Abnormal Psychology Guidelines for Writing a Book Review Students will be required to select a book from the course reading list for scholarly review. The review should be approximately seven to eight pages (no less or more; double-spaced) in length and written according to APA style (see: http://goo.gl/BcNk). Elements (Headings) of the Book Review Please see tips below on how to approach writing these sections. • Brief synopsis • Comprehensive evaluation of the material (i.e., What is the utility/purpose of this work?) • Critical analysis (incorporating external sources including course materials, texts, journal articles, etc.) • Impact the book has on the theoretical and scientific underpinnings of abnormal psychology (synthesize the work with what you have learned about abnormal psychology and how the book (or aspects of the book) applies to many of the concepts and theories discussed in class. Writing a Book Review Book reviews are typically written to evaluate recently composed works. These generally offer a brief description of the text’s key points and often provide a short appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the work. Reviewers sometimes confuse book reviews with book reports, but each has a separate function; book reports commonly describe what happens in a work and their focus is primarily on giving an account of the major plot, characters, and/or main idea of the work. By contrast, book reviews appear in many professional works: magazines, newspapers, and academic journals. Reviews provide readers with an overview of a work and an analysis of its overall contribution to existing scientific theories and findings or other important literature. Before You Read Before you begin to read, consider the elements you will need to include in your review. The following items may help: • Author: Who is the author? What else has he or she written? Has this author won any awards? What is the author’s typical style? • Genre: What type of book is this: fiction, nonfiction, romance, poetry, youth fiction, etc.? Who is the intended audience for this work? What is the purpose of the work? • Title: Where does the title fit in? How is it applied in the work? Does it adequately encapsulate the message of the text? Is it interesting? Uninteresting? • Preface/introduction/table of contents: Does the author provide any revealing information about the text in the preface/introduction? Does a “guest author” provide the introduction? What judgments or preconceptions do the author and/or “guest author” provide? How is the book arranged: sections, chapters? As You Read As you read, determine how you will structure the summary portion or background structure of your review. Be ready to take notes on the book’s key points, characters, and/or themes. • Characters: Are there characters in the work? Who are the principal characters? How do they affect the story? Do you empathize with them? • Themes/motifs/style: What themes or motifs stand out? How do they contribute to the work? Are they effective or not? How would you describe this author’s particular style? Is it accessible to all readers or just some? • Argument: How is the work’s argument set up? What support does the author give for his or her findings? Does the work fulfill its purpose/support its argument? • Key ideas: What is the main idea of the work? What makes it good, different, or groundbreaking? • Quotes: What quotes stand out? How can you demonstrate the author’s talent or the feel of the book through a quote? When You Are Ready to Write Begin with a relatively brief summary or background of the work. Many reviews limit themselves to only the first couple of chapters or lead the reader up to the rising action of the work. Reviewers of nonfiction texts will provide the basic idea of the book’s argument without too much detail. The final portion of your review will detail your opinion of the work. When you are ready to begin your review, consider the following: • Establish a background and remember your audience: Remember that your audience has not read the work; with this in mind, be sure to introduce characters and principals carefully and deliberately. What kind of summary can you provide of the main points or main characters that will help your readers gauge their interest? Does the author’s text adequately reach the intended audience? Will some readers be lost or find the text too easy? • Minor principals/characters: Deal only with the most pressing issues in the book. You will not be able to cover every character or idea. What principals/characters did you agree or disagree with? What other things might the author have researched or considered? • Organize: The purpose of the review is to critically evaluate the text, not just inform the readers about it. Leave plenty of room for your evaluation by ensuring that your summary is brief. Determine what kind of balance to strike between your summary information and your evaluation. If you are writing your review for a class, ask your instructor. Often the ratio is half and half. • Your evaluation: Choose one or a few points to discuss about the book. What worked well for you? How does this work compare with others by the same author or other books in the same genre? What major themes, motifs, or terms does the book introduce, and how effective are they? Did the book appeal to you on an emotional or logical way? • Publisher/price: Most book reviews include the publisher and price of the book at the end of the article. Some reviews also include the year published and ISBN. Revising When making the final edits to your review, carefully verify the following: • Proofread (!!) your entire paper and double-check spelling of the author name(s), character names, special terms, and publisher. • Try to read from the vantage point of your audience. Is there too much/enough summary? Does your argument about the text make sense? • Should you include direct quotes from the reading? Do they help support your arguments? Double-check your quotes for accuracy.
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