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Information Literacy Modules
  • What is a book?

    A book may be fiction or nonfiction. It is written to be read from beginning to end.

    It is "nonperiodical," that is, not published on a regular schedule like a magazine or journal.

  • How do I know it's a book?

    Whether your book is in print, on a computer or e-reader (e.g., Kindle, Nook, iPad), it is typically:

    • Comprehensive (sometimes several hundred pages)
    • Divided into chapters (except picture books)

    It may be illustrated with drawings, artwork, photographs, maps, or charts.

    Note: A pamphlet or brochure is shorter and less substantial (and cited using its own form).

  • Does the database I'm using include books?

    Skim the database description to check that your source is a book (vs. a reference book).

  • Who contributes to a book?

    • Author
    • Illustrator
    • Editor
    • Translator
    • Author of a foreword or introduction

  • How do I evaluate a contributor's authority?

    A contributor's expertise and credentials should relate to your subject. A credible book author might:

    • Have a degree in this subject
    • Study or do research on this topic
    • Work in a related field
    • Write about this topic regularly
    • Have first-hand knowledge
    • Have participated in, or observed, events and people

    Every author has opinions and a worldview that shape his or her treatment of a subject. As you read the book, ask yourself how the author's views and affiliations might affect the presentation or omission of information.

  • What is a scholarly edition of a book?

    A scholarly edition is a version of a classic work with an editorial overlay. A scholar, rather than the original author (who may no longer be alive), edits the new edition for publication.

    Note: Edited collections of critical essays are cited as anthologies.

  • How do I know my book is part of a series?

    If the series name is listed on the title page or copyright page, add it to your citation.

    What is a popular book series?

    • Multiple novels by the same author with common characters
    • Multiple books by the same author
    • Multiple nonfiction titles with a common format and focus

    What is a scholarly book series?

    • Nonfiction
    • Has a distinctive identity and topical focus
    • May be called a "monograph series"
    • Often has a board of general editors
    • Published by a university press or scholarly society
    • Each book has an individual title but may be number in sequence
    • May contain a description and a list of titles

  • How do I preview a book for relevance?

    Skim the book's advertising (e.g., book description, jacket, back cover) to decide if the book might contain relevant information.

  • Does the book have information I need?

    • Table of Contents: Is the scope of the book/chapter relevant to my topic?
    • Introduction/Preface: Does the author's description of the focus fit my need?
    • Glossary: If the words are too easy, this book may not add anything new.
    • Index or Search: Are many pages listed for my keyword?

    Always check: Does this add something new to my research?

  • How do I evaluate a book's currency?

    If recent information is important to understanding your topic, check the following:

    • Bibliography: How current are the author's own sources?
    • Copyright page: What is the latest copyright date?

    Tip: Subtract 6-12 months from the copyright date to estimate when the information was actually compiled.

  • How do I evaluate a book's credibility?

    • Bibliography: Does the author cite relevant expert sources?
    • Notes: Does the author provide strong evidence for his claims?

    Digging deeper:

    • Is more than one viewpoint fully represented and fairly considered?
    • Do the author's conclusions follow logically from the analysis?
    • Does this add a different point of view?
    • Does this make sense, given what I already know?
    • What do others say about this book?

    Corroborate: Compare information from different media (e.g., magazines, reports, newspapers, blogs) to gather diverse viewpoints.

  • How do I cite a book?

    Use the title page and copyright pages (not the cover or jacket) to find:

    • Title and subtitle
    • Author
    • Illustrator, translator or other contributor
    • Publisher's name and imprint
    • Place of publication
    • Latest copyright date
    • Series name
    • Edition