Answered By: Emma Sattler
Last Updated: Nov 21, 2022     Views: 539

Scholarly books are written to inform or educate on a particular topic and are typically addressed to scholars or researchers in the author’s field.  Here are some things to look for when determining if a book is scholarly. Scholarly books will meet multiple points of the list below, not just one or two.

  1. Author(s) or Editor(s): Scholarly books are written or edited by people who have extensive education in their field and typically have substantive years of experience in the subject on which they are writing. Most books will list the author’s credentials in the introduction or book jacket.  This information is also often easy to determine via a Google search.
  2. Publishers: A good example of publishes to look for are university presses, publishers with a reputation for producing high quality, scholarly work and publishers that are a part of professional associations. For example the American Psychiatric Association (APA) publishes books specific to the field of psychiatry. An example of locating scholarly books from reputable publishers can be found in this video tutorial on locating scholarly biblical commentaries:
  3. References: Scholarly books will have a list of cited sources (articles, books, reports, etc.) of materials from which the authors have drawn to write their book at the end of each chapter or at the end of the book.  Scholarly books will often have a combination of primary and secondary sources.  This allows the reader to see how the author is supporting the claims made in the book and also follow the trail of what the author was citing. 
  4. Tone/Language: Scholarly books are written in a formal or academic tone as they are intended to inform or educate. Scholarly books are considered professional contributions to the literature of that field or discipline.  These books will also use the specialized terminology of the author’s field.
  5. Purpose/Argument: Scholarly materials present their argument objectively, presenting a thesis and then citing primary and secondary sources in support of that thesis. Typically the thesis of the book will be posed in the book’s introduction. The introduction will also typically show how the author plans to support the argument they making for their thesis.
  6. Book reviews: Book reviews are helpful tools to get a sense of the book’s purpose and argument. Scholarly book reviews critically review the book’s argument and weight its contribution to the scholarly conversation. Here is information on finding book reviews in the Jerry Falwell Library

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