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  • 1 School of Information Management, Wuhan University, 16 Luojia Hill Road, Wuhan 430072, Hubei, People's Republic of China
  • | 2 School of Information Management, Sun Yat-sen University, Guanghzou, People's Republic of China
  • | 3 University of California, Riverside, CA, USA
  • | 4 Shenzhen Institute of Standards and Technology, Shenzhen, People's Republic of China
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Abstract

Authority generally relates to expertise, recognition of official status of a source, and the reputation of the author and publisher. As the Internet has become a ubiquitous tool in modern science and scholarly research, evaluating the authority of free online scholarly information is becoming crucial. However, few empirical studies have focused on this issue. Using a modified version of Jim Kapoun's “Five criteria for evaluating web pages” as framework, this research selected 32 keywords from eight disciplines, inputted them into three search engines (Google, Yahoo and AltaVista) and used Analytic Hierarchy Process to determine the weights. The first batches of results (web pages) from keyword searching were selected as evaluation samples (in the two search phases, the first 50 and 10 results were chosen, respectively), and a total of 3,134 samples were evaluated for authority based on the evaluation framework. The results show that the average authority value for free online scholarly information is about 3.63 (out of five), which is in the “fair” level (3 ≤ Z < 4) (Z is the value assigned to each sample). About 41% of all samples collected provide more authoritative scholarly information. Different domain names, resource types, and disciplines of free online scholarly information perform differently when scored in terms of authority. In conclusion, the authority of free online scholarly information has been unsatisfactory, and needs to be improved. Furthermore, the evaluation framework and its application developed herein could be a useful instrument for librarians, researchers, students, and the public to select Internet resources.

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