What is authority? The author is knowledgeable about the topic. They have formal education or training. If the author is not known, the organization providing the information is reputable and unbiased.
How do you know? Examine or look up the author's credentials and affiliations. Can you find where they work? Where they graduated? Are those reputable, scholarly and unbiased organizations? Try to find more sources written by the author and examine them. Can you find articles or books they wrote on the same subject that were published in scholarly journals or presses?
If the author is not known, look at the “About Us” section of the website or look in the footer for the name of the sponsoring organization or group. Is the sponsoring organization staffed by people with formal education or training? Does the sponsoring organization have a specific agenda or purpose that may indicate bias?
Is the language and tone in the article measured and unbiased? Does it include multiple points of view and acknowledge weaknesses? Or is it biased? Does it only support one point of view? Is the tone inflammatory or insulting? Does it include many superlatives (ex. worst people…, best medicine…,) or sweeping generalizations (ex. everyone…, all the products…,).
Bottom line: Be skeptical of online articles that you cannot determine the credentials of the author or organization. Avoid “personal” websites or blogs. Avoid biased websites.
What is accuracy? The claims made on the website are supported by facts you can verify.
How do you know? Does the article contain citations or resources? Are there links to supporting facts, statistics, studies or quotes from users? Can you find the facts, statistics, studies or quotes and verify they are correct and not taken out of context?
Bottom line: Be skeptical of articles with dead links or links to “evidence” that does not seems to match the claim it is supposed to support. Avoid articles that make claims without supporting evidence, such as studies, statistics or quotes, that you can see in their full context.
What is currency? The website has a recent publication/release date (for news articles) or “last updated” statement (for informational sites) and it has been updated recently.
How do you know? For legitimate trade journals, the publication date will be included in the “by-line,” which is normally found either at the top or the bottom of the article. For webpages, look for “last updated” statements at the top, bottom, footer or header of a web page.
Bottom line: Be skeptical of online articles that do not indicate when they were published. Be aware that, without knowing the date of publication, it is possible our knowledge/understanding of the topic has significantly evolved since the information in the undated article was published.