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Research Toolkit: Quickly evaluate a book

Tools, techniques, and resources to help you find the information you need.

 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 to the book?

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

  • Remember that books can take two to three years to publish.In the areas of health, technology, and science, currency is important.

  • Biographies and books on history, publication date is less important.





  • 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 the subtitle of the book, since the real intent of a book is usually revealed in the subtitle.

  • Look at the table of contents. This section will outline the book for you. You will be able to determine the sections that you need to read and which sections to 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 work or education?

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

  • Has the author published other books/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 or educational background. This information is usually in the preface section or at the back of the book.

  • Search the online catalog, or by the author to determine if he/she has written other books.

  • Search library research databases by author to determine if the author has published any journal articles.

  • Reputable publishers include University Press, Blackwell Publishing, Harcourt, Lippincott, Macmillan, Mc-Graw-Hill, Routledge, Springer, Wiley, and many others. Search 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 at the end of the book. References will show you what kind of sources the author used to write the chapter.

  • Look at the graphs/charts. Same as references, the graphs and charts will show you what kind of sources the author used to write the book chapter.

  • 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?