Book or Article Review Guide
Compiled by Bob Young
This outline serves only as a general guide. Although the book/article review will include the basic contents of each major point (I, II, III), some sub-points may not be appropriate and others can be easily and effectively combined.
I. AUTHOR AND PUBLICATION INFORMATION
- A. Author
- 1. Important biographical information, specially relating to this work.
- 2. Education and/or occupational background.
- 3. Other literary, occupational, or research contributions.
- 4. Recognized accomplishments, i.e. awards, appointments, honors, etc.
- B. Publication
- 1. When and by whom was the book/article published; single or multi-volume; part of a series; a reprint; new edition...
- 2. Role of the author: monograph, contribution to multi-author work; translated; translator, editor.
- 3. Technicalities of publication: price, number of pages, volumes.
- 4. Use of special features: maps, charts, tables, photographs, drawings, bibliographies, footnotes, special indices ad/or appendices.
- 5. If a periodical article, what is the scope of the periodical in general; is there a particular theme for this issue; is it a special issue, is it a response to or an elaboration of another work or thesis....
III. EVALUATION/CRITICAL ANALYSIS
- A. Purpose, objective or central thesis.
- 1. Audience addressed, particular? general?
- 2. Written in contrast to other views? For general information?
- B. Historical-social circumstances reflected in the work.
- C. Structural organization of the purpose, objective or thesis in chapters, sections, etc.
- D. Methodology
- 1. Literary type: novel, allegory, historical, narrative, devotional, poetic, biographical, apologetic, polemic, critical, etc.
- 2. Use of sources.
- 3. Development of thesis or objective.
IV. SUGGESTIONS FOR WRITING THE REVIEW
- A. How well does the author achieve his purpose, objective, or thesis. Did she adequately communicate this to the intended audience?
- B. Was the organization effective?
- C. Was the methodology well presented and well developed? Were the views persuasive? Was the writing style effective?
- D. In what way did the historical-social circumstances influence the author's perspectives?
- E. Do the conclusions, etc. agree with scholarly opinion? Does the work represent a particular view in contrast to others?
- F. Are the technicalities of publication and printing effective, i.e. print size, binding, costs, etc.? Are the special items (maps, charts, indices, etc.) Well presented and relevant to the text?
- G. What is your general evaluation? Can you recommend this work to others? For what purposes, what audience, etc.?
- A. Give special attention to the preface, foreword, introduction and conclusion. Also read carefully the introductions and conclusions to each chapter and/or main section.
- B. Quote sparingly, rather succinctly paraphrase key ideas or themes of a chapter and show how they relate to or illustrate the overall theme.
- C. Avoid a repetitious style, e.g. "In chapter one the authors say....; in chapter two they state....; in chapter three they say...." Rather show how the ideas of each chapter contribute to the overall theme.
- D. Learn to hunt for a particular word, phrase, expression, idea, etc. that is used often and which may be illustrative of a main theme.
- E. Read other reviews of the work to stimulate and contrast. Be careful not to plagiarize.
- F. Be thorough enough that reading the review a few years later will still give you a good general understanding of what the work is all about.
- G. Consult writing manuals in reference to book reviews and critical analysis, e.g., H.T. Steffens and Mary Dickenson, Writer's Guide: History, pp. 60-68, or similar works.
Last updated August 7, 2008.