Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

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 Is the work out-of-date?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:


  • 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?


  • 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?