Political Science/JSIS/LSJ Writing Center

Writing Book Reviews in Political Science

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This handout suggests ways to think about and organize your book review. However, before following this format, please consult the specific directions given to you by your instructor.

Goal of a book review:
To display substantial knowledge of the book's content, strengths, and weaknesses, as well as the ability to think critically about an academic argument.

Content of a book review:
A book review should answer three questions --
1.) What is the writer of the book trying to communicate?
2.) How clearly and convincingly did the author get his/her message across to the reader?
3.) Was the message worth reading?

Argument of a book review:
Like all political science papers, book reviews assert a claim -- they do more than summarize what the author says. The thesis of your book review will respond to questions 2 and 3 above: Is the argument of the book compelling? Did the author convince you of his point, and how significant is this point?

In considering your thesis, and in presenting your argument, you will need criteria for judging the book. Here are some suggestions of criteria to think about while reading the book and while formulating your argument:
Organization of a book review:

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