First Steps

1. First Steps


Look for an "About the Author" either on the dust jacket or in the back. If it’s an article, look to see where he or she works. Does it sound like they have the background necessary to be writing about the topic?

  • If you are unsure, you can always use Google to find more information about the Author or use a Who's Who encyclopedia.
Date of Publication:

When was this work published?

  • If a book, look for the page with publisher information (usually before the title page).
  • If an article, look at the publication date which is located above the abstract in a database or at the bottom of the page if an article in a print journal.

Ask yourself: Has my topic undergone a lot of changes in recent years? (If you are unsure about your topic, speak with your instructor or use Credo Reference to read a quick background history)

  • For example, if you are writing a paper on the United States' relationships with the Middle East, you might want a book published after 2001.
Edition or Revision:

Is this a first edition of this publication or not? Further editions indicate a source has been revised and updated to reflect changes in knowledge, include omissions, and harmonize with its intended reader's needs.


Find out who published the work.

  • On the same page where you can find the publication date, you can find the name of the publisher.
  • If the source is published by a university press, it is likely to be scholarly.

Publisher does not necessarily confer authority; however, it does show who the intended audience is.

Journal Title (Article Only):

Is this a scholarly or a popular journal? Popular works are written for anybody (think of it as something you might find at your dentist's office) while scholarly works are written for members in the field and are often complex. Scholarly work also typically requires more research than a popular work.

Steely Library phone number:  859.572.5457