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Evaluating a Reference Work

Evaluating a Reference Book:

First impressions:

     Does the title accurately and completely reflect the content?

Scope:

    What time periods and/or geographical areas does it cover?
    How is inclusion into this source determined?
    What other limitations are mentioned in the front matter?

Coverage:

    Is it meant to be all-encompassing?
    An overview or survey?

Arrangement:

    Alphabetical? Chronological? By some other means?

Special features:

    Index or indexes? What kind?
    If there is no index, does that make the book more difficult to use? Table of contents? Bibliography? Appendices? Illustrations?

Authorship/Authority:

    If the book consists of individually written contributions, are the articles attributed?
    If the book was written or compiled by one or more authors, are their credentials given? Does the author(s) seem qualified to write on the   
    subject, based on the credentials?

Audience:

    Who is the target reader for this book: scholar, casual reader, undergraduate?
    Is the audience very specific (opera singers, jazz musicians, violinists) or general?

Timeliness:

    If it’s an older edition, does that make the content less useful? Why or why not?