This book has 570 pages, a lot of information about my research subject and several studies are included. However, I don't want to spend my time reading it because one professor wrote already 12 pages review, emphasizing most important finding and conclusions. As well critical perspective.

Should I cite both of them in my literature review so I can honor in a way book author or is it dishonest from my side to cite something I didn't read? I don't doubt he did a great job, even people from Cambridge are praising him, but I think I will lose a lot of time since I am a slow reader and in the review is represented a lot what I would like to know.

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    I would cite the review as well as the main source (here, the book) for which the review has been written.
    – Coder
    Jul 26, 2017 at 10:21
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    "Can reading book review substitute reading whole book?" Of course not, but it could still be sufficient. It completely depends on what kind of information from the book you want to use and for which purpose.
    – user9482
    Jul 26, 2017 at 10:23
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    I perfectly understood what kind of book this is when I wrote my comment. Details often are extremely important.
    – user9482
    Jul 26, 2017 at 10:38
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    One isn't required to read an entire book in order to cite it. If the book contains vast swathes of irrelevant information, skip those parts; just read and cite the most relevant chapters, or even the most relevant paragraphs, and cite those parts that support your assertions. The review may, of course, also be useful. Jul 26, 2017 at 10:39
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    To give you a good answer, please clarify in what context you are considering citing the book. Is it a literature review of works on the broad topic? Is it an article where the book's idea is an important reference point? The clearer you can be concerning your specific context, the more useful the answers you might get to your question.
    – Tripartio
    Jul 26, 2017 at 20:53

3 Answers 3


I'd recommend you should at least read and understand the chapters pertaining to your research.

If you trust the other professor wrote a concise, but complete and truly impartial review (because "even some people from Stanford praise him"? Think again: does that sound like a valid scientific reasoning?), you certainly may decide at our own risk to cite only the review.

By academic standards, as soon as you just add something to the bibliography you didn't read, it's... an academic misdemeanor. And adding a reference to something you did not even browse is quite the opposite of "honoring the author".

  • I understand your concern, but this professor has higher credibility from the author of the book.also in this review he adds some critical perspective and explain additionally results.
    – SSimon
    Jul 29, 2017 at 9:16

Contrary to what some others have responded, I don't believe that it is necessary to read an entire work (not just a book, but even a short article) in order to cite it. A citation does not mean "I've read it"; a citation means "if you want to know where I got this idea from, or you would like more detailed information, look here". However, a comment below notes that this might only be true in some fields (I mostly publish in business, management, and information science).

That said, you are certainly responsible to cite a work responsibly, by which I mean that the work should indeed support what you are citing it to support. Without reading at least the specific sections that relate to the point related to your citation, it is impossible to be responsible in this way. For a literature review, although it is ideal to read everything that you summarize as part of your review, it is often not practical to do so, especially for reviews that evaluate a very large number of references. (This is different from a book review, which has the implicit understanding that the writer has read the entire book being reviewed, or is otherwise expected to explicitly say that they did not.) I personally consider the standard for a literature review to be what I am calling "responsible" citation: anything cited must accurately reflect what is summarized or claimed concerning the original source, which does not necessarily require reading the entire work.

For your specific situation, I suggest writing something like this: "OriginalAuthor (Year) wrote concerning ________, as summarized by BookReviewAuthor (Year)." From then on, whenever making any claims about what the book supposedly says, I would cite BookReviewAuthor, not OriginalAuthor. To me, this would be an honest way of indicating that you did not read the original book, but are rather summarizing or commenting on the book review. Of course, some readers (and reviewers) might not like the fact that you didn't read the original book, but whether that looks good or bad is secondary: it is honest. At least you're not pretending to have read a book when you only read the summary. If the readers don't like that, then they are free to read the entire book themselves (which you properly cited for their benefit). Of course, they would probably go to the book review, too, since that is easier, unless they are really, really interested.

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    What a citation means differs a lot between fields, thus your first paragraph is only true for some fields...
    – Dirk
    Jul 27, 2017 at 12:54
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    If you don't read articles properly, then you are likely to make wrong citations. If you just assume, based on what someone else said, that an article contains an idea or has detailed information about a topic, then you will often be wrong, and you will be propagating inaccurate information and wasting your readers' time. My answer here is related to this.
    – user72102
    Jul 27, 2017 at 13:16
  • @user1310503 I like your linked answer; In fact, this is what I'm talking about when I emphasize the need for "responsible" citation. I hope it makes sense from that perspective.
    – Tripartio
    Jul 27, 2017 at 15:02
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    Well, maybe. But in "Without reading at least the specific sections that relate to ... your citation, it is hard to be responsible in this way," you should say not "hard" but "impossible."
    – user72102
    Jul 27, 2017 at 17:32
  • @user1310503 Good point; I've corrected the wording.
    – Tripartio
    Jul 27, 2017 at 19:06

The review does not substitute the book of course, but it may be enough for what you need. I would cite both and look roughly in the book on the main informations you need.

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