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Research Toolkit: Quickly evaluate a book

 Related Guides: Quickly Evaluate an Article, Quickly Evaluate a Website


Before you decide to use a book, take a few minutes to evaluate it for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose.

Criteria Questions to Ask Analysis




  • What is the copyright date of the book?

  • Is the information current and up-to-date? Does it need to be?

  • Is there a new edition of the book?

  • For biographies and books on history, older books can be valid and important to the field.

  • Remember - books can take years to publish. In science, health, and technology, currency is essential.

  • New editions emphasize and update topics of high interest or importance





  • Does the title indicate that the book is too specific or too general?
    Is there a subtitle with more information?

  • What is the target audience?
    General public, students, scholars?

  • Does the book address a topic within a certain time frame and/or geographic area?

  • What are the subject headings assigned to this book?

  • Look at the title and subtitle of the book, since the real intent of a book is often revealed in the subtitle.

  • Look at the table of contents, which outlines the book. You can determine which chapters you need to read and which you can skip.

  • Use the index in back to locate more specific topics





  • Is the author an expert in the field?

  • What are the author’s credentials, in work and education?

  • With which institution, organization, or company is the author affiliated?

  • Has the author published other books or articles?

  • Is the publisher of the book well known?

  • Does the publisher stand to benefit from the research or argument presented in the book?

  • Find information about the author’s work and educational background. This information is usually in the preface or at the back of the book.

  • Search Google with the author's name in quotation marks to find their faculty website, LinkedIn page, or Social Media profile.

  • Search for the author in Library OneSearch, Amazon, or Worlcat to see what other books they have written.

  • Reputable publishers include University Presses, Routledge, Sage, Springer, Wiley, Harcourt, Lippincott, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, and many others. Search Google or Wikipedia for information about publishers.




  • What sources did the author use?

  • Does the book provide a reference and/or bibliography section?

  • Does the book have a table of contents?

  • Look at the reference and/or bibliography section at the end of each chapter or the end of the book. References show you what kind of sources the author used.

  • Look at the graphs/charts. As with references, graphs and charts show you what kind of sources the author used.

  • Why was this book written?

  • Does the book address a subject from a specific time period? Or geographic location?

  • What is the target audience for the book? General public, students, scholars?