist or professional author? A blogger?
  • Do they hold any relevant degrees?
  • Are they affiliated with an institution such as a college or university?

When looking at popular sources, you will usually be looking at the work of a journalist or professional writer - not a scholar or professional researcher. However, even if an author doesn't hold a PhD in an area, first-hand experience or extensive research can be an important form of expertise. To learn more about an author, you may need to do some more research. Some websites will link the author's name to a biographical note while others will include a contributors or about page detailing their authors' qualifications.

Print books may also include biographical information about the author. If you can't find any of these, try to search the web to learn more about the author. Let's start our research by doing a Google search to see if we can find any reliable sources on the web. Here's a page that we found through a Google search. We can see it refers to itself as a trusted source. Let's see if this is true.

Think back to the questions we will ask ourselves about the author of this web page. Who is the author of this article? Below the title you can see that the author of the article is Dr. Charles Livingston. Let's see if we can find out more about him from this website. The about us page on the website is a good place to start. It contains a profile on Dr. Charles Livingston. Reading through, we can see that Dr. Livingston is a certified chiropractic physician, certified wellness practitioner, and a certified advanced nutritionist. Chiropractic doctors will have degrees from chiropractic colleges, but they may not have attended traditional medical school. In addition, the occupations of wellness practitioner and nutritionist are unregulated terms in Canada and the US, and people who call themselves nutritionists may have varying levels of education. He is not clearly affiliated with a university or research institution. He has eight years as a chiropractic doctor and thousands of hours as a nutritionist.

This doctor's qualifications do not seem to grant him expertise on the topic of air pollution and how it seriously damages human health. Who also focuses on the publisher of the source. We can ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Who is making this information available?
  • Who is in control of updating, changing, or removing information?
  • Who is taking collective responsibility for this information?

From our example, we can see that PerfectOrigins.com is the publisher of this source. The about us page on this website will again give us more information about the company, outlet, or people responsible for that information. It may tell us more about the author or the website's mission. Be sure to look here for more details when you are evaluating a website. Remember that information published exclusively on the web, for example, in a blog post or on a website, may not have been formally reviewed. When in doubt, look to the about page for more details about the website's editorial process. Similar to the authors credentials, let us ask ourselves whether the publisher is reputable.

As far as we can tell, the publisher is not associated with an educational institution or research organization. We can see Perfect Origins has a Scientific Advisory Board made up of medical professionals. However, there's no indication that they review the articles on the web site for accuracy. The domain name may also give you a hint. and is often associated with businesses. If we read closer, we can see this website is trying to sell nutritional supplements. Its primary purpose is not to share high-quality health information.

Finding out who is responsible for the information you are using is an extremely important step when evaluating your sources. Even if you aren't able to find very much additional information about the author or publisher, as long as you are considering these questions you will be able to use sources from a more well-informed stance than if you took them at face value.

In the next module, we will introduce the second W - what which asks us to think carefully about the kinds of sources we are using.