Where to Start the Review ? *** These suggestions are NOT in a specific “order” – they are
elements common to most reviews, but can be blended in many different manners !!
First and foremost — read thoughtfully !
? read with the task in mind; don’t just read “as fast as possible”
? read with a questioning outlook : while reading, note the interesting, the confusing, the
original and even the boring — your notations will provide the basis of your review
Once you are ready to start writing : remember — a review is not a summary ! Your introduction can
summarize the book, but not for more than 2/3 of a page.4
Ë You do not want merely to outline what the book “says”
Ë Nor is a review an “essay” on the topic covered in the book
Ë a review is critical (positive/negative) – basics include thesis, authority and overall effectiveness.
On Thesis :
Ë what is the author trying to argue; what is the point?
Ë How successful is the author with descriptive questions – who, what, when, where, how – and/or
the more analytical issue of “why”? This does NOT mean just “working through” the “5Ws”
in your paper – try for a more imaginative take on the book.
Ë In short, what were the author’s goals? Were they achieved?
On Authority :
Ë how many ideas and arguments does the book present?
Ë Of what quality?
Ë Are the ideas/arguments consistent?
Ë Does the research in support of these ideas seem credible?
Ë Is there enough? Are the ideas and information presented clearly?
On Perspective / bias :
Ë is the work tainted by a clear bias that ignores or understates evidence, thus favouring one
perspective; or presents statements without sufficient evidentiary support?
Ë Does this perspective / bias perhaps make the book better (eg. more original or questioning ?]
On Originality :
Ë does the book contribute something quite new to the field? This issue can be difficult for
students new to history, but remember — this is YOUR review — if you think the work
original or predictable (or indeed fascinating or boring) — SAY SO !!
Are there issues that might have been presented or steps taken to improve the book ?
On “The Rest” :
Ë other issues that MAY be worth discussing include (but are not limited to) format (does the book
use photographs, statistics or tables, notes, bibliography, or index well?).
Ë Obviously, the writing itself (style / grammar / language usage) can also be commented upon.
Make it Your Review :
Ë Students, often lacking experience in writing reviews, may well read other related works or even
other reviews; but remember, this is your opinion!!
Ë Having said that – it IS an academic review – just writing 8 pages arguing that you did not “like”
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