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Political Science: POLS 447/HIST 492

This guide provides resources for research in political science, politics, public policy and government.

Goals of your book review

Book reviews should display your knowledge and understanding of the book you are reviewing. You should talk about the book's strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to demonstrate your critical thinking skills!

Book reviews should answer the following questions:

  1. What is the thesis the author is trying to communicate?
  2. Did the author get his/her message across clearly?
  3. Did the author convince you by his/her arguments?
  4. What is the audience the book is intended for and is it appropriate for that audience?

Criteria for evaluation

You should have a set of criteria in mind on which you will evaluate the book. Below are some examples.

  • What is the quality of the writing? Is it clear and concise? Is it interesting?
  • Does the book fit in the scholarly conversation? In other words, are there other books that this one builds on or are there other books with other points of view on the same or a related topic?
    • You will need to do some research for this one to find what other works are available.
    • As a student, you may not already be overly familiar with the literature on the topic so you might need to rely on other book reviews to find out where your book fits within the larger conversation.
  • Does the author meet his/her goal in terms of covering the topic? 
    • Based on the intended audience, is the work thorough? Is it written at an appropriate level for the intended audience to understand it?
  • Does the author provide sufficient evidence to support his/her points?
  • Are the author's arguments logical and communicated in such a way that you can follow it?
  • What is the author's research methodology and is it appropriate to the topic? What are the strengths and limitations of that methodology?
  • What audience(s) would enjoy or benefit from this work?

Organization of a book review

Like any other paper, your book review needs to be organized in a logical manner.

  1. Introduction: In this one paragraph section, you should introduce your book and your thesis statement. Below are some examples of thesis statements from book reviews.
    1. "So the question naturally arises: How do wealthy and powerful people protect their privileges against all those who have the right to vote and might—you never know—reject what the wealthy and powerful want?" (Wolfe, 2017)
    2. "Can Australia avoid the debilitating effects of declining public confidence in politics found elsewhere?" (A Crisis, 2000)
  2. Summary: This section should be quite short. Just highlight the author's main points. Do not get caught up explaining any of the points, you are just summarizing the points that the author explains. You should also discuss the authors and their credentials in this section.
  3. Body of the review: This is the largest section of the paper. Use your critical thinking skills to evaluate the book based on the criteria you had chosen. Look at the strengths and weaknesses of the book.
  4. Conclusion: State what you think the significance of the book is. This is a good place to discuss the appropriate audience for the book as well. This is the section where you can express your feelings about the book.

References

Wolfe, A. (2017). Rules for Radicals. New Republic, 248(10), 46–50. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=124870491&site=ehost-live>

A Crisis of Democracy--Again. (2000). Policy, 16(4), 47. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=4404496&site=ehost-live

Doing research for a book review

Ebsco Databases

Put the topic of your book in the search box (if there are multiple boxes, just use the top box)

In the Search Options box, set Document Type to Book Review and click Search.

Web of Science Databases

Go to the Advanced Search. Put your topic in the search box with the format ALL=your topic (e.g. ALL=democracy). Set the Document Type (in the second box below the search box) to Book Review and click Search.

Accessing Library Databases and Journals From Off Campus

We license many of our databases for use by SDSU students, faculty, and staff. To access them from off campus, you will need to log into our proxy server.

Students: Use your jacks e-mail username and password (use the whole e-mail address as the username).

Faculty/Staff: Use your campus login credentials.

Terminology: Journal/Magazine

Are you confused about the difference between journals and magazines? No problem, here is what to look for to determine which you have.

Journals: Content is written to inform the reader.

  • Author(s) named and credentials given
  • Sources cited in the article
  • Bibliography at the end (often it is long)
  • Articles report on research or review the current state of a topic
  • Articles tend to be long
  • Illustrations are usually graphs and charts and are necessary to understand the text
  • Few if any advertisements in the journal

Magazines: Content is written to entertain the reader.

  • Author is often not named
  • If sources are given, they are not cited entirely
  • No bibliography
  • Articles report on events and people, if research is reported, it is not in detail
  • Articles are short
  • Illustrations are often in color and are intended to entertain
  • Lots of advertisements for a wide variety of products

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