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How to Evaluate Information Sources: Books

Books

Scholarly books:

  • Published by a university press, or a scholarly society, or an academic series by a trade publisher (e.g. Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series).
  • The author often has an academic affiliation and is a recognized authority on a topic (e.g. a professor at a university).
  • The work includes an extensive bibliography or list of works cited and an index to topics covered.

Popular books:

  • Published by a trade publisher such as Random House and intended for a broad audience, not just those studying in that discipline.
  • The author may have a corporate or business affiliation instead of an academic affiliation.
  • The author may include a bibliography and index, but they are less extensive than for scholarly books.

TIP:  In academic research there is a clear preference for refereed or scholarly material. However, there is also a role for non-scholarly material since it often reflects contemporary thought and is popular. Also, there may be little scholarly material available on a given topic. If you use sources such as newspapers or popular magazines, clearly point out that your information reflects a "commonly accepted position" but is "difficult to verify or refute".