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Tarleton State University Libraries Unit 8
EVALUATING BOOKS
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image of books, CD, and computer   Books (print, CD, tape, or online) can be evaluated using common criteria like the ones listed below, which are arranged in six major categories.

Each category offers a series of evaluative questions and gives suggested ways to find answers to the questions. Links to more criteria are provided after the last category.

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PURPOSE & AUDIENCE
• What is the book's purpose? Is the purpose stated or implied?
• Who is the book's intended audience? How might this influence its content?
• Is the book a primary or secondary source?
  Checking purpose and audience:
-- Determine the approach used (fiction, nonfiction, opinion, or a mixture).
-- Read introductory material.
-- Note the tone and terminology used in the work.
-- Examine the types of information, evidence, and examples used.

 
 
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AUTHORITY
• Does the author have adequate qualifications/expertise?
• Is the work cited in other writings?
• Are the author's qualifications given?
• Who is the sponsoring agency?
• What are the organization's credentials and reputation?
• Who is the copyright holder? Might this be important?
  Checking the writer's authority:
-- Use biographical dictionaries and critical essays to investigate the author.
-- Search appropriate databases for works that cite the book.
-- Read reviews of the book (and other works by the author).
-- Find out if the author has written other books or articles on the topic.
-- Look on the dust jacket or in the preface (double-check the information).

 
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ACCURACY & RELIABILITY
• Is a bibliography or reference list available so information can be verified?
• Does the book offer trustworthy information?
• Does the book indicate editorial quality (free of errors)?
• Is the information protected by copyright?
  Checking accuracy and reliability:
-- Examine the text for evidence of careful research.
-- Check if data, statistics, and facts are documented (and timely).
-- Double-check information in the book with other sources.
-- Read reviews in reputable sources.
-- Examine the quality of items listed in the bibliography, if one is present.
-- Check the publisher type: academic, commercial, independent, vanity, etc.
-- Use Books in Print for information about the publisher.

 
 
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OBJECTIVITY
• Is the information biased or objective? Is that appropriate?
• Is the text mostly fact or opinion? Is that appropriate?
• Does the text acknowledge the above?
  Checking objectivity:
-- Examine the writer's claims. Are they logical and reasonable?
-- Examine the evidence presented. Is it adequate and credible?
-- Read reviews and critical essays about the book.

 
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CURRENCY
• Is the information current? Should it be?
• Are current research findings and/or theories evident? Should they be?
  Checking work's currency:
-- Check dates on references, if any are given.
-- Compare the information with that presented in other sources.
-- Check the publishing history (copyright dates, publishing dates, etc.).

 
 
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COVERAGE
• Does the book adequately cover its topic?
• Are important aspects of the topic omitted?
• Are omissions acknowledged?
• Does the book significantly contribute to the field/discipline? Should it?
  Checking coverage:
-- Examine the table of contents, chapter headings, and index.
-- Analyze the breadth of content. Does it meet expectations?

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Additional Evaluation Criteria
•  Evaluating Sources from Tarleton Library - Central Texas
•  Evaluating Research Sources: Books from Walden University Virtual Library
•  How To Evaluate Books from Colorado State University Libraries

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Updated 5/2005