Monday, September 14, 2009

The bare bones about the book review

For the 396 students here is a list of what you will be doing for the next four weeks on the first writing project.

1. You will produce an essay of at least 5 pages (if written in MS Word, for example).

2. The essay will be produced via a process of drafts and revisions. Your final submission after the four weeks will be a second draft, a third draft, or even a fourth draft. It will not be a first draft.

3. I will give you feedback between revision on which you will base your next version.

4. Before you start in on the drafts, you will produce a one pager (called a precis) which explains your plan for the the essay.

5. Your essay will be in some significant part about one of the books we are reading this semester. You should not aim to summarize the entire book, but you might want to do something of that sort for a particular chapter and then zero in on that.

6. Your essay also should tie into two other themes. One is the theme for the course, desigining for effectice change. Your review should say how the book under consideration ties in. You might establish that tie by creating a connection between the book and other things we have or will read. The other theme is personal experiences you have had that illustrated ideas from the book directly or indirectly via the structure of the argument in the book.

7. Style-wise, I've encouraged you to read other book reviews so you can get a sense of what a good review looks like. The reason I've opted for this form of essay is so you have models you can emulate.


  1. Prof. Arvan, do you want our drafts and final version to be double spaced?

  2. No, keep the format the same as the reflections. Double spacing is for inline comments which conjures up images of red ink and lots of things I don't want to do. If I need to make a remark about a specific paragraph or sentence, I'll reference it and or quote it directly.