When evaluating BOOKS for your research paper, use the following criteria and ask yourself:
OBJECTIVITY/PURPOSE:Does the author have an agenda? Why was the book written? Was the book written to inform, entertain, teach, give an overview, or persuade?
The purpose of the author in presenting ideas, opinions, or research may in part determine the usefulness of the resource. Does the resource show political, cultural or other bias? Are opposing points of view represented? Is this information verified in other resources? You may not be able to evaluate the objectivity of any single resource until you have looked at all your resources. Even biased resources can sometimes be used, if you are aware of the bias.
Where to find bias in books
The book jacket usually contains the author's credentials. That information may help you determine bias.
PUBLISHER: Who published the book?
university press? Examples: Oxford University Press, University of Pittsburgh Press
commercial publisher? Examples: Salem Press, McGraw-Hill
government (U.S., state, local)? Example: U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO)
CURRENCY/TIMELINESS:When was the material written?
Some topics require current information, such as those in the health sciences. Know the time needs of your topic. Is the book up-to-date, out-of-date, or timeless?
Where to find publication date for books
Date of publication should be clearly listed on the title page near the front of the book. Also, this information could possibly be found in the Library Catalog or in Library Databases:
AUTHORITY/AUTHOR: Is the author an expert in this field?Where is the author employed? What are his/her credentials?
Where to find credentials for books
The credentials of the author of a book are frequently found on the book jacket, or at the beginning of the book:
ACCURACY/DOCUMENTATION: Where did the author get his/her information?
The amount and type of documentation used affects the value of the book, and may help you verify the facts or conclusions presented. Documentation usually consists of bibliography, footnotes, credits, resources, or quotations. Resources that include documentation are considered more reliable and more suitable for college level research. Your instructors know that having documentation makes it easier to evaluate a work - that's why it is usually required for your research papers.
Where to find documentation
Documentation is usually near or at the end of a book.
AUDIENCE:Is the level of the book appropriate for your needs? Is the book for:
students (high school, college, graduate)
specialists or professionals,
researchers or scholars?
USEFULNESS:Does the book contain the information you need?
Ask yourself "Is this book useful to me, to my paper?". Examine the table of contents and the index (if available).
A well-researched, well-written book is not going to be helpful if it does not pertain to your topic. If if is useful, does it:
support an argument
refute an argument
give examples (survey results, case studies, etc.)?