Vetting Authors of Secondary Sources
NOTE! This section doesn’t apply to primary sources, only to secondary.
Vetting Author Authority Rank
Vetting of authors of secondary sources is a bit more complicated. Secondary source authors are analyzing, interpreting, and deconstructing events to find patterns and then tell you their conclusions as if it were fact. Sometimes secondary sources just extrapolate their favorite theories and pet peeves and present them as divine canonical works from above. You must be on the lookout for minor bullshit, partial bullshit, and full on steaming bullshit.
In the case of books, there is always the bias to make the book sellable. As a general rule in the analyst community, if you can identify the bias, you can contain it. It is only when you don’t see the bias, that their hidden agenda may skew your analysis.
For evaluation of secondary source authors, I just look for specific things and mentally add and subtract bonuses to their scorecard in my head. However, I will try to quantify it for those of you who want to try to understand how I evaluate my secondary source authors.
Vetting using the Taylor scorecard method.
+6 if author is known to publish in peer-reviewed scholarly journals
+5 if written with citations that go to primary sources or +2 for secondary citations
+3 article is hosted on a government or university’s website (.gov or .edu)
+2 article hosted by a reputable news media (ie. NY Times, Washington Post)
+2 if author publishes other articles in non-peer-reviewed journals
+2 if author publishes contact mailing address
+1 if author publishes contact email
+1 appears written for a scholarly audience
+2 originates from government report ( modern or vintage, doesn’t matter)
-1 refers to any “they” as an vague Illuminati
-2 if hosted on a ‘free’ web hosting or free blog like xxxxxx.blogspot.com
-4 for no author name given to an article (government report/police report- no penalty as they are sometimes author-less reports)
-4 Writing is poorly organized, there are spelling and grammatical errors, these point to superficial thinking and research
I start all articles at a default ‘5’ and add the bonus or penalty from there.
Final Total –
From 0-3 or below, the author is to be almost ignored,
from 4-7 the author may have some credibility but be cautious,
8-14 higher it is safe to put faith in the authors credibility
15 and up – Highly believable
Of course, you should check some of the cited sources. If they turn out bogus, meaningless, or inappropriate, that is a major penalty. If I were to put a number on it, I’d say -8.
If you really, really get into source authority, you may want to see the five levels of authority that the Journal of the Association for History and Computing (JAHC) has developed. Just google ‘JAHC authority levels’ or see the link below
Some of these may require you to do a little deep web research on the author.