Doing a Good Book Review
- In my model book review, I tell you how to write a book review, and then I show you how I did one. This is an important start. It tells you the mechanics of how to do a book review. Remember: claim, evidence, evaluation of strength of claim—i.e., how well does the author’s evidence support each claim?—for EACH of the three claims.
- However, showing you the mechanics of doing a review is not enough: I have to discuss the practicalities of writing a good review.
- First of all: read the book! This might sound silly, but if you don’t read the whole book, how can you figure out what the most important claims are? Don’t try to run a game on me: just read the book so you know what it says.
- Once you’ve read the book, you’ve got to understand the history of your subject: how did it get to where it now is? If you don’t understand the general history of what you’ve read, you need to see me immediately! How can you tell if you understand the general history: write down a timeline of major historical developments. This should guide your thinking.
- Keep in mind the course for which you are writing the review:
- If SOC 100, Introduction to Sociology, the focus of the review is to understand the development of some aspect of society.
- If SOC 310, Race and Ethnic Diversity, the focus is on how a racial or ethnic group arrived in North America, what it did to improve itself as a whole within the American context in which it arrived, and where are things today? Those are the things you want to focus upon.
- If SOC 339, Sociology of Developing Countries, the focus is on the development of your chosen country to completion of the study. Key factors would include which country colonized the one you are focusing on and what was the impact of colonization on the country, what the country did to gain its independence, and what kind of a development strategy they the new leaders implement and how well did it work?
- If SOC 391, Sociology of the Environment, the focus is on a particular environmental problem. You want to understand how things developed to where they did.
- In EACH OF MY COURSES, I take a historical approach to understand social developments today. The key word here is DEVELOPMENT: when I talk of social development, that means we must have a historical understanding of whatever it is we are focusing upon. Only by understanding how things have reached their present state can we understand what is most likely to happen in the future—or why people need to do things differently.
- Your review should focus on the subject of your particular course (see #3 above), and I suggest you seek to identify claims appropriate to that course.
If you follow these suggestions, I believe you’ll write a better book review!
The better the book review, the higher the grade!