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Critical Thinking About Sources

How To Be Critical About Books & eBooks

Review the copyright page, the title page, the table of contents, the preface, the index and the introduction for:

Author Information
  • Who is the author?  Does the book contain an “about the author” page?
  • What are the author’s credentials: scholarly affiliations, degrees earned?
  • Has the author published other books on this topic? Is it an area of expertise?
  • Have you heard of the author from your professor? Have you seen this author cited by others in their works?
  • Is the author affiliated with a certain organization: what do you know about the reliability of the organization?

 Publisher Information

  • Does a university press publish this? A vanity press?
  • Was this published by a professional organization or a government organization?
  • Is the publisher considered reputable in the field?

 Table of Contents/Preface/Introduction

  • What is contained within the work?
  • Is your topic represented in the work?
  • Does the author identify the purpose of the book: to inform, persuade, teach?

 Critical Reception of the Work

  • Has the work been reviewed in a professional medium?
  • Has the work been reviewed in a general evaluative medium, such as Choice?
  • Does the review mention the book as valuable to the field? Does the review mention books that might be better?
  • Is the book in a second or third edition?
  • What are the differences between the editions? Omissions? Additions? Is this a standard source in the field?
  • What is the difference between this work and other books published on the same topic?
  • What is the date of publication? Is the work out-of-date? Does your topic demand more current information or historical information?


Review the book content for the following:

 Audience

  • Was the book written for an introductory or advanced audience?
  • Does it contain high-level jargon?
  • Was it written for students, professors, scholars?

Objectivity or Bias

  • Does the book contain enough factual information?
  • Does the book give you references so that you can verify the information contained therein?
  • Does the material appear to be well-researched?
  • Are there any aspects of the topic that have been omitted, or does the book take all aspects into account?
  • Is the language free of emotion or bias?
  • Is the book research-based: does it have case studies, survey results, study findings?
  • Is the book just commentary?

Coverage

  • Does the book update other information? How does it cover your topic—in depth, or marginally?
  • Does the book contain enough primary sources?
  • Analyze the secondary sources: did you need more critical analyses?
  • Are there appendixes, glossaries, footnotes, explanatory notes, charts, and graphs?
  • Are the sources listed in the bibliography current?
  • Does the source give you new ideas about your topic?

Writing Style

  • Are the chapters logically arranged?
  • Are main points clear?
  • Is the text easy to follow?
  • Are there clear headings and outlines for the chapters?

 

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