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Art Research: Types of Resources and their Credibility

Authority and Credibility

The credibility of an author is a key element in determining the quality of sources you have located.  There are several ways of determining if an author/creator is credible. You will often find a few key experts on a subject and see their names repeatedly.

For Articles

To find the authority for articles there are more steps involved.  First note the publication the article appeared in, check with UlrichsWeb to see if the publication is a newspaper, magazine, or a refereed journal.  Newspapers and magazines are popular sources often written by staff writers not experts in the field.  Academic Journals are written by experts and evaluated by peers (peer-reviewed journals) offering a level of credibility to the article.  Academic articles will usually include their credentials or affiliations.  References (footnotes, endnotes, etc.) will also implicate authority, by offering other scholars mentioned in the article.  Just because a journal is prominent in the field does not guarantee that its published work is credible.  Author affiliation with a specific publisher, society, or institution is also not a finite indication of reliability.  Most databases will allow you to search the author of one article with a simple click on the author of the original article, this can show an author’s publication record and area of expertise.

Search for the journal title then Look for a referee jersey icon to indicate that a journal is refereed. Refereed means the same as peer reviewed.  The Mississippi Quarterly and Southern Spaces are both peer reviewed journals while Southern Cultures is not.


Search Google Scholar for the author and article.  Google Scholar provides a feature that will tell you how often the article has been cited by others (a high number of citations is a good indicator that the author is credible).  Another feature in Google Scholar is the ability to link to an author's profile.


For Book Authors

Check the forward, preface, introduction, book jacket, and/or back cover of the book as they typically provide information on the author’s credentials.

Searching the library catalog or World Cat will show other titles published by the author, often illustrating the author’s areas of expertise.  This can also show the publication range for this author; Are they publishing currently or decades ago? Are they publishing contemporarily? Are there multiple publications on a topic, or just one? 

Search databases (even Amazon) for book reviews that may also mention the qualifications of the author.  Check to see if there are positive reviews. 

You can also Google the author surrounding their name in quotation marks for example “Smaella Lewis” make sure to double-check the Wikipedia results.  If a university is listed go to that site and search, look for reputable biography websites.  You can also search the author and to see if they are listed on any educational web sites.

Art History Sources

This document offers examples of the types of sources related to art history that you might find as you research.  They are listed hierarchically from the most scholarly and reliable at the top and highlighted in green, to the least reliable at the bottom. 

Author&authority by LKaras Work

For Websites

Websites are the least credible of resources and generally should not be used for academic research.  Author or creator information is often not included or is hidden on an “About” page.  Check the page for updated information and to see who hosts the site ( .com, .edu, .gov, etc.).  Googling can be a way to double-check the information about a subject or author but should not be the only research location.