Book Review FALL : Course Help Online

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Book Review Instructions HIST 300

Students will review one scholarly book from the Book Review Book List that MOST CLOSELY RELATES to their family history. Failure to use a book from this list will result in an automatic 50% grade reduction. The goal of the assignment is twofold. First, students will practice writing an academic book review that focuses on the author’s thesis, research method, argument, and evidence. Second, students will expand their knowledge of some aspect of their family history so they can prepare historically relevant questions for the oral history interview and contextualize their heritage for the final project. 

The book review should be between 600 and 700 words and should focus on the author’s argument in support of his or her thesis.  Use parenthetical citations when citing material from the book. 

Here are some additional tips and suggestions.

1. Above all, what is the author’s thesis? What is he or she trying to prove? In other words, what is holding the book together?

2. Identify the key arguments used to support the thesis. You cannot describe all of them in minute detail, but you should provide an overview of all of them.

3. Always thoroughly read the introduction and conclusion. Often, the author will describe the thesis in the introduction and emphasize how it was proven in the conclusion. Determine what the author considers to be the key chapters offering support for the thesis. Thoroughly read those as well if time allows. There is an “art” to skimming chapters that you should develop. 

4. Do not get bogged down in the minutia of details. Facts matter, especially when you rely upon evidence from books and articles to support your own research agenda. In other words, you will use historians’ arguments and the distinct facts and evidence to support the thesis statements of your own research papers in future classes. But, those facts and minor details are not part of a book review. Focus on the larger themes.

5. Be sure to tell the story or stories that make the book a work of history. Retelling good stories we learn from other historians is an important part of what we do. 

Format

Top: Bibliographic citation in Turabian Format. Be certain to use title case, not all caps. Italicize the title, and do not start words with lowercase letters. Again, use title case.

Paragraph 1:

At the start, provide a succinct statement of what the book is about. Mention the author’s full name and the full title and publisher of the book. Then, explain the author’s thesis.

Paragraph 2:

Explain the main arguments the author uses to support the thesis. Examine how the author lays out the main arguments. Do not provide a “synopsis” of the book, where you walk through the book chapter by chapter. That’s not the point of a book review.

Paragraph 3:

Evaluate the effectiveness of the arguments and the evidence used. Always provide both positive and critical comments and encourage ways the argument could be improved or otherwise sharpened.

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