Sherratt Library

Evaluating Books

  1. Evaluating for Authority, Accuracy and Currency
  2. Tips for Evaluating Books
  3. Evaluating Reference Sources
    1. Printed reference sources
    2. Online reference sources
  4. Evaluating Books
    1. Printed books
    2. eBooks

Selection of appropriate information is an important part of quality research. With so much information available, from so many different sources, each piece of information that you select must be carefully reviewed to ensure the authority, accuracy, and currency that best supports your research. Critical evaluation of the information you find is essential to quality research.tically evaluate these sources and pick the best ones.

1. Evaluating for Authority, Accuracy and Currency

Why be critical of information you find? Publishers usually have some level of "quality control" over the information they publish. However, this review process varies so much that your own assessment is important. For example, popular magazines usually only have internal editorial control over what is published. Quality control for this type of publisher is usually based on how well the publication sells. On the other hand, quality control for the publishing of a peer reviewed journal or a book from an academic press is based on it's acceptance by experts or specialists.

Some of the information for determining information quality may be readily apparent in the source itself. For example, a peer reviewed journal article reporting results of medical breakthrough would be accepted as good quality information, and only questioned by specialists in that field. However,  were you to use a newspaper article describing this medical breakthrough, it would be wise to check additional sources to determine the quality and accuracy of the reporting.

There are subtle differences when evaluating different types of information. However, there are three criteria that you should consider with any type of information you consider using. You should ask - does the information source have authority, accuracy, and currency?






If any of your sources do not meet these three criteria, you should consider finding other information.

Evaluate book2. Tips for Evaluating Books

When you locate a book that you consider releveant to your research, the best way to evalute the book would be to note the call number, find it, and physically examine it:

In addition to physically examining the book, there are several other ways to find additional information about the authority, accuracy, and currency of the book:

3. Evaluating Reference Sources

Even reference sources should be viewed with a critical eye. Why? Some reference sources can be biased, inaccurate, or even out-of-date. For example, a reference encyclopedia that you'll find in many academic libraries is the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, translated from the original Russian version.  It is available in the SUU Reference Collection (Reference AE 5 .B5813). This edition of the encyclopedia was published in 1973, just before the end of American  involvement in Vietnam. If you look in the index for Vietnam war, the encyclopedia refers you to "American aggression in Vietnam".  After reading this article, you might want to consider . . .

It should be apparent that the views expressed in the Vietnam article reflect the party line in the USSR at the time the encyclopedia was published.

a. Printed Reference Sources

For printed reference sources, it is almost impossible to do a critical evaluation without actually looking at the book and it's content. A general encyclopedia is a good source for background information and terminology, but college instructors will not usually want you to cite a general encyclopedia. When you choose a printed reference source, look for a source that has authored articles. Many good reference sources will have articles authored by experts. For printed reference sources, consider these criteria:

Authority:  Is the author an expert in the field or is the publisher well known?

Accuracy:  Is the information correct and based on proven facts?

Currency:  Is the information up-to-date?

b. Online Reference Sources

For online reference information, use the same evaluation criteria as for print sources - consider authority, accuracy, and currency. However, for reference information you find on the Web, it's a good idea to consider some of the criteria noted below for evaluating Web sources.

For LM1010, if you choose to use an online reference source, it should be from a government or university Web site. Government Web sites, such as the Statistical Abstract of the United States or FedStats, fare reputable sources of reference information. There are also many government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education, that put reports and data on their Web sites. Some universities also provide reference information, such as Purdue University's Online Writing Lab.

4. Evaluating Books

a. Evaluating Print Books

To properly evaluate a book, you should actually have the book in hand. It's very difficult to critically evaluate a book using only the small amount of information found on a library catalog record.

Established publishers, such as university presses, take great care in holding a level of quality in the books they publish. Because they have a reputation to maintain, before a book is published it is reviewed by editors for quality of content and writing style. Some publishers, such as vanity presses, might publish anyone's material. You should use these sources with caution.

You should also be aware that books in an academic library have been carefully reviewed and selected by librarians. This adds another level of authority or reliability to the publication. It does not mean, however, that you shouldn't be critical of the content for your own needs.

Evaluate a book using the three criteria presented above - authority, accuracy, and currency:

Authority:  Is the author an expert in the field or is the publisher well known?

Accuracy:  Is the information correct and based on proven facts?

Currency:  Is the information up-to-date?

b. Evaluating eBooks

Evaluating ebooksSUU librarians have made an effort to purchase more electronic books, or eBooks, as they become available from publishers, especially in business and technology subject areas. Electronic books have many advantages - they are available to students at any time, even when the library is closed, and eBooks can't get lost!

The SUU Library Catalog has a feature that makes it easy to find eBooks in the SUU library:

  1. Type your keyword search
  2. In format: window select E-books
  3. Click Search
  4. Finally, click the URL link for the book to

eBooks can be evaluated for authority, accuracy and currency using the same criteria presented above for printed books.