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Research Process: Evaluating Books

This tutorial aims to help develop effective library research skills and critical thinking skills in all courses at Prince George's Community College.

Evaluating Books

Depending on the topic that you select to write about, circulating books will be useful to gather information from after using reference books to get an overview of your topic.

When you locate books in the online catalog, check to see if a content note and/or table of contents is listed in the catalog. This will give you an idea of what is covered in the book. There are other criteria that you should know about before deciding to use the book. For example you should know something about the:

  • Author: it is important to get some biographical information about the author if you are not familiar with that person. You should find out if this person is an authority in the particular discipline, subject, profession, etc.
  • Title: determine whether the title is appropriate for the topic that you are writing about.
  • Publisher: it is important to  know who the publisher is and the type of publisher. For example it is important to know if the publisher is a trade publisher, text book publisher, or vanity press, and what is the publisher's specialty.
  • Date of publication: you should know the publication date because the topic that you are writing about determines how old the information can be
  • Pagination: note whether the book contains an index, appendices, illustrations, and bibliographies. These items are useful for locating additional information
  • Subject headings: look on the back of the title page at the bottom of the page to locate subject headings given to the book. This will often lead you to additional sources related to the topic that you are researching.

Harmon, C. (Ed.). (2002). Using the internet, online services, and cd-roms for writing research and term papers (2nd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.