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AFAM 401: Narratives of Race

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This library course guide highlights only a small portion of the many resources available to you. Contact Peggy Burge for research assistance.


Book Review Assignment

 Complete a five page book review of any of the reference texts listed in the syllabus.

Writing a Critical Review

Some Common Features of a Critical Review

A review gives the reader a concise summary of the content.

  • Description of the research topic and scope of analysis
  • Overview of the book's overall perspective, argument, and/or purpose.

A review offers a critical assessment of the content, often in relation to other studies on the same topic.

  • Document your reactions to the work under review
  • What strikes you as noteworthy or important
  • Whether or not the arguments made by the author(s) were effective or persuasive
  • How the work enhanced your understanding of the research problem under investigation.

In addition to analyzing a book's strengths and weaknesses, a scholarly review often recommends whether or not readers would value the work for its authenticity and overall quality. This measure of quality includes both the author's ideas and arguments as well as practical issues, such as, readability and language, organization and layout, indexing, and the use of non-textual elements.

Assessment Strategy

Develop a set of questions that should be answered as you read the book. Same questions include:

  • What is the central thesis—or main argument—of the book?
  • 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? Can you detect any biases? What type of approach has the author adopted to explore the research problem [e.g., topical, analytical, chronological, descriptive]?
  • How does the author support his or her argument? What evidence does the author use to prove his or her point? Is the evidence based on an appropriate application of the method chosen to gather information? 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 about the research problem?
  • How does the author structure his or her argument? Does it follow a logical order of analysis? What are the parts that make up the whole? Does the argument make sense to you? Does it persuade you? Why or why not?
  • How has this book helped you understand the research problem? Would you recommend the book to others? Why or why not?


When reviewing the overall quality of a book, examine the following:

  • table of contents
  • foreword
  • conclusion
  • author's biography

Adapted from: USC's Writing a Book Review

Search Primo

Use Primo to find a book for your book review assignment at Collins Library and beyond.

Search by book title and limit search scope to Collins. See example below.

Search Results: Print book & Ebook

Tip: You can find out how long the book is by looking at the full record. Scroll down until you see the format field.


Tip: To find out where the book is shelved, check the location chart.

Search for Book Reviews

There are many library databases that include book reviews. A sampling appears below..

Search Tips:

Search the book title and the author.Below is an example for Winthrop Jordan's White over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro: 1550-1812.

Limit your search to reviews. Below is an example from the Ebsco databases