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Write a book review

Survival Guide

To write a critical assessment of a book, you need to be
familiar with the topic and of course the contents of the book you are reviewing.

Try using these steps

  1. Skim read the book for an idea of the central focus and the author’s aims.

  2. Read the first chapter for information on the theoretical/conceptual framework and the final chapter for a summary of the conclusions.

  3. Note any preliminary points or questions you have.

  4. Decide what you will focus the review on.

  5. Plan the structure of the review, ranking your points in order of importance.

  6. Identify examples that clearly
    demonstrate your points.

  7. Start writing if you haven’t already.

  8. Refer to other literature to enhance your critique, if necessary.

  9. Remember to include an introduction, background information, critical
    comment, evaluative comments and a conclusion.

  10. Provide a reference list of the sources

you have referred to.

11.Proofread and edit your review to

ensure your spelling and grammar are

correct and you have formatted the

review as required.
Final check

  1. Check that you have correctly listed the publication details.

  2. Ensure you have described how the book fits into your field of knowledge.

  3. Check that you have not been unfair to the author. Disagreement with an
    author’s argument or approach does not necessarily diminish the merit of the book.

Book reviews are thoughtful discussions about the contribution a book makes to a
particular field of knowledge.

Academic book reviews are written for

people who are knowledgeable in the
discipline and interested in your critical
evaluation of the ideas and arguments the author presents.
When reviewing a book aim to provide a sufficiently detailed ‘picture’ of the book’s main arguments and approach but also

include an analysis of its readability and its

success in achieving its stated aims.
A useful way to start is to ask yourself a number of questions. You could start with the following.
Questions to consider

  • Who is the author?

  • What else has the author written?

  • How is the book positioned in your field of study?

  • Who is the target audience?

  • What is the book’s structure?

  • What is the book’s basic approach and methodology?

  • What is the main point or argument?

  • What else has been written on this

  • What gap does the book attempt to fill?

  • How does the author substantiate claims made? Is the evidence convincing?

  • What is especially useful about the

  • approach/argument/methodology/structure?

  • What, if anything, could be improved?

  • What was inconsistent or confusing?

  • What kind of reader would you
    recommend this book to?

Tie your claims together and make a claim about the book’s effectiveness.

Show your knowledge of the broader field and
arguments that the book engages with.

Explain what the book is about and why an expert / student / general reader should read it. Point out the book’s strongest points and why it’s worthwhile reading it.

Evaluate the book’s
contribution to knowledge in the discipline.

Provide a reference list of works you used in the


Discuss gaps in author’s treatment of the topic but not aspects s/he did not
intend to cover.

Discuss next point.
Support criticisms with

evidence from the text or other research.

Discuss first point.

Explain the author’s argument before you critique or

evaluate it.

Provide important
bibliographic details.

Provide an overview of the book.

Identify the author’s aim?

Identify what issues you will discuss.

A useful structure for book reviews

Like this Survival Guide? Why not check out...

Survival Guides: Mind mapping, Critical thinking, Writing critically.

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