PURPOSE: The supplementary readings and written reviews are designed to accomplish three goals. First, to gain an understanding of the specific historical information contained in the book
. Secondly, to acquire experience in analyzing written material by determining the underlying thesis of the work and examining the author’s use of evidence in support of that thesis. Third, to increase skills in accurate written communication.
DEFINITION: A critical book
review is a critique of a book
containing analysis of the author’s background, the thesis of the book
, and the material in the book
that the author presents in support of the thesis. A book
review IS NOT a book
report. The objective of the review IS NOT to present the book
in a condensed form.
CONTENT: Your review should consist of six (6) paragraphs. It MUST be structured in the following manner.
Paragraph 1: Introduction
Introduce the book
Paragraph 2: Author Information
The reviewer should investigate the author’s life in such sources as Who’s Who in America, the Directory of American Scholars, or Contemporary Authors. Some of these sources may be found online, others may not. If not, a trip to any academic library will accomplish the goal. The reviewer should consider, for example, the author’s academic and professional experience, the title/subjects of other books
the author has published, his/her specialty or historical interest, the period in which the book
was written, or any other information which might affect the author’s point of view. Knowing something about an author can often provide insight into the author’s perspective and reason for writing the book
. However, include only such information as is pertinent to the author’s qualifications to write the book
Paragraph 3: Thesis of the Book
The thesis is the underlying theme of the work; this is the contention with which the author tries to get the reader to accept. Oftentimes, thesis pronouncements may be found in the introduction, preface, foreword, and/or conclusion of book
. However, the thesis may not be declared per se in some books
. Nevertheless, the student can determine the thesis by
noting the particular interpretation of the book
’s subject that the author presented. For example, if information is included in the book
revealing how the author’s point of view differs from other accounts, this data provides an indication for the reviewer to ascertain the thesis of the book
After identifying the thesis, the reviewer should comment on how the author attempted to support his/her thesis and evaluate the effectiveness of the author’s evidence. Refer to only the sections of the book
which are pertinent to this discussion. Do not try to summarize the entire book
, render a chapter-by-chapter description, provide a thumbnail sketch of the plot, or retell the story.
Paragraph 4: Methodology
In this section, the reviewer should analyze how the author presents his/her argument. You should comment on such points as the following: organization (chronological or topical); style (narrative/analytical); readability (“scholarly” or “popular” reader appeal); balance (author’s possible bias); internal consistency (contradictions detected in the book
); research methods that the author utilized to write the book
(primary/secondary sources indicated in footnotes and/or bibliography). Insure that balance is established in the review. Address both the weak and strong points of the work. The perfect book
(perfectly bad, or perfectly good) has not been written.
Paragraph 5: Other Book
Conclude your review by providing what other reviewers have said about the book
. Locate reviews of the book
using a library resource such as Book
Review Index. Book
Review Index is not a journal; it is an index for locating journal articles and may be accessed using the SJC Online Library (General Research link). Use only historical journals for your reviews (Reviews from Amazon.com or other novice readers do not count). Many of the journal articles may be accessed using JSTOR link also found under General Research links. In some cases if the journal article cannot be found online, you will have to go to an academic library.
After locating the other reviews include the comments of at least one in your essay. You may either paraphrase or quote the reviewer. Cite the review using the following format: (Journal, volume #, date, page #). A citation would look something like this: (American Historical Review, 65, June 1975, 115.)
Paragraph 6: Conclusion
Provide any concluding remarks.
1. Your book
review must be composed in essay form. It should be arranged with a distinct introduction, body and conclusion, but should not utilize section or paragraph headings/numbers.
reviews must be typed (black ink), not less than three and one-half or more than four pages in length, with double spacing throughout and one and one-half inch margins. Use a font size of 12.
3. This should be a finished paper that exhibits proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Eliminate all typographical errors by retyping the page---do not make pen-and-ink or editing corrections.
4. To give an authoritative style to your work, do not write in first person (omit words such as I, me, my, etc.)
5. Avoid the repetition of words.
6. Avoid the use of contractions (ex. don’t, can’t, won’t, etc.)
7. Avoid purple prose (really creative writing).
8. Quoting: There are a few rules to follow when quoting from the book
. 1.) The quote must be part of your sentence, not standing alone or in a block quote format. 2.) Cite the quote by placing the page number of the quoted text in parentheses at the end of the sentence. 3.) Use quotes sparingly---no more than one or two at the most.
9. No cover sheet is required. Place student name, course number, and date in top left-hand corner of the first page (single spaced). Place a bibliographical citation of the book
(centered) as a title of the review. An example is offered below:
Paul D. Lack. The Texas Revolutionary Experience: A Political and Social History, 1835-1836. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992.
10. DO NOT use a Works Cites page. Cite the book
reviews using the following format.At the end of the sentence or paragraph where the review is cited include the following information. (Journal, volume #, date, page #). A citation would look something like this: (American Historical Review, 65, June 1975, 115.)
11. Reviews should be submitted twice: once using the SafeAssign system found in the Evaluations section of this website and once to the instructor. E-mail the review as a .doc or .docx file attached to an e-mail. Your review will not be graded until it is submitted twice.
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