[SOLVED] Women and the Media

UMass Boston
WGS 220 Women and the Media (Prof. Nada Mustafa Ali)

Writing Your Book Review

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Hello everyone,
As you know, the final assignment for this class is a comparative book review of two books: Twitter and Teargas, and Misogynoir I have designed this assignment intentionally so you can deepen your understanding of the some of the themes and issues related to women and social media, both nationally and globally.
Moira Bailey on Misogynoir Transformed:

Zeynep Tufekci on Twitter and Teargas
This week, I want to share insights on ways to write an excellent comparative book review. I hope you will find the books interesting, informative, and insightful, and that you will see both overlaps and divergences with some of the themes of the course.
I cannot encourage you enough to complete reading the books and to start working on your assignment now. This will enable you to write, *revise* and *edit* your assignment well.
I hope this lecture, and the final assignment will introduce you to the skill/hone your skill of reading analytically and comparatively, and of writing book reviews (or hone your skills if you have written book reviews before).
Reading A Book and Preparing Your Book Review
I: Skimming the Book:

Please read the book superficially at the beginning. The purpose of reading at this level is for you to form a general idea about the theme of the book and its main content, why the author wrote it, and how the book is structured. You can do so by 1) reading the table of contents, the introduction and the conclusion. Also, read the first and last paragraph of each chapter. Note any key words or recurring concepts. Authors usually define key concepts in their books. The Index at the end of the book usually contains key terms and can help you navigate the book chapters. Jot your ideas down on a piece of paper or on your electronic device.

Questions to consider:
-What is the main purpose of each book?
-What are the key questions the authors are addressing? What are their main points of view?
-What is the most important information in this book?
-What are the main conclusions?
-What concepts do the authors use?
-What are the implications of taking the reasoning of the authors seriously?
-What happens if we failed to take the reasoning in the book seriously?

II. Analytical, Comparative Reading & Review:

Reading analytically is about being a demanding reader. As M. J. Adler and C. V. Doren write in How to Read A Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (Touchstone, 1972)

Analytical reading is thorough reading, complete reading or good reading [for the sake of understanding and interpreting]—The best possible reading you can do. If inspectional reading [skimming—see above] is the best and most complete reading that is possible given a limited time, then analytical reading is the best and most complete reading given unlimited time.

The analytical reader must ask many, and organized questions of what he [or she] is reading…Analytical reading is always intensely active. On this level of reading, the reader grasps a book…and works at it until the book becomes his [or her/their] own. (p. 19)

III. Syntopical Reading:

Syntopical reading involves further analysis that identifies similarities, differences, and overlap in the content of two or more books (or the book you are reviewing on one hand, and films, books, or articles you read earlier in the Semester on the other). It is more complex and systematic compared to analytical reading and skimming. According to Adler and Doren:

When reading syntopically, the reader reads [more than one book] and places them in relation to one another and to a subject around which they all revolve. But mere comparison of texts is not enough. Syntopical reading involves more. With the help of the books read, the syntopical reader is able to construct an analysis of the subject that may [or] may not be in the books. (p. 20).

For the purposes of this course, I want you to try and use some of the concepts and issues we discussed during the Semester in your review if possible. However, please do not just use a concept that is not relevant.

Writing A Book Review: A Hand Out
(Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Writing Center


This handout will help you write a book review, a report or essay that offers a critical perspective on a text. It offers a process and suggests some strategies for writing book reviews.

A review is a critical evaluation of a text, event, object, or phenomenon. Reviews can consider books, articles, entire genres or fields of literature, architecture, art, fashion, restaurants, policies, exhibitions, performances, and many other forms. This handout will focus on book reviews…. Above all, a review makes an argument. The most important element of a review is that it is a commentary, not merely a summary. It allows you to enter into dialogue and discussion with the work’s creator and with other audiences. You can offer agreement or disagreement and identify where you find the work exemplary or deficient in its knowledge, judgments, or organization. You should clearly state your opinion of the work in question, and that statement will probably resemble other types of academic writing, with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion…

Typically, reviews are brief. In newspapers and academic journals, they rarely exceed 1000 words, although you may encounter lengthier assignments and extended commentaries. In either case, reviews need to be succinct. While they vary in tone, subject, and style, they share some common features:

First, a review gives the reader a concise summary of the content. This includes a relevant description of the topic as well as its overall perspective, argument, or purpose.

Second, and more importantly, a review offers a critical assessment of the content. This involves your reactions to the work under review: what strikes you as noteworthy, whether or not it was effective or persuasive, and how it enhanced your understanding of the issues at hand.

Finally, in addition to analyzing the work, a review often suggests whether or not the audience would appreciate it.

