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Environmental Studies: Finding scholarly books

Resources for the study of environment, place, and culture

Resource Profile: Scholarly Books

Photo courtesy of rhousewright at Flickr

Photo by rhousewright at Flickr

How can you tell if a book is scholarly?  The best way to tell is to look at who publishes it.  If it's published by a university press or by several other academic presses (e.g., Blackwell, Routledge, Palgrave, Ashgate) it is scholarly.  There are other presses that publish scholarly books as well, depending on the discipline.  Another way to decide is to look at the book's intended audience and purpose.

How are scholarly books different from regular books?  Scholarly books are published regardless of whether or not they will make money.  In fact, most scholarly books actually loose a lot of money. Instead, scholarly books exist to contribute to knowledge, and they support the research of academics and scholars at all levels.  All other books at least have an ostensible goal of making money.

Who decides whether or not a scholarly book gets published?  Editors at scholarly publishers express initial interest in a book, but they don't make the final decision.  All scholarly books go through an extensive process in which experts in the field read the manuscripts and decide if the book is worthy to be published.  In other words, scholarly books are peer reviewed sources.

What are the features of scholarly books?

  • Often directed toward a narrow audience that has specific reseasrch interests.
  • Always have information cited in text or in footnotes.
  • Provide extensive bibliographies and overviews of existing research.
Remember, scholarly books are just one of many kinds of books.  If you still have questions, ask a librarian or your professor.

Information Literacy Poll

If you are looking for a book in environmental studies, what are some of the factors you keep in mind as you decide whether or not you should use a book in an academic setting?

Information Literacy Poll
Who publishes the book?: 0 votes (0%)
Who wrote the book?: 0 votes (0%)
Do I seem to agree with what the book says?: 0 votes (0%)
Is the book available?: 0 votes (0%)
None of the above.: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0

Finding Books with Library of Congress Subject Headings

Once you find a book in the catalogue that you know will help you with your research, you should try to find other books with the same Library of Congress subject headings.  What does this mean? Watch the video below.

Click on the lower right-hand corner of the video player to view in full-screen format.

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Google Books

Google Books is a great supplementary resource to discover books that pertain to your research.  Since the Google Books digitization project began several years ago, Google has made electronic copies of 12 percent of the world's books that have ever been printed.  With this incredible repository, you can access the full text of many books that are out of print or unavailable.  You can also read sections of chapters online and immediately decide whether the book you've found will be useful.

Google Book Search

Reading Call Numbers and Going Up to the Stacks

The Carmichael Library uses the Library of Congress classification system to catalogue books. Below is a list of guides to interpreting the call numbers and finding books on the shelf.

Relying on Book Reviews

Scholarly and popular press publications often include book reviews (or, in some cases, are entirely dedicated to reviewing books).  Reading reviews can be a rapid way to find out which books are influencing scholarly discussions.  You might even find out about books that you never knew existed.  Here, you'll find a list of book review sources.