1. Your primary focus should be the identification, analysis, and criticism of the primary themes and arguments advanced by the author. You should not simply summarize the factual content of the book. You will need to include some of the factual details that you find, but choose those that illustrate the author’s larger themes and arguments.
Answer these questions: Does he or she express these themes clearly and convince you that they have merit by citing relevant evidence? What biases does he or she have? Does he or she consider and respond to any potential objections that people with alternative viewpoints may raise? What ideas, themes, or arguments does the author hope that you remember long after most readers have forgotten most of the factual details?
2. While you should indeed focus on the author’s primary arguments, I do need to know that you read the book. Thus, do not focus on the main theme so exclusively that you fail to discuss the more significant sub-themes. A review of this length gives you the space to do this.
3. Do not assume specialized knowledge on the part of your reader. Write as if the reader has not read the book and has only general knowledge of the subject matter. Be certain to include the author’s name and the title of the book in your essay
4. Read the book’s preface and/or introduction carefully, as these often provide insights into the author’s motivation, purposes, and point of view.
5. As you read, mark the most important portions of the text. After you finish each chapter, make a few notes on the most important themes and conclusions.
6. Pay particular attention to the preface or introduction and the beginning and end of each chapter, as authors often summarize themes and conclusions here. Then, make an outline of your review based on this information. Know what you want to say and have an organizational plan before you begin to write.
Quotations and Source Documentation
1. Appropriating the words or original ideas of another author without documentation is plagiarism, which will earn you a zero on the assignment. If you are unsure about what constitutes plagiarism, please consult http://www3.uakron.edu/polisci/PAPERWRITING.pdf or discuss it with me.
2. As you paraphrase, keep the source out of your sight. I want your words, not text that is copied save for a few transposed clauses and a few words replaced by means of a thesaurus. If you do the latter, you have likely crossed the line into plagiarism.
3. You must use quotations from the text, but you should use them relatively sparingly. Synthesize material from other sources into your own words whenever possible. Use quotations only when the words of another author are so eloquent or compelling that they cannot be paraphrased without sacrificing those qualities.
4. You should provide some analytical commentary as to the significance of the quotations you have chosen. Why are they significant? What do they reveal about the author’s intentions, conclusions, beliefs, biases, or writing style?
5. The recommended citation format is fairly standard. Quotations from the book under review are cited in the body of the review by placing the page number of the quotation in parentheses immediately after the end of the sentence in which the quotation is used. The citation is placed at the end of the sentence, not at the end of the quote itself, and the period is placed after the close of the parentheses.
Example 1: “The prominence of W. J. Cash in southern intellectual life might be measured by the stature and diversity of his critics,” states Fred Hobson (p. 247).
Example 2: Todd Gitlin urges imperial historians to “capture the interplay of local and global interests” (p. 74).
6. If you cite a book review or any source other than the text you are reviewing, use an endnote or footnote composed according to either the Chicago/Turabian or MLA formats. The use of sources other than the text under review is neither expected nor required.
1. Papers must be typed. Please submit your paper via the DROPBOX function on Springboard (discussion section).
2. Double-space your paper.
3. Your paper should have a title page containing the title of your paper, your name, the days and time of your class section, and the date upon which you turn the paper in.
1. The central stylistic rule of thumb is to write in as clear and direct a manner as possible. Many students use too many convoluted sentences containing a confusing array of independent and dependent clauses. Make sure that your writing style delivers your ideas in as concise a manner as possible. Eliminate unnecessary words and phrases whenever possible so as not to burden your reader with an overly complex prose style that obscures the ideas you are trying to convey. However, you should not go to the other extreme and write in a choppy, overly simplistic style. Long sentences per se are not inappropriate. Complex sentences often are required to express complex ideas.
2. The most straightforward type of introductory paragraph contains the title of the book, the name of the author, a brief overview of the subject matter, and the theme or themes that you consider most important. A more creative and ambitious opening paragraph that includes a narrative or the posing of rhetorical questions can be great, but you must include the above information in a second or third paragraph.
3. Active verbs are usually better than passive verbs.
4. Verb tense: the text under review speak to the reader in present tense, historical events are described in past tense. Example: Mary Beth Norton asserts, “the nature of the witchcraft episode had changed dramatically.” [italics added to indicate verb tense]
5. Names: the first time that you mention an individual, identify him or her by first and last name. Subsequent references generally utilize the surname only, although you might use first and last name more than once for stylistic variety. You should generally avoid referring to anyone by first name only unless you need to do this to distinguish among people with the same surname.
6. Think before you capitalize a word. Is it truly a proper noun that should be capitalized?
7. Proofread your work. A paper full of misspellings and grammatical errors indicates laziness and negligence on the part of the writer. A spell-check program is useful, but it is not a substitute for proofreading.