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company k book review by william march
Writing reviews is an important part of the historical process because it allows you to provide your opinion regarding a book. The following are measures you need to take in order to write a compelling and complete book review.
You need to establish the author’s credentials. Tell your reader whether the author has an advanced degree and where he earned it. Identify additional books she has written and whether or not her peers have recognized her work with awards or grants.
A good review identifies the author’s theme or thesis and addresses why she wrote the book. You will usually find the thesis in the introduction. A poor review repeats the narrative. Be certain that someone who has not read the book will understand its focus after reading your review. If the book you are reviewing is a historical novel or a memoir, address the criteria identified in the list below that are applicable to the assignment. Note whether the author has a personal tie to her subject. Assess the book’s historical accuracy.
Your review will include an assessment of the evidence the author uses to support her thesis. In doing so, be specific–do not simply say he uses primary or secondary sources. Identify the type of sources: oral interviews, personal papers, newspaper accounts, census data, etc., and provide specific examples.
Reading reviews already written about the book you are reviewing will provide perspective to your interpretation. Professional journals, such as the Journal of American History, Diplomatic History, and the American Historical Review, publish reviews. Journals such as Reviews in History and Book Review Digest focus exclusively on book reviews. Identification of and reference to the body of review literature is an important part of your review. Consult with the reference librarians to identify book reviews available through I. D. Weeks.
In some cases, there will be no reviews of a book; in other cases, there will be ten or more. It is your job to read all the reviews and include each of them in your bibliography. If you determine a consensus exists with regard to the book’s strengths and weaknesses, you may then write something to the effect of: “Thirteen historians reviewed The Return of Martin Guerre and the majority of them found it to be a well-researched and provocative account of a fascinating tale from sixteenth century France.” You would then provide a few representative citations from several of the reviews to support your conclusion. In other words, you do not need to provide a citation to each review in the body of your paper to support your assessment of the book, but you do need to include all reviews in your bibliography. It is also important to recognize critical reviews and provide your opinion as to whether the criticism is justified.
Evaluate the author’s style. For example, is it narrative or analytical? Is it diplomatic, social, economic, military, or psychological history? A complete review will also identify the audience to which the book is directed.
Your review is a formal writing assignment. Use the past tense when discussing the book. Do not use contractions or slang. Use active voice. When mentioning an individual for the first time, use his/her full name. Do not write in the first person. Write, “This is a good book,” not “I think this is a good book.” Avoid hyperbole like “This is the best book ever written on the subject.”
If you quote phrases or sentences from the work, cite them according to the Chicago style. Long quotations from the book are evidence of your failure to critically analyze it. It is usually best to paraphrase the author while attributing him for the idea.
Do not repeat items or facts that the reader can be expected to know. For example, assume that the reader knows Japanese military forces attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.
Your review should include a title page (see the Sample Title Page on the D2L site for the correct format) and should be paginated, beginning with the number “2” on the first page of your narrative. There is no page number on the title page.
Proof read your review for typographical errors, clarity of thought, complete sentences, correct grammar, correct spelling and appropriate style. Do NOT rely solely on a spell check tool. Improperly used words, if spelled correctly, will pass a spell check survey.
Be certain to keep a copy of your paper. Sometimes papers get lost or misplaced. If you have a copy on disk, you can easily provide your instructor with a duplicate.
Remember that a good review:
· Includes a title page and pagination for subsequent pages.
· Is double-spaced and written in either Cambria or Times New Roman font at 12 point. The review is also written and submitted in MS Word .doc format.
· Establishes the author’s credentials. Tell your reader whether the author has an advanced degree and where he earned it. It is also important to identify any additional books she has written and whether she has received professional awards or other recognition. If the book you are reviewing is part of a series, identify the series.
· Identifies the author’s theme or thesis, addresses why she wrote the book, and establishes what she is trying to prove. You must provide a citation to the page or pages where you found the thesis or theme in the book.
· Includes an assessment of the evidence she uses to supports her thesis. Be specific–do not simply say he uses primary or secondary sources. Identify the type of sources: oral interviews, personal papers, newspaper accounts, census data, etc., and provide a specific example or two.
· Identifies what other reviewers have said about the work and determines whether a consensus exists as to the book’s value.
· Evaluates the author’s style. Is it narrative or analytical? Is it appealing?
· Identifies the type of historical writing, i.e., social, economic, political, intellectual, or any other identifiable type of history.
· Provides a conclusion as to the value of the work.
· Includes a bibliography with full bibliographic citations for the book you are reviewing and for the reviews of the book.
If you undertake to check your review against these ten steps, I assure you your grades will reflect the effort.
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