Before a text is subjected to a comprehensive evaluation, it must first be determined whether it is even suitable for your own topic. This decision is by no means trivial.

Academic texts are insidious here and there: some authors choose inappropriate citations or unclear phrases as titles. Others do not understand how to write coherently – they lose themselves in a variety of individual themes, all of which are related to the main theme, but rather confuse the reader because they are not clearly ordered. Often, many hours are lost because students first encounter literature that is only of limited use and contains little material on the topic.

The decision as to whether an essay or a book should be used for one’s own work depends on many factors. Although blanket advice can not be provided, some questions help in assessing relevance:

  • Does the text meet the topic (are the most important keywords and search terms available?)
  • Does the text come from a distinguished expert?
  • Is it a text that meets scientific standards?
  • Is the text based on an academic discussion that is important for your own work?
  • Do other sources refer to the elaboration?
  • Which are the sources of the author? Can you find further suggestions for your own work from the bibliography?

Depending on the subject, further demands, such as the question of up-to-dateness, are added: While in philosophy, texts that are more than 2000 years old can be used, the IT sector has a different understanding of actuality, since hardware and software evolve at a breathtaking pace.

Students should, before embarking on a lengthy evaluation of scholarly texts, scrutinize what qualifies and what does not matter. If relevant literature is left out, it reduces the quality of one’s own work. If, on the other hand, literature is used that turns out to be irrelevant, a lot of time and effort is often spent without making any progress.