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How to Evaluate Resources: Books

A guide to evaluating search engines, books, articles and websites for research.

Evaluating Books

Not all books are created equal.  Some are written to entertain, some to argue and some to inform.  Some might do all three.  It's your job as a researcher to learn how to recognize which of these categories a book falls into and whether or not it meets your research needs. 

These are the things you need to consider when evaluating books:


1. Authority

Who are the authors or editors?  Are they experts in the subject matter of the book?

Who is the publisher?  Was the book published by a commerical, specialty, vanity or university press?

2.  Accuracy

Is the information in the book correct and accurate?  Can the facts be verified?

Does the book contain footnotes and/or a bibliography?  Are the sources properly cited?

3.  Objectivity

What is the purpose of the book: to inform, to persuade or to entertain?

Is the book based on fact or opinion?

4.  Currency

When was the book published?

Is the information up to date or is the information timeless?

5.  Coverage

Who is the intended audience:  the general public, students or scholars?

Does the book contain information relevant to your subject?

Does the book provide comprehensive coverage of the subject matter?


See the Evaluation Tips in the sidebar to learn how to gather the information you need to evaluate a book.

Comparing Books

If you were required to write a paper on particle physics, which of these three books would be your best source of information?  View the comparison chart and decide.








The Physics of Star Trek

Quantum Physics for Dummies

Particle Astrophysics

Author credentials

Ph.D. in physics

Ph.D. in physics

Ph.D in physics



For Dummies

Oxford University Press


to entertain and inform

to inform

to educate



general, beginning student

university students


Evaluation Tips

Consult book reviews to learn more about the author(s) and the quality of the book.

Look for an author biography on the jacket or within the book to determine their credentials and affiliations.

Scan the table of contents and index to find out what is covered in the book.

Read the preface and introduction to determine the purpose of the book.

Check the publication date to determine the currency of the book.

Download this guide