Information types – which one and how to evaluate Books

Information types – which one and how to evaluate
There are a few things to consider when deciding whether books are the
right source of information for you. Your lecturers will recommend some
books to you as course texts and you can use these to help you learn who
key authors and publishers might be.
Books tend to contain accepted information that has been agreed upon
over time. They are sometimes a bit out of date but give you a good overview of a topic and
references to more information. They can be in paper or electronic form.
There are different types of books, some are very general and cover a topic at a basic level for
VanPutte, Cinnamon ... [et al.] 'Seeley's anatomy and physiology' New York : McGraw-Hill, c2014.
10th ed., international student ed.
Howarth, Peter The Cambridge Introduction to modernist poetry Cambridge : Cambridge
University Press, 2012.
Other books can be quite advanced, specialised collections on a very specific topic, for example:
Holt, Richard I.G. and Hanley, Neil A. Essential endocrinology and diabetes Chichester, West
Sussex : Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. 6th ed.
Southerden, Francesca E. 'Landscapes of desire in the poetry of Vittorio Sereni' Oxford : Oxford
University Press, 2012.
When evaluating a book that you've found, either online or in paper, to decide whether to read it:
review the contents pages and index to see the subject coverage, this will tell you whether it
covers the topic you want, there might be just one chapter on your topic within a more general
think about whether the book gives a broad overview of a whole field or whether it is a
specialist manual or edition covering a very specific topic
look at the preface in the front of the book or the abstract on the back, they will usually tell
you who the book is intended for, whether that's university undergraduates or the general
To evaluate the authority of the book have a look at the authors.
who are the authors? Try looking them up to see if they are university professors or just keen
look at the first page just inside the book cover that lists the author and publisher. This might
tell you who the authors are affiliated with, for example a prestigious university
see if you can find more information about them on the publisher’s website or look them up
using a focused web search
A further measure of authority is the publisher
are they a mainstream academic publisher or someone who more often publishes popular
is there evidence of bias – are all sides of an argument presented? If they are a pressure group
or product manufacturer the material may not always give a neutral presentation of all sides of
a debate.
look up their website and see if there is an ‘About Us’ page
what other material do they publish?
It's important the book is current enough for you.
Information inside the book cover will tell you when the book was published
have a look at the references inside the book as these are the what the information inside the
book is based on
decide whether the information is likely to be out of date or not. This may be more likely
within the sciences than within the arts. Books can take a while to be written and published
If the book appears to cover your topic at the appropriate level, the authors and publisher look
authoritative and it is current enough for you have a look at the references to find more in depth
there will probably be journal articles and other books
there may be a supporting website
A good book always follows the recommended academic practice of listing the information it was
based on and gives you a bibliography or list of further references to read if you want to find out
more detail on the topics covered in it.
Journals and articles within them
What are journals?
You can think of a journal as a specialist magazine. Like
magazines, journals are published regularly, bringing
together individual articles written by academics and
researchers. They're an excellent source of information
on the latest developments in a particular subject area.
Experts use journal articles to communicate new
discoveries or theories to each other so an understanding
of the basic concepts and vocabulary of a subject is usually
needed before using articles for your essay or project. This means they aren't really suitable if
you're looking for an introduction to a subject.
1 Image from
The regularly published parts of a journal are known as issues and they all have a unique number,
generally made up of two parts:
1. A volume number, sometimes accompanied by the year
2. A running number identifying each issue within that year or volume
You can understand this better if we show you an example:
Journal of Popular Music Studies, Volume 25, Issue 2
This particular issue was published in June 2013. These numbers are often written in the format
Journals are sometimes referred to as periodicals or serials and can come in electronic form,
commonly called e-journals, or in paper as a printed hard copy. In the science disciplines, ejournals have almost entirely replaced paper journals. In the arts and social sciences, publication is
still in both print and electronic form.
To evaluate whether a journal is one you want to use for your work have a look to see if it is both
scholarly and peer-reviewed journal as these are usually better for you to use.
A scholarly journal is one which is aimed at an academic audience. The authors who contribute
articles will be academics or expert researchers with the appropriate qualifications. An article in a
scholarly journal will include references which support the argument being made.
A peer-reviewed, or refereed, journal is aimed at an academic and professional audience. It has
an additional editorial process before articles are published.
Within this process a panel of specialists review each article that has been submitted for publication
to ensure that the:
research meets the relevant academic and professional standards
information included in the article is accurate
article as a whole is of good quality
UlrichsWeb is a database ( which
provides details on the content and audience of journals. You can use UlrichsWeb to check if the
journal you are interested is peer-reviewed.
Why use journal articles?
Publishing an article in a journal is one of the ways in which academics and researchers share the
latest results of their research. Whilst publishing an academic monograph or a textbook is a longterm project (many years of work), publishing a journal article offers researchers a much quicker
route to sharing the results of their work. This means that journal articles are usually very up to date,
containing the latest thinking or discoveries on a topic. It also means that articles are very
specialised in nature so can help you with more advanced, specialised essay topics or dissertations.
