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How the document got its authority

Tim Gorichanaz (Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 14 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to invite further consideration of and research into the authoritativeness, reliability and trustworthiness of documents. How do documents come to be trusted? Why are some more trusted than others?


The cases of the Oxford English Dictionary and Wikipedia policies are explored from a historical perspective, and other cases are considered.


Authoritativeness seems inherent to documents because of a cognitive metaphor that says “what is persistent is trustworthy”.

Practical implications

This feature of documents exposes users to a number of pitfalls related to trusting illegitimate documents. This has important implications for document literacy.


New insight into documents is achieved by applying cognitive metaphors and prototype theory to documents.



Gorichanaz, T. (2016), "How the document got its authority", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 72 No. 2, pp. 299-305.



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