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Introduction to library research in the arts: Authorship and audience

An introduction to research concepts and techniques for University of Redlands students in fine, literary and performing arts, developed as an Open Educational Resource (OER)

Learning objective

  • Evaluate sources according to their authorship, publisher and intended audience.

Question to consider

  • How can you tell whether a source is good to use for a research assignment?

Evaluating the authorship and audience of a source

Recall that as we discussed earlier, information is written from a perspective; it costs resources to be published; and exists within a legal framework. Sources are produced by people and organizations for particular purposes, and to meet the needs and interests of a specific audience.

When you do research, you use search strategies to discover sources that could be relevant to your topic. Generally you will find more sources than you need. To determine which are the best ones to use, you will need to evaluate the author's perspective and consider the intended audience of the source. Here are some questions that can help you do this:


  • Who is (are) the author or authors?
  • What experience or expertise do the author(s) bring to the topic?
  • What is the author's perspective relative to other sources on this topic?
  • What aspects of the author's identity and experience (such as gender, nationality, or institutional affiliation) affect the perspective that they take?


  • What individual or organization is responsible for publishing the source? If an organization, consider their mission or purpose.
  • What resources did the publisher contribute to produce this source (for example, paid staff to do the work of editing, fact-checking or proofreading? Perpetual online access through a dedicated Internet domain?)
  • What funding model does the publisher use to pay the costs of publication (reader subscriptions? advertisements? tracking readers' activity and selling the analytics?)


  • Who is the intended audience - scholarly learners? Popular enthusiasts? Business practitioners?
  • Does the source call out its audience explicitly, or implicitly (such as through the use of specialized jargon)?
  • Who is left out or excluded from the source's audience, and does the source provide a justification (for example, an article that addresses a specific problem might begin by stating who the problem is relevant for)?

Activity: Scholarly versus popular

Both of these articles are written about the same topic - what musicians wear to audition. However, they are written for different audiences with different purposes, and are published in different outlets.

Read each of the articles. How are they similar, or different? What can you find out about the authorship, audience and publication in which each article appears?

Based on what you've learned, in what situations would you want to use either of these sources?

Key point

  • Look at the authorship, publisher and intended audience of a source when you are trying to decide whether to use it.