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Evaluating Sources - Maple Woods

Determine whether the sources you use for research are reliable and appropriate for your paper or speech

Ask Yourself . . .

Books can be a great source of information, and can be especially useful for research into historical topics or for in-depth coverage of subjects. You can quickly evaluate books by asking these questions:

  • Look at the length of the book.  Is it comprehensive? 
  • When was the book published? Is the information current?
  • Are author credentials provided? For example, is the author a professor, a journalist, or an expert in the field? A quick web search can help you find more information about the author as well. 
  • Is the publisher a university press?  A large well-known company?  A special interest group?
  • What audience is the book intended for? Easy enough for a child? Generally understood by an adult? Scholarly? Technical?
  • Is there a list of references/bibliography
  • What is the purpose of the book:  To inform?  Persuade?  Entertain?
  • Does the book exhibit obvious bias

All the "Extras"

Besides the main part of the book, check these for more information:

  • Preface - Discover the scope of the book and author's purpose
  • Introduction - Read the preliminary information before reading the text of the book
  • Table of Contents - See the organization of the book
  • Notes, Bibliography, References - Examine the citations to sources the author consulted
  • Index - Find a specific topic that is covered in the book, with the page number where it is found

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