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Graduate students who are told that they should not waste their time reviewing books are being taught, implicitly, to reckon their time solely in terms of individual profit and loss.Were this sort of attitude replicated across the whole of the academy, intellectual life would, in my view, become more impoverished as a consequence.
Although of course this may vary slightly by discipline and/or publication venue, my advice is, if in doubt, to use the following framework, with one paragraph for each of the following seven sections: Introduction.
All good pieces of academic writing should have an introduction, and book reviews are no exception.
Proactive commissioning is where an editor seeks out potential reviewers and solicits their contribution.
Obviously, you are more likely to be targeted for this if you already have an established reputation in your field of expertise, and some journals will only publish reviews which have been proactively commissioned.
Counterintuitively, it is actually best to begin by explaining how to get reviews published.
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There are, broadly speaking, two ways that editors of academic journals and other periodicals solicit book review writers: 1) proactive commissioning and 2) reactive commissioning.We suggest not using various book summaries available online because they cannot provide you with all necessary information.You also cannot be sure that such summaries are accurate and true.You may find that particular books are deemed inappropriate or otherwise have already been allocated, but the response is usually receptive, and it should take no more than two or three good, concerted tries before you have landed your first opportunity. Don’t forget: you are writing about a book, and you probably only have between 800 and 1,000 words in which to do it.So now you’ve got a book to review and reasonable assurance it will be published if you do a good job. Some academics, including very senior ones, see reviews as an opportunity to hold forth at great length on their own strongly held views. While your readers may be interested in your opinion, they are, first and foremost, interested in learning about the book itself and whether or not they themselves might want to read it. In fact, like other genres of academic writing, such as journal articles and research proposals, academic book reviews tend to have a standard, even formulaic, structure.Most journals, though, also accept reactive commissions, where a potential writer him/herself reaches out and proposes a review, and many will accept them from graduate students.If you are keen to write your first book review, a reactive commission is probably the way to go.Pay your particular attention to the main setting of the book.Once you’ve collected all necessary information, get to the outline. You must define the structure of the report, drawing up paragraphs in a proper order.Open with a general description of the topic and/or problem addressed by the work in question.Think, if possible, of a hook to draw your readers in. Your review should, as concisely as possible, summarize the book’s argument. What particular sorts of qualifications and expertise do they bring to the subject?