In the scientific and medical disciplines, publishing an article in the relevant journal is the main
method used by researcher to share their research results. It is essential that you access the
relevant journals in these disciplines.
Finding journal articles
For most subjects you can use the Articles Search on the library catalogue for an initial search. As
you progress through your studies and research, you will need to move on to more subject specific
databases such as those highlighted through the subject guides on the library website.
Accessing journal articles
Some search services and databases will provide access to full text, electronic copies of journal
articles. At other times, you will simply be given the details of relevant articles. You will then need
to use the library catalogue to see if we hold the relevant journal (electronically or in hard copy).
Conference Papers
Conferences bring together academics and
researchers to discuss the latest research in their
subject areas. Researchers present papers outlining
their current research projects, giving details of their
research methodology and their findings. The findings
presented can often be interim or preliminary results
as the research projects discussed are often ongoing
or in the process of being finalised. The audience at
conferences, which are expected to be knowledgeable
2 Image
about the research being discussed, provide feedback
and ask questions. Conferences are held across all academic disciplines, and are one of the key ways
in which researchers share information and make connections with other researchers.
Conferences are organised by a wide variety of organisations: professional associations, research
institutions and subject specialist networks. Conferences can range in size from small audiences for
a single day of papers through to multi-day events with multiple simultaneous presentations.
Conference papers, presentations and proceedings
The presentations at conferences are referred to as papers. Papers are often published in the
proceedings of the particular conference. Conference proceedings bring together all or just some
selected papers from a conference for publication. This can be as a single volume (a book) or as part
of a journal. Some long standing conferences, such as the annual conference of a professional
association have a journal simply for their conference proceedings. Other conference proceedings
will be published as a special issue of a relevant journal.
Today, it is also common for papers to be made available electronically as full text papers available
via the conference website, as videos on YouTube or as presentations on Slideshare.
The Proceedings of the British Academy: a journal dedicated to the proceedings of conferences
and lectures held at the British Academy
The Proceedings of the 3rd Asia-Pacific Bioinformatics Conference: a book published for this
particular conference
The Teacher Training and Technology Conference 2013: conference presentations made available
on the University of Huddersfield's website (with links to Prezi and Slideshare)
Paper presentations from the British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology Annual
Conference on YouTube
Why should I use conference papers?
With their focus on researchers sharing the very latest results of their research, conference papers
can be an excellent resource for your own research. Whilst conference papers are not subject to
the same level of peer-review as a journal article, the conference organising committee will have
an application and review process through which papers are selected for inclusion. Conference
papers are, therefore, of scholarly value and appropriate for your academic research.
You must, however, remember to evaluate conference papers and presentations as you would all
the resources you use for your research. Some things to consider include:
the conference organisers: was it organised by a recognised professional association or research
the researcher and research project: is the research project being carried out within the
appropriate academic / professional network?
the research results: have the results been appropriately checked and verified?
Finding conference papers
There are a number of search services which have features allowing you to focus your search on
conference papers and proceedings:
Zetoc Conference Search: A comprehensive search service offering access to citations of
conference papers published since 1993. The main Zetoc Search searches across over 52 million
citations or journal articles and conference papers, Zetoc Conference Search searches only
conference papers.
 PapersFirst: Another interface for searching the details of the conference papers available
through Zetoc Conference Search.
 ProceedingsFirst: A comprehensive search of conferences, meetings and symposia held since
1993. The details provided list the papers presented the particular conference.
 Web of Knowlege: Includes the Conference Proceedings Citation Indexes for Science and for
Social Science and Humanities which cover conference proceedings since 1990.
For conference papers, presentations and videos only available online, you can use Google and
Google Scholar, or simply visit the website of the conference organiser to see what is available.
Accessing conference papers
The search services highlighted above provide access to citations of conference papers, not access to
the full text of the papers themselves. Use the library catalogue to discover if we hold the paper you
are interested in.
Professional body publications
Many professional bodies publish guidelines and notes that
have formal standing, for example the Good Medical Practice
guidelines from the General Medical Council (GMC) and the
Law Society of Scotland’s Rules and Guidance. If you intend to
become a member of a formal profession we’d recommend you read these types of guidelines as
soon as you can, some bodies even have behaviour and ethics guidelines written specifically for
students, for example the Good Health and Character Guidance issues by the Nursing and midwifery
As well as rules governing your behaviour and best practice for your work environment some official
bodies publish information about academic topics too. One example is the Scottish Dental Clinical
Effectiveness Programme (SDCEP) which offers formal guidance on issues such as the Prevention and
Management of Dental Caries in Children
See if you can find the web site for your professional governing body and have a look at what they