VCU LibrariesResearch Guides

MHIS 324: Jazz History

Writing About Music

Evaluating Sources

Ask yourself these questions to help you determine the type of document you have.

  • Author or creator: What are the author's credentials (educational background, past writing, experience) in this area? Have you seen the author's name cited in other sources or bibliographies? Respected authors are cited frequently by other scholars. For this reason, always note names that appear in many different sources. 
  • Year of publication: Is the source current or out of date for your topic? Topics in the humanities often require material that was written many years ago, but scholarly ideas also change over time.
  • Edition: Is this a first edition? Later editions indicate a source has been revised and updated. Multiple printings or editions may indicate that the work has become a standard source in the area and is reliable.
  • Publisher: Is it a university press or a large reputable publisher?
  • Audience: Who is the intended audience? Is this a survey textbook intended for students, a biography geared to the general public, etc.?
  • Intentions: Read the preface (book) or abstract (article) to determine the author's intentions. Scan the table of contents and the index to get a broad overview of the material covered. Note whether bibliographies are included.