Writing a book / journal article review


 
  • Objectives: what does the article / book set out to do?
  • Theory: is there an explicit theoretical framework? If not, are there important theoretical assumptions?
  • Concepts: what are the central concepts? Are they clearly defined?
  • Argument: what is the central argument? Are there specific hypotheses?
  • Method: what methods are employed to test these?
  • Evidence: is evidence provided? How adequate is it?
  • Values: are value positions clear or are they implicit?
  • Literature: how does the work fit into the wider literature?
  • Contribution: how well does the work advance our knowledge of the subject?
  • Style: how clear is the author's language/style/expression?
  • Conclusion: a brief overall assessment.
       Look at the title, the table of contents, the abstract and the introduction to get some idea of the central focus and the coverage of the article and the author's reasons for writing the article. Skim quickly through the whole article paying attention to tables, illustrations or other graphic materials.
     Read more closely the first section to understand the main issues to be discussed and indicate the theoretical or conceptual framework within which the author proposes to work. Read closely the final section covering the author's conclusions and main reasons why these conclusions have been reached.
      Then read the whole text thoroughly to develop a basis on which to critically review it. Decide which aspects of the article you wish to discuss in detail in your review: the theoretical approach? the content or case studies? the selection and interpretation of evidence? the range of coverage? the style of presentation?  the main issues which the author has specifically examined? a particular issue (because it has importance for you, even if it is not the main issue for the author)?
      Having read in closer detail the sections which are relevant to discussed issues make notes of the main points and key quotations.
 

The structure of a review should include:

 
  • an initial identification of the article / book (author, title of article / book, title of journal (in case of an article review), year of publication, and other details that seem important), and an indication of the major aspects of the article ? book you will be discussing.
  • a brief summary of the range, contents and argument of the article / book. Occasionally you may summarise section by section, but in a short review (1,000-1,500 words) you usually pick up the main themes only. This section should not normally take up more than a third of the total review.
  • a critical discussion of 2-3 key issues raised in the article / book. This section is the core of a review. You need to make clear the author's own argument before you criticise and evaluate it. Also you must support your criticisms with evidence from the text or from other writings. You may also want to indicate gaps in the author's treatment of a topic; but it is seldom useful to criticise a writer for not doing something they never intended to do.
  • a final evaluation of the overall contribution that the article / book has made to your understanding of the topic (and maybe its importance to the development of knowledge in this particular area or discipline, setting it in the context of other writings in the field).

A Critical Review and Assessment of the Article:

  • Include a summary as well as your own analysis and evaluation of the article.
  • Know the article thoroughly.
  • Do not include personal opinions.
  • Be sure to distinguish your thoughts from the author’s words.
  • Focus on the positive aspects and what the author(s) of the study learned.
  • Note limitations of the study at the end of the essay:
    • Do the data and conclusions contradict each other?
    • Is there sufficient data to support the author’s generalizations?
    • What questions remain unanswered?
    • How could future studies be improved?