A book is a written or printed series of pages bound together. A book can also be found in digital format (known as an ebook). Books can be fiction or non-fiction and can be written for any topic, or any audience known to man. They are also considered monographs, where the information in the book is meant to standalone and published once, as compared to a periodical (journal, magazine or newspaper) where the content is expected to continue in set intervals like weekly, monthly or quarterly.
Can be popular or scholarly, and may be fiction or non-fiction.
Most books in the UNF collection are scholarly and non-fiction, so we will focus on that.
Only the most recent of topics will not be covered by books. As research sources, books are excellent means for identifying various areas of interest within a larger subject. For example, a book that focuses on cloud computing will break down this larger subject into smaller areas, such as security, costs, and ease of use, and help a researcher discover what work has already been done and what work still needs to be done. Always good starting places for most research projects, books can prove invaluable for their depth and breadth of coverage.
Book features that can be of great benefit to researchers include:
References ‐‐ Scholarly works will normally document sources used in developing concepts and ideas treated within them. Bibliographies included in books will provide researchers with names of seminal works in the field as well as with names of key authorities in their areas of interest.
Key Concepts & Terminology ‐‐ Researchers who are just launching into an investigation of a topic will likely need to identify key concepts and terminology in order to effectively scan research databases for relevant current literature. Books, because of the depth with which they cover their topics, will be prime sources to use for turning up the proper vocabulary to use in searches. Often times, books also will point out research needs that have yet to be fulfilled, thus providing researchers with ideas for future research directions.
Detailed Index or Table of Contents ‐‐ While it might seem trivial, an index at the back of a book is extremely valuable to a researcher who is trying to quickly locate information inside a book. If a book does not have an index, it will hopefully have a more detailed table of contents that will assist the user in finding the needed information quickly.
Charts, tables, graphs, and other illustrative materials ‐‐ Often books will include illustrative materials that will help clarify concepts that are covered. Some topics, such as art and photography, for example, cannot be effectively presented in the absence of visual aids. Charts and graphs can be particularly helpful for illustrating numerical data that demonstrate changes over time or under varying conditions. Numerical data sets are more easily grasped when presented in tables. In short, illustrations can be of great value in helping a researcher to better understand complex concepts and ideas.
Literature surveys or reviews ‐‐ Many academic publications will routinely include literature surveys or reviews. A part of the research process is to identify key works of literature that have already been produced before launching into new studies. A book that includes chapters or sections written by multiple researchers might include literature surveys for each of the separate parts of the book.
These are typical features but by no means everything that could turn up inside a book. For example, works on history might include reproductions of historic documents or manuscripts that might otherwise be difficult to obtain. Works on rare and endangered species of animals might include photographs of species that very few people have ever seen. Books on music might actually include music discs that sample a particular composer's style. In short, books provide key contributions to research projects.
Following are characteristics/qualities to examine when evaluating books and longer sources for inclusion in an academic paper.
Authorship -- It is of paramount importance to identify additional information about the author. Who is the author and what qualifies him/her to be writing a book on the chosen subject? Is the author affiliated with a university or other research organization? Has the author written other articles or books on the same or similar subjects? What kind of critical reception has been accorded the author by other researchers and by book reviewers?
Where to Look:
Documentation-- Unless it is a novel, an extended essay, an autobiography, a collection of essays or other primary materials, or some other type of publication that doesn't require references, a book will cite references to other sources of information. Academic research routinely involves surveying what has already been written on a topic as a means for launching into further discovery. Cited references might also include suggestions for further reading by other experts in a field.
Book Reviews-- Books of note most likely will be reviewed and the reviews published in book trade publications, newspapers, and journals. Booklist, for example, is a twice monthly publication that specializes in providing reviews of books in a wide variety of disciplines and written for varied audiences, including both non‐fiction and fiction. Many newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Times of London, will also publish reviews of recent books. Book reviews could be written by subject specialists or by professional reviewers who have no single subject specialty. While reviews will not be the sole determinants of the value of a particular work, they can help a researcher get a feel for what type of information can be found in a book and what caliber of writing to expect from the book's author.
While many books will make their particular focus abundantly clear in the initial pages, not all publications do. It might take a bit more digging on the researcher's part to really get a good feel for whether a source is truly appropriate for the task at hand.