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CORE 192: War, Peace, and Nonresistance: The Assignment

Book Review

Students will choose a scholarly book on some aspect of war and peace and then write a book review, employing insights from other books, scholarly essays on the theme, and reviews by other scholars of the main book. The book and supporting bibliography for writing the review will need to be submitted and approved, but the range of possible topics, and therefore books, will be very broad. The review should be 2000-2650 words long (6-8 pages); the word limit is for text only, not including footnotes and bibliography.  

This is a book review, not a book report. The purpose of your review is to engage with the main ideas in the book and especially to place the book in the context of other scholarship on the topic.  

The minimum standard for sources is three substantial reviews of your primary book, one additional book, and three peer-reviewed essays.

** I need to emphasize that this is the minimum standard for number of sources read, used, and cited. As a rough rule, students hoping for a grade above the B range (83-87) should use more sources, although of course simply using more sources will not guarantee a better grade.

The book reviews provide direct comment on your main book. The additional material—a book (or books) and peer-reviewed essays—should help you understand and review your main book better. Therefore they should be on the same basic topic, whether they agree or disagree with your main book, so that you can develop a picture of how scholars view this topic and where your main book fits in the overall picture.  If the additional material actually refers to the book you are reviewing, so much the better, but it's not necessary.

There are likely to be three main types of writing in your review: your summary and explanation of the book, your analysis and evaluation, and your synthesis and analysis of what the book’s scholarly reviewers say about it.

  • Not more than 20% of your paper should be summary and explanation of the author’s key ideas.  If you were to do only this, you would be writing a book report rather than a book review, so you should keep the summarizing to a minimum—just enough to help your reader understand the ideas that you and the book’s other reviewers are analyzing. 
  • 80% or more of your paper should be (a) your analysis and evaluation of the book you are reviewing and (b) your synthesis and analysis of what the book’s scholarly reviewers say about it.  These two elements can be mixed in different proportions, but not less than two pages should be devoted to your work with scholarly reviews of the book. 


Component assignments

IIIa.   Select a book and find at least 3 reviews (if you cannot find at least 3 reviews, choose another book)

Choose a scholarly, factual book to review—no novels—and write at least one paragraph describing why you chose this book. Also, because book reviews are so fundamental to this assignment, you need to find at least three substantial reviews. For these purposes, I’ll define “substantial” as 500 words or more and written by a qualified expert. Book and reviews must be cited in the proper Chicago notes-bibliography style.

Quality book reviews are one of your best resources for writing your own review, so I strongly encourage you to get and read all reviews of your book, not just the minimum three reviews.


IIIb.   Reading notes on the book you selected

Read your book and submit 1300 words (4 pages) of notes. In addition to clearly indicating that you have read your book, your notes should include two main features:                   

  • Always indicate what page you are taking material from. This will be especially important when you want to cite material in footnotes.
  • In addition to your record of what the author is saying, also include your own questions and ideas that arise as you are reading.

I’m open to having you submit reading notes by a variety of means—the point is to demonstrate that you have read the book from start to finish.


IIIc.   Annotated bibliography of additional sources                                                             

In addition to your book and three reviews you will need to find:

  • at least one other book for comparison;
  • at least three peer-reviewed journal articles or chapters in scholarly books on the same or a closely related theme.

For this assignment, you need to have read these materials carefully enough by this point to write a good paragraph of annotation for at least three of your journal articles or chapters—and it needs to be your paragraph, not something you’ve found in your research. You do not need to annotate your second book.

These new sources must be cited in the proper Chicago notes-bibliography style. 


IIId.   Outline of your paper

The assignment should include, in addition to a straightforward outline indicating the way you are planning to organize your paper:

  • your tentative thesis statement (the case you will be arguing);
  • key ideas, issues, and questions you are encountering or asking; and
  • an indication of how your sources support different parts of the outline.

Your outline should extend to at least three levels of organization, e.g.,

1.    Main point

a.    Sub point

 i.   Sub-sub point

Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting

Finding the Right Keywords