Your academic credibility can be affected by how well you understand a topic. Part of understanding a topic is knowing who the experts in the field you're studying are.
Because (in most cases) there is nothing new under the sun, there will always be people who have studied a topic before you, and have created a knowledge base upon which your current studies are founded.
These people are considered experts because they have spent a long time pursuing the facts about the topic. Knowing who they are and being able to cite them will boost your credibility because it means that you are familiar with the ins and outs of the issues, and the people who have studied it before you.
It is also helpful to check out the work of other scholars who have opposed the main experts as it is important to know the counterpoints and rebuttals to ac academic issues.