Friday, March 20, 2009

It is time to start thinking about your book review assignment

Book Review: One book review is required. The assignment will be both written and oral (presentation before the class). The written review must be submitted in MS Word format. The presentation can be a power point, slide or overhead project presentation. A list of approved books has been posted, but you may select your own. The professor must “approve” the book. The book must be a biography or autobiography of a journalist or the history of a newspaper or other journalistic organization or the function of a certain group in journalism and communication (i.e. Hispanics in the media, the Chicano newspapers of the 20th century, the Black press in history, etc.). This is worth 20 percent of your final grade.

Some suggestions for your book review

Things to look for . . . .

What are the author’s main points?
Again, these will often be stated in the introduction.

What kind of evidence does the author use to prove his or her points?
Is the evidence convincing? Why or why not? Does the author support his or her points adequately?

How does this book relate to the topic of Hispanics in the Media?
Is the book unique? Does it add new information? What group of readers, if any, would find this book most useful?

Does the author have the necessary expertise to write the book?
What credentials or background does the author have that qualify him or her to write the book? Has the author written other books or papers on this topic? Do others in this field consider this author to be an expert?

What do the reviewers say about this work?
Check out reviews on the Internet or journals to get this point.

How successful do you think the author was in carrying out the overall purposes of the book? Review the foreword in the book and also epilogue is some to determine this.

Depending on your book’s purpose, you should select appropriate criteria by which to judge its success. The primary concern is the reflection of Hispanics. Other concerns are its role for Hispanics in the Media and also whether it is of historical significance. Some points to consider: For example, review the foreword, if an author says his or her purpose is to argue for a particular solution to a public problem, then the review should judge whether the author has defined the problem, identified causes, planned points of attack, provided necessary background information, and offered specific solutions. A review should also
indicate the author’s professional expertise. In other instances, however, the authors or author may argue for a theory about a particular phenomenon. Reviews of these books should evaluate what kind of theory the book is arguing for, how much and what kind of evidence the author uses to support his or her scholarly claims, how valid the evidence seems, how expert the author is, and how much the book contributes to the knowledge of the field.

Writing the Book Review

Book reviews generally include the following information; keep in mind, though, that you may need to include other information to explain your assessment of a book.

Most reviews start off with a heading that includes all the bibliographic information about the book. There is a sample below:

Title. Author. Place of publication: publisher, date of publication. Number
of pages. Cost (if you can get it)

Like most pieces of writing, the review itself usually begins with an introduction that lets your readers know what the review will say. This is your opinion and it should be concise, poignant, succinct and to the point.

The first paragraph usually includes the author and title again, so your readers don’t have to look up to find this information. You should also include a very brief overview of the contents of the book, the purpose or audience for the book, and your reaction and evaluation.

You should then move into a section of background information that helps place the book in context and discusses criteria for judging the book.

Next, you should give a summary of the main points of the book, quoting and paraphrasing key phrases from the author. However, don’t tell the whole story. Make the reader want to go and get the book.

Finally, you get to the heart of your review—your evaluation of the book. In this section, you might discuss some of the following issues:

• how well the book has achieved its goal
• what possibilities are suggested by the book
• what the book has left out
• how the book compares to others on the subject
• what specific points are not convincing
• what personal experiences you’ve had related to the subject.
• and, in our case, how it related to our subject matter – Hispanics in the Media

It is important to use labels to carefully distinguish your views from the author’s, so that you don’t confuse your reader. Then, like other essays, you can end with a direct comment on the book (i.e. This book has wonderful examples of how Hispanic have impacted broadcast media and is a valuable resource for anyone doing research on the subject). You should then tie all your comments or issues raised together and come to a conclusion.

There is, of course, no set formula, but a general rule of thumb is that the first one-half to two-thirds of the review should summarize the author’s main ideas and at least one-third should evaluate the book.

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