To properly evaluate books you need to apply the following 4 criteria:
Currency, Reliability, Authority, Purpose
When was the information published? Has it been revised or updated?
Do you need the most recent information possible? For a history project the currency may not be important. However if you are looking into the effects of technology on students’ education, you’ll want more up to date information. Keep in mind that publishing a book takes time and that the most recent book on your topic may not have this year’s date.
- When was the book published? Look for the copyright date on the verso of the title page.
- How recent are the references cited by the author? You’ll find these in the notes, bibliography or references section.
Is the information accurate? Where does it come from?
- Check for in-text citations or footnotes. Is there a list of notes, references or a bibliography?
- Have you seen this information in a different source during your research? Does the text agree in general with these other sources?
- Are there many spelling or grammar errors in the text? Too many errors could lead you to doubt the accuracy of the information.
Who is the author and is the author qualified to write on the topic?
- Check for information about the author at the end of the book or on the back cover.
- What are the author’s credentials? Is the author a journalist, an expert in the field, hold a Master’s or PhD degree? Is the author associated with a university or organization?
- Next look at the publisher. You will find this on the title page. Is it a general publishing house or a university press?
Why was this information published? Is it fact, opinion or propaganda?
- Was this book written to educate, inform or entertain?
- Does the text show a bias and is it trying to persuade the reader? A bias may be useful if your paper needs to include various viewpoints on a topic. Read the preface and introduction.