Hawke, David Freeman. Nuts and Bolts of the Past: A History of American Technology, 1776-1860. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.
A book review should critically describe, analyze, and evaluate a book on a number of categories including (but not limited to) depth of research, quality of ideas and thinking, support for its thesis, writing ability, and originality. The first paragraph of your review should contain a description of the author’s thesis. That is, explain what the author hoped to accomplish in writing this book. What point is she or he trying to make? Frequently authors make this explicit in the introduction of the book, but sometimes you will have to dig a little deeper to determine what the author hoped to prove. If you cannot determine the author’s thesis, you should probably choose a different book.
Next, you should briefly summarize the book. This summary should not exceed one page in length and should focus on the key issues and events of the book. Do not write a chapter-by-chapter summary of the book! The rest of your review, or at least the majority of it, should be a critical examination of key topics and ideas presented by the author, followed by an analysis of the book as a whole. Key questions to consider are the author’s qualifications, depth of research, use of evidence, indications of bias, and logical presentation. How well does the author present his case? Does she prove her point? Do you agree with the author’s reasoning? If possible, you should compare this book to others that you have read on the same subject. If it contradicts the textbook(s), you should mention that. Your last paragraph (conclusion) should sum up your arguments and make a final recommendation for or against your book. It never hurts to consult other sources or consult published reviews of the book you are reviewing to see what other writers thought of the book. However, do not copy them because that is simply straight out, plain-and-simple plagiarism!
Quite possibly the best source for professionally written book reviews on your particular work is found in JSTOR. If you have this database through your college or university that is good, but if you do not then there is another source you can pursue. Since this is a RODP course you have access to JSTOR through the University of Memphis’ McWherter Library, and if you need help accessing their database please contact your instructor for help. You may want to find journal articles written by your particular author or that discuss the author’s work. Also worth looking at is Contemporary Authors, which will give you some biographical information on the author. You may also be able to find information about the author on the Internet. You must provide a full bibliographic citation for the book you read and for any other sources that you used. The citation for the book you are reviewing should appear as the Title of you review at the top of your paper. You will find an explanation of how to prepare the Title of your Book Review at the bottom of these instructions..
1.) Your paper should be neat, grammatically correct, and well written. It should adhere to the above structural guidelines and contain solid introductory and concluding paragraphs that are in agreement with one another. Papers lacking these will be penalized.
2.) Avoid using too many quotations, and quote only when absolutely necessary. Be sure to mention who you are quoting. Footnotes, endnotes, or MLA style parenthetical citations (author, page #) are all fine. Choose one style, and stick with it. Avoid contractions.
3.) Organize your paper into discrete paragraphs. Remember . . . A change in topic requires that you begin a new paragraph.
4.) Avoid overwriting (i.e., using several sentences when a single sentence will make your point).
5.) Avoid the passive voice and phrases such as “seems to,” “may be,” “appears to,” and similar phrases that weaken your writing. Also, the use of contractions in college-level writing is not permitted (i.e., isn’t, doesn’t, wouldn’t, won’t, ain’t, he’s, her’s, etc.).
8.) Write about the past in the past tense.
9.) In formatting your review:
a.) Do not play games with fonts and margins. The standard font throughout your entire review should be a Times New Roman, New Century Schoolbook, Calibri, Helvetica, Arial, etc., set to the standard 12 point size.
b.) Your document’s margins should be set to 1” all round; top, bottom, left, and right. Do not use headers or footers!
c.) Lastly, for the TITLE and BODY of your Book Review, you should set the line spacing to double-line spacing.
10.) If you are using a word processor that has a spell or grammar checker, then use it. However, be aware that their suggestions are not always correct and you need to check over your work constantly
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