After searching a database or catalog, you will likely have a list of results. Here are some tips for choosing which books or articles to read.
Is it relevant for your research question?
What kind of source is it?
What type of text is it?
Academic databases and even individual issues of journals include many kinds of writing. Some databases classify whether a text is or is part of a book, a thesis, a newspaper, or a journal; others also include whether it is a review, a research article, an editorial, a literature review. Some databases will allow you to narrow your results by scholarly articles, but those will still usually include theses and reviews.
When was it published?
For some research questions, it is important to use current materials. Citing current studies and data makes sure that you are accessing the scholarly conversation as it is happening now and helps you have more accurate claims. However, in some fields, older texts still play an important role. If you are uncertain, talk with your librarian or professor.
How might you use the source?
When you are deciding which works to read, it helps to think about what the work might help you answer. For example, if you are writing a paper about the effects of redlining: Does it help you define redlining? Does it provide oral histories of home-buyers who were discriminated against? Does it present an argument about how redlining undermined the ability for people to accumulate wealth?
A good research project usually uses a variety of kinds of evidence. One model of these types of evidence based on their use is BEAM: