Assessing The Source
The Author - Basics
Name, occupation, title, education, experience.
Is he/she associated with a reputable institution?
Check Who's Who for basic information.
The Author - Details
Is he/she qualified to write on this subject?
What else has she/he written.
Check an index for the discipline for articles.
Check WorldCat for other books
Date of Publication
Is the date current enough for your purposes?
Books - check the front or back of the title page.
Journals - check the cover, or the citation information.
Websites - check the last updated date.
Beware the Reprint - look for the copyright date, not the printing date.
Edition or Revision
Many editions or revisions indicate heavy use, possibly a standard source.
More recent editions will be more up-to-date, generally more desirable.
Check Worldcat to see if you have the most recent edition.
Find out the publisher or sponsoring institution, if any.
University press publishers produce scholarly works.
Become aware of other reputable publishers in your field.
Professional societies (e.g. the American Chemical Society) are good sources.
Is the article in a scholarly journal?
See the tab above for characteristics of scholarly journals.
Assessing the Content
Intended Audience & Purpose
For whom is the author writing? The public, scholars, policy makers, practitioners?
What is her/his purpose? To inform, to persuade, to train?
Does the author or sponsoring organization have a bias?
Does he/she make unsupported assumptions?
How was the data or information collected?
Experiment, survey, reading in the subject, case studies, observation?
Was the method appropriate to the subject and standards in the field?
Is the information presented valid and well-researched?
Objectivity and Conclusions
Are the facts presented supported by the evidence?
Are the author's conclusions or opinions backed up by the facts?
How does this work compare to similar works on the topic?
Are digressions justified by the evidence and arguments?
Does the work update other sources?
Should there be supporting charts, tables, data, maps, photos, etc.?
Are they present? If not, why not?
Are supporting works by others cited appropriately?
Is there a bibliography or "works cited".
Writing and Organization
Is the work well-organized and understandable?
Are the arguments clear?
Check the opinions of other scholars of this person's work.
The Reference Librarian can help you find book reviews in the field.
Material in this page was adapted from:
Reference Department staff at McIntyre Library, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and
Engeldinger, Eugene A., "Bibliographic Instruction and Critical Thinking," RQ 28:195-202 (Winter 1988).