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UMass Amherst Libraries

College Writing

English 112

Evaluating Books

Many of the same criteria that you use to evaluate articles also apply to evaluating books. When you're reading books, ask yourself the following questions to help you assess what type of publication you are reading:

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What authority does the author have to write on the topic covered? Is the author a freelance writer? A practitioner? A scholar?
  • What is the author's point of view (or of the publisher as a whole)?
  • Who published the material and why are they publishing this information?
  • Does the type of information provided meet my research needs?
  • Is the information provided relevant to my topic or research question?

Types of Books

When searching for books, your results will typically include titles that have different features and that come from a wide range of publisher types, from mass-market paperback publishers to university presses. The type of information presented and how you use it will vary according to the type and nature of the book.

Sometimes it can be challenging to decide exactly which category a title falls into. You may find it useful to think of the various types of publications as all having a place along a continuum, from popular to scholarly. Remember to ask yourself who published a particular book. Generally, a university press (such as Oxford University Press or Harvard University Press) will publish more scholarly material than other publishers.

Each of these publications has a place in doing research. For example, you might consult a popular book to get a first-person account of a particular event or time period. You would then consult a more scholarly academic book to see how scholars (college and university faculty and graduate students) have conducted research on this same topic and what conclusions their research has led them to over time.