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Evaluating Scholarly Books & Articles: Information Literacy Guide

Learn to distinguish between trustworthy / untrustworthy information in scholarly books and articles

Evaluating Scholarly Books & Articles: Information Literacy Guide

You need to evaluate information no matter where it comes from whether it's from online, scholarly books, and articles. (If you're not sure what is meant by "scholarly article," see our Scholarly & Popular Guide.) Some of the fundamental questions to consider during evaluation are:

AUTHOR
 
  • Who is the author? What are their credentials (degrees, positions, honors)? If the author is an organization, what can you find out about this organization? 
  • Google the author. You may find book reviews and other helpful information.
  • What else has the author written? This can help you determine whether the person is an authority on the topic.
PUBLISHER
 
  • Who is the publisher? What else have they published? 
  • Was it published by scholarly publishers (such as university presses and scholarly associations) or commercial publishers, government agencies, or other types of publishers? Does it make a difference who published it?
  • What is the publisher's reputation?
PEER REVIEW
 
  • Peer review is the extensive editing and review before a resource is published, often done by a panel of experts and editors who make sure to fix any issues.
  • If there are editors listed, who are they, and what are their credentials?
  • Works that do not meet the publisher's or journal's standards are not accepted for publication.
PURPOSE
 
  • What is its purpose: to present research knowledge, inform you, get you to buy something, or persuade you?
  • Does the resource present fact or opinion?
  • Is the material objective, showing multiple sides of an issue? Or does it present only one side or one specific issue?
  • Who is the intended audience? 
CONTENT
 
  • Is the coverage of the topic complete, or are their gaps? Is the approach basic or advanced?
  • Does it offer more than one perspective?
  • How is it organized?
USEFULNESS
 
  • Don't choose your sources based on how easily you found them. Instead, make sure the content is useful and relevant to your topic. 
  • Does the book / journal article cover the topic you need? Is that coverage sufficient, or is it too superficial or too detailed for your purposes?
ACCURACY
 
  • Is the book or article well written and well-edited? Are there noticeable mistakes in spelling or grammar? Is it written in a style that you would expect for the topic and audience?
  • Is their research supported with resources? Does it include a bibliography, footnotes, or other list of works consulted? Does the list seem comprehensive, or are just a few sources mentioned? 
CURRENCY
  • When was the book or article written? When was it published? Is the information still current or valid? If the information is no longer current, does it still have value for your needs?
  • There may be some sources considered "classics" in your field. Different disciplines will have different needs as to the importance of currency versus older, established publications and materials.

Adapted from "Evaluating Websites" Instruction LibGuide;by ISU Instruction Department Staff

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