Determining whether a book is scholarly

There are several clues that you can use to determine whether a book is scholarly. Use the following questions to assess the book:


  • Who is the publisher?
  • Do they specialize in this field?
  • Is it published by a university press such as Oxford University Press or Indiana University Press?
  • Take a look at the publisher’s website if you are unsure of its subject expertise and purpose.


  • Does the publisher have a religious or political affiliation?
  • Consider how this affiliation might affect the scholarship or content of the book.


  • 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. Note whether the bibliographies include scholarly journal articles, primary sources, or other scholarly books by experts in the field.


  • Consider accuracy, bias, audience appropriateness, graphics, charts, and illustrations. Note the book's organization such as a preface, introduction, table of contents, conclusion, and index.

Book reviews

  • Search for book reviews and evaluate the reviewers' opinions.

Still have questions?

  • Ask your instructor whether the book is scholarly.
  • Contact your subject librarian for additional help.