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Evaluating Sources of Information: Books

Evaluating Book Sources

 Who are the authors or contributors, and what are their credentials?

  • Who is the publisher? Academic press, or established publishing house?
  • What year was the book published? Have there been previous editions?
  • Look on the page opposite the title page for details about the publisher and editions.
  • Are references or a bibliography included? This could be at the end of each chapter, or at the end of the book.
  • Are there recommendations, reviews or awards for the book listed on the back cover? Are they from reputable sources, such as: experts in the field, professional associations, or respected journals?

Explore the other tabs in this box for more detailed CRAAP criteria for websites.

 Date of Publication: 

Some topics, such as those in the health sciences, require current information. 

Other subjects, such as history, value older material as well as current.

Some books, especially textbooks, will publish a new edition when there have been significant updates in the field fo study.

Know the time needs of your topic and examine the timeliness of the book; is it: up-to-date, out-of-date, or timeless? 

 Usefulness: Is the information in the book useful to your current assignment?  Does it:

  • support or refute an argument
  • give examples (survey results, primary research, case studies)
  • provide "wrong" information that can be challenged in a productive way?

Coverage: Does the book cover the topic comprehensively, partially or is it an overview? Is there a chapter that focuses on your topic area?

Audience: Who is the intended audience of the book? Is the level appropriate for your needs?  

  • general readers,
  • students (elementary, high school, college, graduate),
  • specialists or professionals
  • researchers or scholars


Author: Is the author an expert in this field? Where is the author employed? What else has he/she written? Has he/she won awards or honors?

Publisher: Who published the book?

  • A university press?
  • Commercial publisher?
  • Professional or Trade Association, Institution, or Research Center?
  • Government (US, state, local)?
  • Vanity (self-published)?

  University theses and dissertations are considered published by the university that granted the degree to the student who wrote it.

Organization and Content: Is the book well organized and focused?  Is the text well written?  Is there an index?

Illustrations: Are the graphics clear in intent, relevant and professional looking? Do the graphics add to or enhance the content?

References / Bibliography: Scholarly works always contain a bibliography of the resources that were consulted. The references in this list should be in sufficient quantity and be appropriate for the content. Look for:

  • if a bibliography exists
  • if the bibliography is short or long
  • if the bibliography is selective or comprehensive
  • if the references are primary sources (eg. journal articles) or only secondary sources (eg. encyclopedias)
  • If the source material is critically evaluated and accurately represented?
  • if the references are contemporary to the book or much older 
  • if the citation style is clear and consistent


What is the primary reason that was the book was created?   

  • To inform: a sequence of historical events, the results of lengthy study or experiment
  • To persuade: to change point of view, outlook, beliefs, or behavior
  • To entertain: most fiction, humour, gossip
  • To teach how to do something: resumes, cover letters, business plans, needlework, woodwork
  • To give an overview: textbooks, encyclopedias
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