There is no definitive method to writing a review, although some critical thinking about the work at hand is necessary before you actually begin writing. Thus, writing a review is a two-step process: developing an argument about the work under consideration, and making that argument as you write an organized and well-supported draft.
What follows is a series of questions to focus your thinking as you dig into the work at hand. While the questions specifically consider book reviews, you can easily transpose them to an analysis of performances, exhibitions, and other review subjects. Don’t feel obligated to address each of the questions; some will be more relevant than others to the book in question.

What is the thesis—or main argument—of the book? If the author wanted you to get one idea from the book, what would it be? How does it compare or contrast to the world you know? What has the book accomplished?

What exactly is the subject or topic of the book? Does the author cover the subject adequately? Does the author cover all aspects of the subject in a balanced fashion? What is the approach to the subject (topical, analytical, chronological, descriptive)?

How does the author support her argument? What evidence does she use to prove her point? Do you find that evidence convincing? Why or why not? Does any of the author’s information (or conclusions) conflict with other books you’ve read, courses you’ve taken or just previous assumptions you had of the subject?

How does the author structure her argument? What are the parts that make up the whole? Does the argument make sense? Does it persuade you? Why or why not?

How has this book helped you understand the subject? Would you recommend the book to your reader?….

Once you have made your observations and assessments of the work under review, carefully survey your notes and attempt to unify your impressions into a statement that will describe the purpose or thesis of your review….
Your arguments should develop the thesis in a logical manner. That logic, unlike more standard academic writing, may initially emphasize the author’s argument while you develop your own in the course of the review. The relative emphasis depends on the nature of the review: if readers may be more interested in the work itself, you may want to make the work and the author more prominent; if you want the review to be about your perspective and opinions, then you may structure the review to privilege your observations over (but never separate from) those of the work under review. What follows is just one of many ways to organize a review.

Since most reviews are brief, many writers begin with a catchy quip or anecdote that succinctly delivers their argument. But you can introduce your review differently depending on the argument and audience. The handout on introductions can help you find an approach that works. In general, you should include:

The name of the author and the book title and the main theme.

Relevant details about who the author is and where he/she stands in the genre or field of inquiry. You could also link the title to the subject to show how the title explains the subject matter.

The context of the book and/or your review. Placing your review in a framework that makes sense to your audience alerts readers to your “take” on the book. Perhaps you want to situate a book about the Cuban revolution in the context of Cold War rivalries between the United States and the Soviet Union. Another reviewer might want to consider the book in the framework of Latin American social movements. Your choice of context informs your argument.

The thesis of the book. If you are reviewing fiction, this may be difficult since novels, plays, and short stories rarely have explicit arguments. But identifying the book’s particular novelty, angle, or originality allows you to show what specific contribution the piece is trying to make.
Your thesis about the book.

This should be brief, as analysis takes priority. In the course of making your assessment, you’ll hopefully be backing up your assertions with concrete evidence from the book, so some summary will be dispersed throughout other parts of the review.

The necessary amount of summary also depends on your audience. Graduate students, beware! If you are writing book reviews for colleagues—to prepare for comprehensive exams, for example—you may want to devote more attention to summarizing the book’s contents. If, on the other hand, your audience has already read the book—such as a class assignment on the same work—you may have more liberty to explore more subtle points and to emphasize your own argument. See our handout on summary for more tips.

Your analysis and evaluation should be organized into paragraphs that deal with single aspects of your argument. This arrangement can be challenging when your purpose is to consider the book as a whole, but it can help you differentiate elements of your criticism and pair assertions with evidence more clearly.

You do not necessarily need to work chronologically through the book as you discuss it. Given the argument you want to make, you can organize your paragraphs more usefully by themes, methods, or other elements of the book.

If you find it useful to include comparisons to other books, keep them brief so that the book under review remains in the spotlight.

Avoid excessive quotation and give a specific page reference in parentheses when you do quote. Remember that you can state many of the author’s points in your own words.

Sum up or restate your thesis or make the final judgment regarding the book. You should not introduce new evidence for your argument in the conclusion. You can, however, introduce new ideas that go beyond the book if they extend the logic of your own thesis.

This paragraph needs to balance the book’s strengths and weaknesses in order to unify your evaluation. Did the body of your review have three negative paragraphs and one favorable one? What do they all add up to? The Writing Center’s handout on conclusions can help you make a final assessment.




Review the book in front of you, not the book you wish the author had written. You can and should point out shortcomings or failures, but don’t criticize the book for not being something it was never intended to be.

With any luck, the author of the book worked hard to find the right words to express her ideas. You should attempt to do the same. Precise language allows you to control the tone of your review.

Never hesitate to challenge an assumption, approach, or argument. Be sure, however, to cite specific examples to back up your assertions carefully.

Try to present a balanced argument about the value of the book for its audience.
You’re entitled—and sometimes obligated—to voice strong agreement or disagreement. But keep in mind that a bad book takes as long to write as a good one, and every author deserves fair treatment. Harsh judgments are difficult to prove and can give readers the sense that you were unfair in your assessment.

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