WRITING AN ACADEMIC BOOK REVIEW
Writing a book review may be an unfamiliar exercise, it is not as complex a task as writing an essay requiring a lot of library research. It is, however, not the same as a book review in The Age, which is written for the general reader.
Your book review is written for a reader (your lecturer or tutor) who is knowledgeable in the discipline and is interested not just in the coverage and content of the book being reviewed, but also in your critical assessment of the ideas and argument that are being presented by the author.
The review should not be a summary of the book. Instead it should state what the book sets out to do and assess how well the author achieves that goal. Your review might therefore be guided by the following questions:
|Objectives |What does the book set out to do? | |Theory |Is there an explicit theoretical framework? If not, are there important theoretical assumptions? | |Concepts |What are the central concepts? Are they clearly defined? | |Argument |What is the central argument? Are there specific hypotheses? | |Method |What methods are employed to test these? | |Evidence |Is evidence provided? How adequate is it? | |Values |Are value positions clear or are they implicit? | |Literature |How does the work fit into the wider literature? | |Contribution |How well does the work advance our knowledge of the subject? | |Style |How clear is the author's language/style/expression? | |Conclusion |A brief overall assessment. |
Step 1: Get to know the book you are reviewing
Look at the Title, the Table of Contents and any Preface or Introduction. These should give you some idea of the central focus and the coverage of the book and, if the Preface is useful, also the author's reasons for writing the book.
Skim quickly through the whole book, running your eye over opening sentences of paragraphs and glancing at any tables, illustrations or other graphic materials.
Read more closely the first chapter, which should tell you the main issues to be discussed and indicate the theoretical or conceptual framework within which the author proposes to work.
Read closely the final chapter, which should cover the author's conclusions and summarise the main reasons why these conclusions have been reached.
Now that you are familiar with the text, read the whole text thoroughly to develop a basis on which to critically review it.
Step 2: Decide which aspects of the book you wish to discuss in detail in your review
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