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Evaluation of Sources - A How to Guide: Books

How to Evaluate a Book

Just because something is in print does not mean that it's a good, reliable, authoritative, appropriate source of information for your research. Listed below are some important criteria to consider when evaluating a book -  or any information source - for your research.

Criteria Suggestions for how to determine whether or not the book meets the criteria


Does it cover your subject?

  • read the book jacket
  • scan table of contents &chapter headings
  • look for topic keywords in the index
  • read Introduction & Preface


Do you need recent information or a current perspective on an old issue? Or do you need an account of an event from the time it actually happened?

  • check the recency of publication date & sources in bibliography


Is the information reliable?

Is the information authoritative?

  • read book jacket
  • look for information about the author in biographical or book review sources
  • check for presence of a bibliography, footnotes, end notes or sources cited in text

Level of difficulty

Is the information written at a level you can understand and use?

Who is the intended audience: the scholar/ specialist or the lay person?

  • look up unfamiliar terms in a dictionary
  • is the vocabulary too technical or scholarly for your purposes?
  • is the vocabulary too elementary for college level research?

Purpose for writing

What is the bias/ perspective of the work?

  • read the Preface & Introduction
  • check the background/ reputation of the author in biographical sources
  • read reviews or other critiques of the book



Some content has been adapted from the Thomas G. Carpenter library.