Reviewing Encyclopaedia Authority


  • Vanessa Aliniaina Rasoamampianina Department of Science Education and Communication, University of Antananarivo, Madagascar



Cognitive authority, encyclopaedias, book reviews


As traditional encyclopaedias appear to be loosing the favour of the general public, the current paper investigates the extent to which encyclopaedias are still presented as authoritative texts. Here, authority in texts is mostly construed from the theory of cognitive authority according to Józef Maria Bochenski, Richard De George, and Patrick Wilson; in particular from their reflections on the roles, measures and bases of cognitive authority. The content of 80 book reviews on science and technology encyclopaedias is analysed in order to highlight comments pertaining to encyclopaedia authority. Although many aspects of cognitive authorities are covertly discussed within these book reviews, encyclopaedias are not explicitly presented as absolute authorities.


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Bell, Mark W. (2007): The Transformation of the Encyclopedia: A Textual Analysis and Comparison of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia. MA dissertation, Ball State University.

Biddix, J. Patrick, Chung Joo Chung & Han Woo Park (2011): ‘Convenience or Credibility? A Study of College Student Online Research Behaviors’, The Internet and Higher Education, 14:3, 175-182. DOI: 10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.01.003

Bocheński, Józef Maria (1963): ‘On Authority’, Memorias del XIII Congreso Interacional de Filosofia, 1963, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, 45-46.

Bocheński, Józef Maria (1965a): ‘An Analysis of Authority’, Frederick. J. Adelmann (ed):Authority, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 56-85.

Bocheński, Józef Maria (1965b): ‘An Analysis of Authority’, Józef Maria Bocheński (ed):The Logic of Religion. New York, NY: New York University Press, 162-173.

Bocheński, Józef Maria (1989): ‘On Authority’, South African Journal of Philosophy, 8:2, 61-65.

Bocheński, Józef Maria & Philibert Secretan (1979): Qu’est-ce que l’Autorité? Introduction à la Logique de l’Autorité [Was Ist Autorität? Einführung in die Logik der Autorität], Paris: Editions du Cerf.

Bradford, Jane T., Barbara Costello & Robert Lenholt (2005): ‘Reference Service in the Digital Age: An Analysis of Sources Used to Answer Reference Questions’, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 31:3, 263-272. DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2005.03.001

Chambers, John H. (1979): ‘Epistemic Authority, Rationality and the Fallacy of Educational Democracy’, Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 4:2, 49-57. DOI: 10.14221/ajte.1979v4n2.4

Chen, Hsin-Liang (2010): ‘The Perspectives of Higher Education Faculty on Wikipedia’, The Electronic Library, 28:3, 361-373. DOI: 10.1108/02640471011051954

Chesney, Thomas (2006): ‘An Empirical Examination of Wikipedia’s Credibility’, First Monday [Online], 11:11: (accessed 22 February 2014). DOI: 10.5210/fm.v11i11.1413

De George, Richard T. (1970): ‘The Functions and Limits of Epistemic Authority’, The Southern Journal of Philosophy, Summer & Fall, 199-204.

De George, Richard T. (1976): ‘The Nature and Function of Epistemic Authority’, R. Baine Harris (ed):Authority: A Philosophical Analysis. Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 76-93.

De George, Richard T. (1985): The Nature and Limits of Authority, Kansas, TX: University Press of Kansas.

Francke, Helena & Olof Sundin (2010): ‘An inside View: Credibility in Wikipedia from the Perspective of Editors’, Information Research [Online], 15:3: (accessed 22 February 2014).

Francke, Helena, Olof Sundin & Louise Limberg (2011): ‘Debating Credibility: The Shaping of Information Literacy in Upper Secondary Schools’, Journal of Documentation, 67:4, 675-694. DOI: 10.1108/00220411111145043

Fritch, John W. & Robert L. Cromwell (2001): ‘Evaluating Internet Resources: Identity, Affiliation, and Cognitive Authority in a Networked World’, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 52:6, 499-507. DOI: 10.1002/asi.1081

Giles, Jim (2005): ‘Internet Encyclopaedias Go Head to Head’, Nature, 438:15, 900-901. DOI: 10.1038/438900a

Goodwin, Jean (2009): ‘The Authority of Wikipedia’, The 8th Conference of the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation ‘Argument Cultures’, 3-6 June 2009, University of Windsor, Canada, (accessed 22 February 2014).

Green, Leslie (1998): ‘Authority’, Edward Craig (ed), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, New York, NY: Routledge, 584-586.

