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Online Guide to Writing and Research

Other Frequently Assigned Papers

Reviews and Reaction Papers

Article and Book Reviews

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.

A book report summarizes the contents of the book, but a book review is a critical analysis of the book that describes, summarizes, and critiques the ideas in the book. A review is a means of going beyond the literal content of a source and is a tool for connecting ideas from a variety of academic sources. A review provides an objective analysis of ideas, support for opinions, and a way to evaluate your own opinions.

Why are book reviews beneficial to write?

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:

As you write your review, ask yourself these questions:

Key Takeaway

A book review or article review is a critical analysis of the material that describes, summarizes, and critiques the ideas presented. The purpose of a book or article review assignment is to broaden your knowledge base and understanding of a topic.

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