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Chapter 19. Cast a Critical Eye > An Embarrassment of Riches - Pg. 216

Cast a Critical Eye 216 Warning:The writer's education and academic degrees must match the field in which he or she is claiming expertise. Having a medical degree in brain surgery, for example, doesn't give someone the credentials to write about rocket science--or any other subject outside his or her field. What's Behind Curtain #3?: Source As you evaluate the materials you located, consider where the source comes from, its sponsoring agency, publisher, and so on. For example, portable sources, such as CD-ROMs and encyclope- dias, are like printed books--they have credited writers and publishers. In addition, they change only when a new version is issued. As a result, you can determine their value as you would a book. Online sources, in contrast, may be published anonymously, so you can't evaluate the writer(s). Also, they can be updated and revised without notification, which means there could be a lot of fingers in that pie. Most frustrating of all, the Web site may vanish without warning. This makes it difficult to evaluate its reliability as well as its origin. It's tough to work with something invisible. Ask yourself these questions as you consider the source of a reference piece: · Can I find the source of this reference piece? If not, it gets the heave-ho. · Is the source reputable? The best sources are well known; they appear on lists of "recommen- ded" books or sites. · Does the piece come from a place known for its authority, such as a reputable publisher or sponsored Web site? If the answer is yes, you've likely got a keeper. If the answer is no, throw the source overboard--or consider it with a leery eye. The Web is a fabulous reference source (as well as a great place to hang out when there's nothing on TV), but it requires special evaluation. It is tempting to judge all online sources as equally valid,