Evaluating Books and Journal Articles
When conducting research for class papers and presentations, there are several criteria that you should apply to selecting materials. For information about distinguishing scholarly and popular resources, please consult the Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines page The following table will guide you in making this critical choices:
Examples and Explanations
Purpose of Book/Article
What is the author’s intent?
To prove a point or refute someone else’s?
To teach someone how to do something?
To entertain someone?
Recovering Biblical Manhood responds to feminist critiques of biblical gender roles.
Is this published by a government agency?
Research Institute or Trade Group?
Vanity Press (Self-Published)?
Scholarly or Popular Press?
University, College, or Seminary Press?
Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers, 7th Edition, is published by a university press.
Some publishers and authors have a bias and/or theological slant that affects the types of resources they will publish. While not necessarily a bad thing, researchers should take the bias/slant into account. Some research assignments might require students to research impartial, objective findings while others ask students to research a particular point of view on a topic.
Kingdom of Priests purports to take a conservative, evangelical perspective on O.T. historical accounts.
Is the bibliography comprehensive? Selective?
Are the citations current?
Does the author cite primary sources? Secondary sources?
Are the citations relevant to the content of the book/journal?
Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide has a 99-page bibliography consisting of books, scholarly journals, trade publications, and personal interviews.
Does the book/article cover the topic of your report?
Does it defend a position?
Does it reject another position?
Is it fact-based or opinion-based?
Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society would be an excellent resource for paper regarding the church’s effort to combat poverty around 300 A.D.
What are the author’s educational credentials?
Does the authors have any distinguishing awards or honors?
Does the author have other publications?
Peter Berger has a doctorate in sociology and has published articles and books in the sociology of religion for four decades.
What is the scope of the article?
A general overview?
A specialized examination?
A comprehensive examination?
A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament provides a general survey of O.T. scholarship
What type of audience does the author
intend to reach?
General readers and Laymen?
Undergraduate or Graduate Students?
Researchers in the Field?
Jesus According to Scriptureis intended for an informedaudience of pastors, theologians, and well-versed church laymen.
What is the implicit purpose of illustrations in a book?
To illustrate ideas or trends?
Are these illustrations professional?
Are the illustrations relevant or distract from the book’s purpose?
Fire From Heaven has four pages of illustrations that highlight the rise of Pentecostalism around the world.