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Book Review Guidelines


Instructions for Book Reviews


Please note that a book review is not a book report. A book report is almost wholly descriptive and usually contains little more than an expanded table of contents.  A book review, on the other hand, is a critical evaluation of the contents of a book based on the reviewer's familiarity with the subject matter considered in the book.  Professional reviews are presented in the major anthropology journals and students are advised to read professional reviews before writing their book reviews.  Professional reviews provide the student with an idea of the variety of ways in which a book review can be handled.  Your success depends on how well you write and organize your review. It is wise to select a book and begin reading it early in the term.

Some professors might require that some research must be done in order to produce an adequate book review.  That is, the student should make use of additional readings to expand their personal knowledge of the subject of the book being reviewed and incorporate or refer to any appropriate substantive, analytic or theoretical materials from those readings (and lectures, if appropriate). Be sure the library has the materials you will need to prepare a well-informed review.  Unavailability of sources is not an acceptable excuse for a poorly crafted review. Use quotations sparingly.  However, to avoid accusations of plagiarism, cite the works of others carefully.  Your paper should be mainly an example of your research and writing, not that of others.

A good book review usually contains the following:

1) A concise statement that tells the reader what the book is about. 
2) A statement indicating the type of contribution to knowledge that book represents and the type of audience it will best serve.
3) A clear statement of its major attributes and weaknesses.
4) The reviewer's specific objections to any of the treatments the author presents, if any, and any factual errors noted.
5) Comments on the author's interpretations, how they are similar to or different from those of others, and any other interpretations the reviewer has to suggest.
6) A summary statement giving overall impressions of the book.
7) A bibliography of sources consulted in writing the review, if applicable (see above).

Citation Style

Citations should be placed in the text, not as footnotes or endnotes (if you must, use footnotes or endnotes for supplementary information).  General information from an author should be cited as author and date of publication, e.g. (Adams 1956).  Specific information and numerical data (e.g. census figures) require a page number citation as well, e.g. (Adams 1956:22).  Direct quotes require quotation marks as well.  If a source is a chapter in an edited volume, you must cite the author of the chapter in the text, not the editor of the volume.  Style guides most commonly used in this department are available on-line at American Anthropologist (www.aaanet.org)

The following are the criteria for evaluating reviews by your classroom instructor in order of importance:
1) Evidence of original thinking;
2) Evidence of a clear understanding of the subject matter considered;
3) Thoroughness of research;
4) Organization and style; and
5) Grammar and spelling.