Hughes, Benjamin, Jonathan Wareham & Indra Joshi (2010): ‘Doctors’ Online Information Needs, Cognitive Search Strategies, and Judgments of Information Quality and Cognitive Authority: How Predictive Judgments Introduce Bias into Cognitive Search Models’, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 61:3, 433-452.

Kubiszewski, Ida, Thomas Noordewier & Robert Costanza (2011): ‘Perceived Credibility of Internet Encyclopedias’, Computers & Education, 56:3, 659-667. DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2010.10.008

Lackaff, Dereck & Pauline Hope Cheong (2008): ‘Communicating Authority Online: Perceptions and Interpretations of Internet Credibility among College Students’, The Open Communication Journal, 2, 143-155. DOI: 10.2174/1874916X00802010143

Lewis, David W. (2010): ‘Reference in the Age of Wikipedia, or Not...’, Marie Radford & R. David Lankes (eds), Reference Renaissance: Current and Future Trends, New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 3-16.

Lucassen, Teun & Jan Maarten Schraagen (2010): ‘Trust in Wikipedia: How Users Trust Information from an Unknown Source’, Proceedings of the WICOW’10, 2010 Raleigh, NC, 19-26.

Magnus, P. D. (2009): ‘On Trusting Wikipedia’, Episteme, 6:1, 74-90. DOI: 10.3366/E1742360008000555

McKenzie, Pamela J. (2003): ‘Justifying Cognitive Authority Decisions: Discursive Strategies of Information Seekers’, The Library Quarterly, 73:3, 261-288. DOI: 10.1086/603418

Moed, Henk F. & Eugene Garfield (2004): ‘In Basic Science the Percentage of “Authoritative” References Decreases as Bibliographies Become Shorter', Scientometrics, 60:3, 295-303. DOI: 10.1023/B:SCIE.0000034375.39385.84

Peters, Richard Stanley, Peter G. Winch & Austin E. Duncan-Jones (1958): ‘Authority’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary volume 32, 207-260.

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Rasoamampianina, Vanessa Aliniaina (2012): How Is Encyclopaedia Authority Established?, Dissertation, University of Glasgow.

Rector, Lucy Holman (2008): ‘Comparison of Wikipedia and Other Encyclopedias for Accuracy, Breadth, and Depth in Historical Articles’, Reference Services Review, 36:1, 7-22. DOI: 10.1108/00907320810851998

Richman, Jessica & Leslie Wu (2008): ‘Visual Representations of Credibility on Wikipedia: Less Is More’, Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University.

Rieh, Soo Young (2005): ‘Cognitive Authority’, Karen E. Fisher, Sanda Erdelez & Lynne E. F. McKechnie (eds), Theories of Information Behavior: A Researchers’ Guide, Medford, NJ: Information Today, 83-87.

Rieh, Soo Young & Nicholas J. Belkin (2000): ‘Interaction on the Web: Scholars’ Judgment of Information Quality and Cognitive Authority’, Proceedings of the 63rd Annual Meeting of the ASIS, 25-38.

Savolainen, Reijo (2007): ‘Media Credibility and Cognitive Authority: The Case of Seeking Orienting Information’, Information Research [Online], 12:3: (accessed 22 February 2014).

Soylu, Firat (2009): ‘Academics’ Views on and Uses of Wikipedia’, Gnovis [Online], 9:2: (accessed 22 February 2014).

Tenopir, Carol & Ennis, Lisa A. (2001): ‘Reference Services in the New Millennium’, Online, 25:4, 40-45.

Watt, E. D. (1982): Authority,London: Croom Helm.

Wilson, Patrick (1983): Second-Hand Knowledge: An Inquiry into Cognitive Authority, London: Greenwood Press.

Young, Gary (1974): ‘Authority’, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 3:4, 563-583.

Younger, Paula (2010): ‘Beyond Wikipedia: How Good a Reference Source Are Medical Wikis?’, Reference Reviews, 24:1, 7-9. DOI: 10.1108/09504121011019899

Book Reviews Cited in the Text

Anonymous (2003): ‘Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences: James R. Holton, Judith A. Curry, John A. Pyle (Eds.)’, Atmospheric Research, 66:4, 315-319.

Bianchi Porro, G. (2006): ‘L.R. Johnson, Encyclopedia of Gastroenterology, Elsevier, Amsterdam (2004)’, Digestive and Liver Disease, 38:1, 70.

