How to Write a Review EssayFriday, May 28th, 2010
General guidelines for great review essays
If you were asked to write this kind of essay, keep in mind that it is not the same as a book report. The last one summarizes the work and provides a brief opinion on the story. The teacher pretends to check with it if you actually have read the book. But, if you write a review essay, your main purpose is to provide the reader an overview of the most significant points raised by the author. In this way, your work should be an attempt to engage in a critical discussion of the book, or books.
Choosing a book
Not every book is suitable to be discussed in review essays. You should not choose an edited collection, but a single piece of work written by just one author. At the same time, it is advisable to review older pieces, which are easier since you get to discuss the relevance of the book over time. Besides, when it comes to new books, you will find less bibliography available.
Organizing the review essay
Review essays tend to follow a general pattern. The first part is the introduction to the essay, where you identify the general line of argument and you establish the main thesis of the work. Then you should add a brief summary of the book, focusing only on the main points made in the text. Be careful with the extension: if you are using more than half of your essay to recount the book, your paper will be more of a book report than a review. Do not waste your time in little details which won’t help you get into the critical discussion.
A key section of the essay is where you evaluate the contribution of the book in its own time as well as today. If the book is not literary, the critical discussion should refer to its problems and controversies in its own disciplinary field, and decide whether it is a valuable contribution or if the author has not manage to sustain their thesis in time. As in any argument essay, you should always support your arguments with evidence. Here you can quote critics to reinforce your own opinion, as long as you reference them accordingly to avoid accusations of plagiarism. Finally, your essay will end with a conclusion.
Some more tips to keep in mind
In a review essay, you should always make clear to the reader who is the current “speaker” in your paper – the book author, another author (for example, a critic), or you as the essay writer. If you don’t, the readers may get confused.
Of course, always be extra careful with your spelling and grammar, since even the best software can confuse homonyms. It is recommended to proofread your essay before handing it in.
About the essay word count, if you are asked to write 2500 words, you may as well write 2400, or 2600. But submitting a 3500 words paper would be as wrong as submitting a 1700. Always match the examiner expectations.