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How To: Use Books for Research: Evaluation Criteria

This guide outlines how to evaluate and use books for research projects.

Evaluating Sources

Sources should be carefully evaluated to determine their value, usefulness, and appropriateness before being used for a research project.

 Here are some things to consider.

  What to look for Where to find it
 Suitability

 Scope and depth: How much information is provided?

 Audience:  Who is it written for?  The general  public?   Specialists?    Students?

 Point of view: Is the information fact-based?

  Opinion-based? Is it  biased?

 Writing style: Is the language easily understood?  Too technical? 

 Look for clues about suitability here:

  • Introduction or preface
  • Review sources
  • Abstract or summary
  • Home page of website
 Timeliness

 Time frame: Is it appropriate to the topic?  Is it the most current information on the topic?

 Edition or version: Has the material changed from a previous publication?

 Look for clues about timeliness here:

  • Back of title page in book
  • Cover of periodical
  • Home page of website
 Credibility

 Authority: What is the background, education, or credentials of the authors?

 Affiliation: Are the authors associated with a university? A private corporation?  A government agency? Non-profit group?

 Experience: Is the author considered an authority in the field?  Is he or she a working professional?  Has he or she published other resources on the topic?

 Publisher:  Is the publisher well-known?  Is it a university press?  Is it a vanity press? Is it self-published by the author?

 Look for clues about credibility here:

  • Book jacket blurb
  • Biographical sketch of author
  • Publisher's website
  • Book review sources
  • "About Us," "For More Information," from website
 Accuracy

 Is the information correct?  Can it be corroborated from other, independent sources?

 References: Are the sources cited that were used to create this item ?

 Look for clues about accuracy here:

  • Compare against other sources on the same topic
  • Look for a list of references, works cited, or bibliography
 Usability  What features does the source offer? Is there a table of contents?  Index?  Illustrations?  Appendices?  Notes? Bibliography?

 Look for clues about suitability here:

  • Physically examine the item