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Lecture

HIS271 - The Book Review or Article Critique


Department
History
Course Code
HIS271Y1
Professor
Grant Brown

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HIS271 - The Book Review or Article Critique
Keep questions like these in mind as you read, make notes, and write the review:
1. What is the specific topic of the book or article? What overall purpose does it seem to have? For
what readership is it written? (The preface, acknowledgements, bibliography and index can be
helpful in answering these questions. Don't overlook facts about the author's background and
the circumstances of the book's creation and publication.)
2. Does the author state an explicit thesis? Does he or she noticeably have an axe to grind? What are the
theoretical assumptions? Are they discussed explicitly? (Again, look for statements in the
preface, etc. and follow them up in the rest of the work.)
3. What exactly does the work contribute to the overall topic of your course? What general problems
and concepts in your discipline and course does it engage with?
4. What kinds of material does the work present (e.g. primary documents or secondary material, literary
analysis, personal observation, quantitative data, biographical or historical accounts)?
5. How is this material used to demonstrate and argue the thesis? (As well as indicating the overall
structure of the work, your review could quote or summarize specific passages to show the
characteristics of the author's presentation, including writing style and tone.)
6. Are there alternative ways of arguing from the same material? Does the author show awareness of
them? In what respects does the author agree or disagree?
7. What theoretical issues and topics for further discussion does the work raise? What are your own
reactions and considered opinions regarding the work?
Some reviews summarize the book's content and then evaluate it; others integrate these
functions, commenting on the book and using summary only to give examples. Choose the
method that seems most suitable according to your professor's directions
To keep your focus, remind yourself that your assignment is primarily to discuss the book's
treatment of its topic, not the topic itself. Your key sentences should therefore say "This book
shows...the author argues" rather than "This happened...this is the case.
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