Q. How can I tell if a book is scholarly or not?
There are several clues to look for when determining whether a book is scholarly:
- Publisher: Who is the publisher? Do they specialize in this field? Is it published by a University Press (e.g. Oxford University Press, Indiana University Press)? Take a look at the publisher’s website if you are unsure of their focus
- Bias: Does the publisher have a religious or political affiliation? Consider how this affiliation might affect the scholarship and/or content of the book.
- Authority: Who is the author? Do they have credentials that give them authority on the subject? Are they recognized by other scholars in the field?
- Cited Sources: Scholarly books will have cited references or a bibliography. Most books written for general audiences will not. Consider the quality of the sources: look for inclusion of journal articles, primary sources, and other scholarly books by experts in the field.
- Content: Consider accuracy, bias, audience appropriateness, graphics/charts/illustrations. Look for books that have clear structure and organization, such as a preface, introduction, table of contents, conclusion, and index.
Still not sure? Look for book reviews of the book and see what reviewers had to say about its content. You can also contact a librarian or your professor to get their opinion.
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