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Evaluating Books: Checklist

A printable list of questions to ask yourself when evaluating books

Authority: Who is the author?

  • Is the author credible in his/her field of research? 
  • Are their publications cited often by others? 
  • Has he/she published a substantial amount of work which indicates expertise in their area?

If you've never heard of the author, here are some tips for checking their credentials:

  • Look at the author information in the publication.  This usually lists the school or organization the author is affiliated with.  You can use this information to look them up on the Internet where you can find even more background information, as well as additional publications.  You may also find information on what others think of his/her research.

Who is the publisher?

  • Professional associations, organizations, the government or post-secondary institutions are often publishers of research. (e.g. Canadian Medical Association, Statistics Canada, Harvard University Press)
  • Some publishers tend to specialize in academic areas (e.g. Sage Publications, Routledge-Falmer)

Currency: When was the work published?

  • Was the information recently published or updated? For some academic fields, like medicine, the most current information available can be crucial.  For other disciplines it may not be so important.  The type of assignment or the topic you are working on will dictate how current your resources need to be. 

Coverage and content: How useful is the work?

  • How well does the resource cover your topic? 
  • Does it try to examine all viewpoints? If not, you may need to find additional resources.
  • Does it provide a bibliography for further research?
  • Does it support research you have already found or does it add new information? Is that information verifiable?  Are the research methods used sound?

Who is the intended audience?  For what purpose was the work published?

  • Is the item geared towards the general public or academics/researchers?
  • Is the information based on fact or opinion? 
  • Is the item meant to inform or to pursuade you in one way or another? (Be aware of bias)