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HOW TO EVALUATE BOOKS

To evaluate a book look for:


Purpose: Why was the book written? To:

inform?
For example: sequence of historical events, results of lengthy study or experiment

persuade?
For example: to change point of view, outlook, beliefs, or behavior

entertain?
For example: most fiction, humor, gossip

teach how to do something?


For example: resumes, cover letters, business plans, needlework, woodwork

give an overview?
For example: textbooks, encyclopedias

Publisher: Who published the book


A university press?
Commercial publisher?
Professional or Trade Association, Institution, or Research Center?
Government (US, state, local)?

Vanity (self-published)?
University theses and dissertations are considered published by the university that granted
the degree to the student who wrote it.
Organization and Content: Examine the table of contents and/or headings to determine if
the book is organized in a logical and understandable manner. Do the contents indicate that
the book contains the information you need? Is there added material such as appendices?
Date of Publication: Some topics, such as those in the health sciences, require current
information. Other subjects, such as geology, value older material as well as current.
Know the time needs of your topic and examine the timeliness of the book; is it:

up-to-date,

out-of-date, or

timeless?
Authority/author: Is the author an expert in this field? Where is the author employed?
What else has he/she written? Has he/she won awards or honors?
Bibliography: Scholarly works always contain a bibliography of the resources that were
consulted. The references in this list should be in sufficient quantity and be appropriate for
the content. Look for:

if a bibliography exists,

if the bibliography is short or long,

if the bibliography is selective or comprehensive,

if the references are primary sources (ex. journal articles) or only secondary sources
(ex. encyclopedias),

if the references are contemporary to the book or much older, and

if the citation style is clear and consistent.


Usefulness: Is the book relevant to the current research project? A well-researched, well-
written, etc. book is not going to be helpful if it does not address the topic at hand. Ask, "is
this book useful to me"? If it is useful, does it:

support an argument

refute an argument

give examples (survey results, primary research findings, case studies, incidents)

provide "wrong" information that can be challenged or disagreed with productively


Coverage: Does the book cover the topic comprehensively, partially or is it an overview?
Audience: For what type of reader is the author writing? Is the level of the book
appropriate for your needs? Is the book for:
general readers,

students (high school, college, graduate),

specialists or professionals,

researchers or scholars?
Illustrations: Are charts, graphs, maps, photographs, etc. used to illustrate concepts? Are
the illustrations relevant? Are they clear and professional-looking?

Context: Information is contextual. Who, what, when, where, why, and how will impact
whether or not a resource is useful to you.