Buster, John E. (2001): ‘Jirasek, Jan E. An Atlas of the Human Embryo and Fetus. A Photographic Review of Human Prenatal Development. The Encyclopedia of Visual Medicine Series. New York and London: The Parthenon Publishing Group, 2001’, Fertility and Sterility, 75:6, 1249.

Carr, Catherine (2001): ‘The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences, Edited by Robert Wilson and Frank Keil’, Artificial Intelligence, 130:2, 183-184.

Carvel, David (2001): ‘Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences’, Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine, 8:3, 185-186. DOI: 10.1054/jcfm.2001.0500

Castracane, V. Daniel (2003): ‘Oh No, Not Another Encyclopedia!: Encyclopedia of Hormones Edited by Helen L. Henry and Anthony W. Norman. Academic Press, 2003’, Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, 14:10, 446.

Clements, Alan (2002): ‘The Encyclopedia of Arthropod-Transmitted Infections of Man and Domesticated Animals: M. W. Service (Editor). Wallingford: Cabi Publishing, 2001’, Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 96:1, 106.

de Silva, P. (2002): ‘Encyclopedia of Psychology, Vols. 1-8: A.E. Kazdin (Ed.); American Psychological Association, Washington, DC and Oxford University Press, New York, 2000’, Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40:10, 1241-1242.

Desselberger, Ulrich (2009): ‘(3rd Edition) B.W.J. Mahy and M.H.V. Van Regenmortel, Editors, Encyclopedia of Virology, Elsevier Academic Press, Amsterdam (2008)’, Virus Research, 146:1-2, 140.

Edwards, Clive A. (2003): ‘Encyclopedia of Soil Science: Rattan Lal (Ed.) Marcel Dekker Inc. New York, USA; Basel, Switzerland, 2002’, Applied Soil Ecology, 23:3, 279.

Emery, Alan E. H. (2003): ‘Encyclopedia of Genetics: Brenner S, Miller Jh., Editors. Four Volumes. Academic Press, San Diego, London, 2002’, Neuromuscular Disorders, 13:1, 93-94.

Enser, M. (2006): ‘W.K. Jensen, C. Devine, M. Dikeman, (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Meat Science, 3 Volumes. Elsevier Academic Press’, Meat Science, 72:1, 182-183.

Fisher, Robert S. (2009): ‘Epilepsy A to Z: A Concise Encyclopedia, 2nd Ed. By William O. Tatum IV, D.O., Peter W. Kaplan, M.B., Frcp, Pierre Jallon, M.D., Demos Medical, New York (2009)’, Epilepsy & Behavior, 15:4, 535.

Griffin, John N. & Brian R. Silliman (2009): ‘M.W. Denny and S.D. Gaines, Editors, the Encyclopedia of Tidepools and Rocky Shores (2007)’, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 381:1, 65.

Hartemink, Alfred E. (2006): ‘Encyclopedia of Soils in the Environment (4 Volumes), D. Hillel, J.L. Hatfield, D.S. Powlson, C. Rosenzweig, K.M. Scow, M.J. Singer, D.L. Sparks (Eds.), 2005’, Geoderma, 132:1-2, 240-246.

Jones, Sian & Malachy O. Columb (2004): ‘Steven M. Yentis, Nicholas P. Hirsch and Gary B. Smith, Editors, Anaesthesia and Intensive Care A to Z. An Encyclopedia of Principles and Practice (3rd Ed.), Butterworth Heinmann (2003)’, International Journal of Obstetric Anesthesia, 13:4, 300.

Kennard, Deborah K., H. Michael Rauscher, Patricia A. Flebbe,Daniel L. Schmoldt, William G.Hubbard, J. Bryan Jordin & William Milnor (2005): ‘Using Hyperdocuments to Manage Scientific Knowledge: The Prototype Encyclopedia of Southern Appalachian Forest Ecosystems’, Forest Ecology and Management, 207:1-2, 201-213.

Kennedy, John F. & J. Mistry (2003): ‘Encyclopedia of Chromatography: J. Cazes (Ed.); Marcel Dekker Inc., New York, 2001’, Carbohydrate Polymers, 53:3, 344.

Kennedy, John F. & Chaiwat Bandaiphet (2003): ‘Encyclopedia of Dairy Sciences (Vol.1-4): H. Roginski, J.W. Fuquay, P.F. Fox (Eds.); Academic Press, Amsterdam, 2003’, Carbohydrate Polymers, 54:3, 394.

