Book or Article Review or
NOTE: Always check with your teacher to make sure you understand
the specific requirements of any assignment. This handout contains general
The purpose of a review of a work (book or article) is
generally to let readers know what the work is about and what its merits
are so that readers can decide whether they want to read the work. Because
the readers of a review probably have not read the work under discussion,
you must describe the work as well as evaluate it.
For a critique or critical review, readers
may have read the work; therefore, you need to give less attention to
description and summary but more attention to evaluation.
Choosing a Work
Sometimes your teacher assigns a particular book or article; however,
your teacher may give you a list of works from which to choose or a
broad field that you will have to narrow-first to a specific area and
then to a specific work. If you are given a choice, try to find a work
that interests you.
1. Ask someone whose judgment you trust to recommend a work or try to
find a work by an authority who is respected in the field. Your textbook
may contain a helpful bibliography.
Content of the Review or Critique
2. Examine the work carefully to see whether the subject and treatment
are appealing to you. Check contents, indexes, and introductions.
3. Flip through the text, reading portions in order to determine
whether the vocabulary and style are clear and comprehensible to you.
All reviews should (1) identify the work and the author, (2) include
a summary of the work, and (3) include an evaluation. Other elements
may be requested or required by your teacher; if you are uncertain,
ask the teacher. A review or critique may include some or all of the
1. An abstract, summary, or synopsis to summarize the essential contents
and main ideasCmore detailed in a review than in a critique;
2. A statement or thorough discussion of the author's theme (main
underlying idea), purpose, and methods of development;
3. A brief biographical sketch of the intellectual life of the author,
linking the work under discussion to the author's other works;
4. A discussion of the relationship between the work being reviewed
and other works in the field;
5. Evaluation of the work, clearly presented and well-supported;
6. Selected short quotations from the work that are representative
of the theme, tone, and style.
The following structure is a recommendation rather than a requirement.
Many reviewers successfully interweave the elements of the body paragraphs.
Your title is not the same as the title of the work under discussion
but may include the work's title. Do not underline or write quotation
marks around your own title; however, do underline the titles of books
and periodicals and place quotation marks around article titles.
A Critique of J. I. Rodale's The Synonym Finder
1. Clearly and accurately present full bibliographical information
about the work: titles, publishing information for books, dates and
pages for articles.
a. Some teachers prefer that you incorporate bibliographical information
into the text of your paper.
2. Include one or more general statements that give a quick indication
of the work's contents and your reaction to it.
EXAMPLE/BOOK: Dr. Jane Smith's revolutionary examination of the declining
morality of college students is aptly titled Sin Among Students
(New York: Ethics Press, 1984).
EXAMPLE/ARTICLE: "Better Essays in Sixty Minutes" by Ronnie Right
(Study Tips for Serious Students, 12 Sept. 1984: 327-29) offers
a step-by-step procedure for better writing.
b. Some teachers prefer that you present the bibliographical information
in a separate listing, beneath the title or at the end of the paper.
EXAMPLE/BOOK: Smith, Jane. Sin Among Students. New Ethics
EXAMPLE/ARTICLE: Right, Ronnie. "Better Essays in Sixty Minutes."
Study Tips for Serious Students 12 Sept. 1984: 327-29.
EXAMPLE: Students are always searching for ways to improve their essays
but are often frustrated by the similarity of most composition guides.
Ronnie Right's suggestions in "Better Essays in Sixty Minutes" (Study
Tips for Serious Students, 12 Sept. 1984: 327-29) not only differ
from the advice found in most texts but also work quickly and effectively.
The number of body paragraphs varies
according to the nature of the assignment and the extent of what you
have to say. In general there will be at least one paragraph of summary
and at least one paragraph of evaluation.
1. In your summary, include all the significant points of the work,
including the points the author emphasizes.
2. Explain the purpose of the work and, if appropriate, the author's
background and methodology (often found in the preface, foreword,
3. Present your critical evaluation, discussing both positive and
negative features as appropriate. Support all your judgments with
evidence from the work, paraphrasing and quoting excerpts. Is the
work thorough? fair? clear? convincing? significant? How does the
work relate to other works in the field or to your general understanding
of the subject?
Give an overall evaluation as the
conclusion of what you have said so far. In a review, make a recommendation
about the type of reader likely to enjoy or benefit from the work. In
a critique, include an indication of the work's merit in the field.
The final paper should be typed, double-spaced on one side of white
standard (8 1/2-by-11-inch) paper. Provide margins of one inch on all
sides. Number all pages except the first page. Proofread your final
copy carefully and make corrections neatly in ink.
August 4, 2003