Guidelines for reviews of scholarly literature
A review shows that you understand the purpose of a scholarly book
or article, that you understand the author's philosophy or point of view
and possible bias. Reviews in scholarly journals begin with a heading
(not indented) containing comprehensive bibliographic information on the work to be
reviewed: at a bare minimum, author, title, place, publisher and date.
The remainder of the review consists of expository prose, in paragraphs.
The following are issues that should be addressed in nearly every
- A summary of the contents: what issues does the author address?
Beware of making this summary proportionally too long, or of merely
repeating the table of contents of the book. What do you know about
the author's philosophy or approach to the subject, based on other
work or reputation?
- What is the purpose of the work in question? What audience is
the author trying to reach, and by what means does the author hope
to persuade this audience? Frequently, but not always, authors offer
a rationale for their work in a preface; otherwise, you must use your
own powers of discernment.
- How effective is the author in achieving these goals? Are the
arguments clear and relevant? Do they cite evidence from reliable
and plausible sources? Do they adequately address objections or
difficult data that might seem to contradict the author's thesis?
Are the author's biases sufficiently subdued that he may be able
to reach readers who do not share these biases? Are there any
important issues that are neglected or ignored?
- You may, optionally, choose to offer personal reactions and
opinions on the work, in addition to the more "objective" criticism
prescribed above. This may reveal something of your own personality
and biases, and may make your own work more vivid and satisfying to
Reviews are normally signed, at the end, with the reviewer's name
and institution. When reviews are turned in as class assignments, it
is helpful to place your own name at the beginning as well.