Studying Effectively

Book reviews

You might be asked to write a book review as a way to help you read actively and form an opinion on the author's views and the context in which the book was written. Book reviews are common ways for academics to evaluate each others' contributions to the field of research, especially in the arts and social sciences where publishing in books is more usual than publishing in journals.

A good review is more than just a summary of the contents. It should include your view on what the purpose of the book is and who it is intended for, and it should address the context (time and place) in which the book has been written,  an evaluation of the author's arguments for strengths and weaknesses, and your identification of any bias in their perspective on the topic. Your lecturer will probably give you some guidance on what they expect, and it is likely to involve you asking yourself some or all of the following questions:

  • Who is the author? What is their disciplinary background? What have they published before? Is this building on their previous research or entering a new field?
  • When was the book written? How might that affect the perspective taken? Is there, for example, a political, social or economic context that would impact on the writing?
  • What is the book about? What is the main topic area and scope? How does it fit with other books that have been published in this area?
  • What is the main argument in the book? Is it well argued? Are the author's assumptions valid? Is there any obvious bias in the source of evidence they use?
  • Is the writing style appropriate? Is the book well structured and does it flow comfortably?
  • What is your view on the book's strengths and weaknesses? Do you think it's a valuable contribution to the literature in the discipline?

All of this should be supported by reference to particular passages or chapters that provide evidence to support your views.



Further reading

Reading and interpreting sources and data

Practical advice on managing writing

  • Managing reading and writing a literature review
  • Writing critically

more from Academic Support study resources

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