In my search to find some sort of article or discussion or blog to write about this week, I stumbled upon a website that offered a tool called “Find The Author”. This tool provides a few methods for locating and evaluating authors in order to potentially cite them. The website states: “Before information is used or cited, it is important to find out who the author is and what makes the author qualified to write on the subject.”
However, the existence of such a tool makes a statement about authorship on the web today. In print, it is fairly easy to find the author of a work. In my experience, there have only been a few select places that the information could possibly listed, and all you have to do is check those places to find it. When it comes to things like blogs, or really any other form of online publishing, the ground becomes a little less stable. There is no required “Author” box when you submit something. There are no laws saying that you must use your real name online. There’s not even any sort of rule saying you have to use the same name every time you submit or write or publish anything online.
Now, while this does create opportunities to be heard for those who previously did not have that privilege, it can also make things very difficult when deciding what is and is not credible. If you cannot find the author, you cannot properly accredit the work when referencing it, either, and that can lead you down the slippery slope of plagiarism, whether you meant to do it or not.
These are the suggestions the “Find The Author Tool” provides:
Use these techniques to locate author’s names and information about their ‘expertise:’
If looking on the page doesn’t reveal an author’s name, look on the Web site.
Try truncating the url to see if there are clues about authorship or links to an author on other pages–remove the end of the address back to a significant break ( / ) or the root of the site.
If the site provides links to ‘about us’ or ‘contact us,’ check there for author information.
If the site provides a search engine, enter the name of the article and see if information about the author is retrieved. This may require careful browsing and reading.
Search a different site. Enter information about the article in search engines like Google and see if any information about the author is retrieved. This may require careful browsing and reading.
Truncating the URL? Searching other sites? Careful browsing and reading? That sounds an awful lot more complicated than “Turn to page xi”. Now, granted the Internet is still a developing technology and even though we as humans created it, we have not discovered all it has to offer. This means we are still learning how to navigate our own creation- still learning how to use it as effectively as possible. It may be that some time in the future, authorship changes somehow and we will once again be able to secure concrete confidence in who wrote what. Until then, however, we must do careful work when looking for references and articles, because this is new territory and we have not figured it out just yet.