Kennedy, John F. & Miao Jin (2005): ‘C. Wrigley, H. Corke and C. Walker, Editors, Encyclopedia of Grain Science, Academic Press, Oxford, UK (2004)’, Carbohydrate Polymers, 62:4, 392.

Lawler, Ivan (2002): ‘Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals: William F. Perrin, Bernd Wursig, J.G.M. Thewissen (Eds.), Academic Press, USA; 2002’, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 280:1-2, 135-136.

Lord, Lesley (2006): ‘J. Payne-James Et Al., Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine Volume 1-4, Elsevier (2005)’ , Science & Justice, 46:2, 125.

Modi, A. T. (2008): ‘Concise Encyclopedia of Crop Improvement: Institutions, Persons, Theories, Methods and Histories .R.H.J. Schlegel, Editor, an Imprint of the Haworth Press Inc, 10 Alice Street, Binghamton, NY, USA, Hard Cover, Haworth Press Inc. (2007)’, South African Journal of Botany, 74:2, 355-356.

Okamoto, Yoshi (2001): ‘Review of R.A. Wilson and F.C. Keil (Eds.), The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences’, Artificial Intelligence, 130, 211-212.

Petrie, Keith J. (2010): ‘H. Evans and R.E. Bartholomew, Editors, Outbreak! The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Social Behavior, Anomalist Books, San Antonio, TX (2009)’, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 68:2, 215.

Rugg, Lesley (2003): ‘The Concise Encyclopedia of Fibromyalgia and Myofascial Pain’, Physiotherapy, 89:10, 622.

Sapidis, N. S. (2005): ‘A Thorough Encyclopaedia on Geometric Modelling, Its Foundations, Methods and Applications: Handbook of Computer Aided Geometric Design, Gerald Farin, Josef Hoschek, Myung-Soo Kim (Eds.); Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2002’, Computer-Aided Design, 37:1, 137.

Skovgaard, Niels (2008): ‘Encyclopedia of Infectious Diseases. Michel Tibayrenc, Editor, Modern Methodologies, Wiley, UK (2007)’, International Journal of Food Microbiology, 125:2, 212-213.

Sparkman, O. David (2004): ‘The Encyclopedia of Mass Spectrometry, Volume 1, Theory and Ion Chemistry: Peter B. Armentrout, Editor; Michael L. Gross, Richard Caprioli, Editors-in-Chief, Elsevier, Oxford, UK’, Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, 15:5, 762-767.

Tang, Julin F. (2000): ‘Anaesthesia and Intensive Care a to Z: An Encyclopedia of Principles and Practice (Second Edition)’, International Journal of Obstetric Anesthesia, 9:4, 297-298.

van der Meijden, E. A. G. (2001): ‘Chemical Engineer’s Condensed Encyclopedia of Process Equipment: Nicholas P. Cheremisinoff; Gulf Publishing Company, 2000’, Chemical Engineering Journal, 81:1-3, 337-338.

van Loon, A. J. (2006): ‘Richard C. Selley, L. Robin, M. Cocks and Ian R. Plimer, Editors, Encyclopedia of Geology, Elsevier, Amsterdam (2005)’, Earth-Science Reviews, 76:1-2, 133-134.

Vercelli, Alessandro (2007): ‘G. Adelman and B.H. Smith, Editors, Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, 3rd Ed., Elsevier B.V. (2004)’, Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy, 34:1-2, 60-61.

Wanamaker, Ryan & Ian Grimm (2004): ‘Encyclopedia of Gastroenterology, 1st Edition’, Gastroenterology, 127:4, 1274-1275.

Wilkins, Charles L. (2004): ‘The Encyclopedia of Mass Spectrometry: Editors-in-Chief, Michael L. Gross and Richard Caprioli - Volume 1: Theory and Ion Chemistry, Edited by Peter B. Armentrout, Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2003’, TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 23:9, I-II.

Williams, M. M. R. (2001): ‘Historical Encyclopedia of Atomic Energy: Stephen E. Atkins; Greenwood Press, 2000’, Annals of Nuclear Energy, 28:3, 285-286. DOI: 10.1016/S0306-4549(00)00075-X

Windley, Brian (2006): ‘R.C. Selley, L.R.M. Cocks, I.R. Plimer (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Geology, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 5 Volume Set, December 2004’, Precambrian Research, 145:3-4, 289-290.




How to Cite

Rasoamampianina, V. A. (2014) “Reviewing Encyclopaedia Authority”, Culture Unbound, 6(3), pp. 547–568. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.146547.



Theme: Changing Orders of Knowledge? Encyclopedias in Transition