Some assignments may ask you to write a review of a book or journal article. Sometimes, students think a book report and a book review are the same. However, there are significant differences.
Some instructors like to assign book reviews to help students broaden their view of the subject matter and to give students practice in critically evaluating ideas in the subject area. Instructors often require that students follow existing review formats modeled in the journals in their disciplines.
If you are asked to use such formats, remember that citations for books and journal articles differ from discipline to discipline. Find out which style guide is appropriate for the discipline in which you are writing. (Refer to the discussion of style manuals in chapter 5 of this guide for more information.)
Reviews let you relate to authors and agree or disagree with their ideas. A review allows you to examine your understanding of a subject area in light of the ideas presented in the reviewed book and interact with the author and his or her ideas. Also, a book review helps your instructor evaluate your understanding of the subject matter and your ability to think competently in your discipline.
Here are some questions to keep in mind when you are writing a book review:
What exactly is the subject of the book? What are the author’s credentials to write about this subject? Is the title suggestive? Does the preface contain information about the author’s purpose?
As you write your review, ask yourself these questions:
Have I represented the author and the ideas presented in the book in a fair and balanced way?
Does the ethical tone of my review prompt the reader to trust my judgment? (You may want to review the discussion on writing arguments in this chapter.)