For graduate students and junior faculty, book reviews can be a way to dip your toes in the publishing realm of academic journals. Although peer-reviewed articles are the pinnacle for publishing and tenure, I do not think academic book reviews should be scoffed at. A book review is a great way to engage, comment, and contribute on a colleague’s work in the field. More importantly, a refereed journal publication review can be a fun piece to hone your writing, develop your analytical reading skills, and provide interesting insights for your fellow researchers to read.
The process of writing a book review encourages academic researchers to engage in the literature. Often, the practices of summarizing chapters and restating ideas provides the book reviewer how to read a book to understand the author’s key points. A great book review will weave the text into the current academic subject.
Here are some general guidelines for book reviews I have seen in academic journals and suggested practices from those who are writing #acwri book reviews:
- Read – Check out book reviews in journals that you might be interested in publishing in 1st. See what books are being selected for review & check out the format/style.
- Good Publications to Review – Find a book that highlights issues or resources relevant to the field and/or subject of the academic journal you are submitting to
- Describe & evaluate – focus on the book’s purpose, contents, format, and authority
- Not Just a Summary – Positions and opinions should be supported with a logical argument and review the pertinent literature. Highlight strengths and weaknesses of the publication, and why this book is interesting and/or useful.
- Be constructive with your criticism. Remember to be kind and respectful to the author(s). A great deal of effort on the author, editorial board, blind review, etc. has been put into this text. Choose to be constructive with your criticism.
- Provide your thoughts on the book – use quotes sparingly. Readers will be interested in what YOU have to say.
- Share key ideas. What is the main idea of the work? What does this publication contribute to the field?
- Review Your Review – try to read from the vantage point of your audience. Is there too much/enough summary? Does your argument or key thoughts about the text make sense?
Typically academic journals will accept book reviews for publications that have been released within the year that highlights issues or resources relevant to that journal topic, genre, or field. If you are lucky, some journals might even purchase the book for you to review. It would be important to select a text that would offer solutions or directions to the field, and it would be helpful to verify with the editor if the publication would be appropriate to review. Sometimes, journals will give preference in the review process to book review essays that comment on two or more related books
In thinking about the book review requirements for the Learning and Performance Quarterly journal, I took a gander at a number of scholarly sources that published book reviews. Here are some of the common technical requirements* for academic book reviews:
- Reviews of publications within the recent year, i.e. 2011 or later would be acceptable now
- Include the title, author(s), year, publisher, publisher location, ISBN, cost, book format, and page numbers of the book(s) under review.
- Keep it simple. Typically book reviews are between 600 to 2000 words (unless you are reviewing a period or series of books).
- An abstract of 150 words or less might be required to accompany the book review.
- Draft a short biography and/or contact information to be included at the end of your book review.
- *Follow ANY and ALL other book review requirements for your specific journal of choice.
Happy #acwri reading & reviewing!
Laura Pasquini is a doctoral student in the Department of Learning Technologies at the University of North Texas, and editor for the Learning and Performance Quarterly journal. She can be found tweeting as @laurapasquini and blogging here.