Identifying Academic Sources

In order to determine whether or not the book or article you’ve got is academic, you’ll need evaluate it on a few categories.


Who is the author?  Who is the publisher?

  • The author should be an expert with at least one advanced degree related to the subject of the book
  • University presses, scholarly publishers, and professional organizations  are reputable publishers of academic books and articles
    • Look up the publisher’s website to determine if it is a scholarly publisher
  • Scholarly articles are often peer-reviewed:
    • The article has been reviewed and scrutinized by other scholarly experts before it’s been published


Who is the book or article written for?

  • A book’s preface will often indicate if the book is aimed at a general or a specialized audience
  • Scholarly books and articles are written for university faculty, professionals, and students with an interest in the topic, and often assume the reader has some prior knowledge of the topic


Does the information appear to be well researched?

  • Citations (parenthetical notes, footnotes or endnotes) and an extensive bibliography indicate that the work is well researched and builds on existing scholarship.
  • A methods and materials section in books or articles about the sciences or social sciences are indications that the author has conducted primary research or analyzed and integrated primary data collected by other researchers into his/her work.


Does the information seem unbiased?

  • Is the author’s viewpoint radically different from other scholars in the field?
  • Academic authors can take a side on an argument, but they should address rather than ignore other positions on the topic.


When was the book or article published? Is the content out of date?

  • In general, currency is more critical in the sciences and social sciences than in the humanities, but many fields have ground-breaking, seminal works that remain relevant despite their age.