"A critical book review as well as giving information about a book," maintains the University of Alberta on its website, "expresses an opinion on the book."
An essential element of a critical review is the expression of an evaluative judgment on the quality, meaning and significance of the book. It includes a statement of what the author has tried to do, evaluates how well (in the opinion of the reviewer) the author has succeeded, and presents evidence to support this evaluation.
"Three aspects that must be covered by a critical book review are:
- Contents --what is said in the book n.b. This is not a summary of contents, but a statement describing the contents.
- Style--how it is said.
- Assessment--a comment on the significance of what is said."
- Get to know the work by a careful reading of the book, and by consulting other critical reviews of the book. As you read, take notes and flag passages that you feel are illustrative of the purpose, theme, and style of the book. Note strengths as well as weaknesses.
- Get to know the style of the reviews in Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice by reading several reviews. We review books of interest to all levels of Catholic education and schooling.
- Establish the "thesis" of the review. Think about the main points of your praise as well as your criticisms.
- Make a preliminary outline
- Write a first draft.
- Describe the author's purpose for writing the book. Note his or her qualifications
- State the main point of criticism about the book
- Describe the genre or group to which the book belongs
- Comment on the strength of the book, and also on the significance
- Revise the first draft. The Stauffer Library References Services recommends that the draft contain:
- The complete bibliographic for the work, i.e., title in full, author, publisher, date, place, pages, and price.
- Introduction--try to capture the reader's attention with your opening sentence. The introduction should state the central thesis, and set the tone of the review.
- Development--develop your thesis using supporting arguments as set out in your outlines. Use description, evaluation, and if possible explanation of why the author wrote as he/she did. Use short quotations to illustrate important points or peculiarities.
- Copy over and document sources. If you haven't a copy of APA, you can find a style sheet on the web under www.soe.usfca.edu/icel, and then McDermott Research Forum and then Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice.
(Link to a summary of APA stylesheet follows beyond this section on references.)
Refer to one or more of the following references:
- Drewry, John, Writing Book Reviews. Boston: The Writer, 1974
- Literary Reviewing. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 1987.
- Meek, Gerry. How to Write a Book Report. UW Library Reference Aids, n.d.
- Teitelbaum, Harry, How to Write Book Reports. New York: Monarch Press, 1982.
- Walford, A.J., ed. Reviews and Reviewing: A Guide. Phoenix, Arizona: Orgx Press, 1986.
N.B. to our readers writing dissertations. If you choose to use APA for your dissertation, know that there are differences between the dissertation text and journal manuscripts. Please consult your university's doctoral handbook for those differences.