, Volume 90, Issue 2, pp 543–560 | Cite as

Assessing the authority of free online scholarly information

  • Chuanfu ChenEmail author
  • Yuan Yu
  • Qiong Tang
  • Kuei Chiu
  • Yan Rao
  • Xuan Huang
  • Kai Sun


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.


Free online scholarly information Authority Assessment Evaluation tools 



This study is partially supported by Social Science Foundation of China “public sector information exploitation” under the agreement 09 & ZD039. The authors want to thank all the home and international participants of survey for this research.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chuanfu Chen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yuan Yu
    • 1
  • Qiong Tang
    • 2
  • Kuei Chiu
    • 3
  • Yan Rao
    • 1
  • Xuan Huang
    • 4
  • Kai Sun
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Information ManagementWuhan UniversityWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Information ManagementSun Yat-sen UniversityGuanghzouPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.University of CaliforniaRiversideUSA
  4. 4.Shenzhen Institute of Standards and TechnologyShenzhenPeople’s Republic of China

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