Whenever you use information, you should consider its source. Not all information is equally valid, accurate, timely, or complete.
If you are not familiar with the subject matter or author of a particular book, consider looking for book reviews to help you determine its value. Choose your reviewing sources carefully — steer away from the more popular journals. The New York Times Book Review is a good choice rather than Publisher’s Weekly.
For insights, go to journals in the subject field and those published by professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association or Organization of American Historians. Reference tools such as Book Review Digest and Book Review Index can help you locate reviews more easily. Some reviews are also available through full-text online databases such as Academic Search Premier.
These questions will help you determine whether the books and journal articles you have found are appropriate for your needs.
- Who is the author?
- Is the author considered an expert in this field?
- What qualifications does this author have?
- What is the author’s purpose in writing this piece?
- What is the author affiliation? Is it with an organization? An educational institution?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the periodical a scholarly, professional, or popular publication?
- Does the journal have a particular bias?
- Does it reflect the agenda of a group or institution – political,
religious, social, etc.?
- Are the sources for any factual information clearly listed so they can
be verified in another source?
- Is the information free of grammatical, spelling and other
- Is it clear who has the ultimate responsibility for the content of the
- Is statistical information labeled clearly and easy to read?
- Is the information verified or supported by other documentation?
- Is the treatment of the topic appropriate for your purpose?
- Have you gathered enough data to support your topic?
- Does this article or book seem objective or does the author have a
bias or make assumptions?
- What method of obtaining data or conducting research was used by the
- Are the facts consistent throughout the text?
- Do various sources report the same findings?
- If not, what is the basis for differences?
- Is there supporting evidence (documents, citations)?
- If there is advertising, is it clearly differentiated from the
- What is the date of publication?
- Is the information still correct?
- Do you need current or historical information?