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CJA & MPA Graduate Program: Library Research Introduction: Avoiding Book Reviews

CJA & MPA Graduate Program: Library Research Introduction

Avoiding Book Reviews


Book Reviews are very common throughout every type of periodical publication.  Book Reviews are meant to give a brief overview of the content of the book, how well the content is organized, and the scholarly relevance of the work.  Here are a few IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER about book reviews: 

  • While Book Reviews are helpful to many scholars, professors, and librarians, they are not considered good scholarly sources. Why? 
    • Book Reviews are not a published account of an original methodology
    • Book Reviews are merely a synopsis of someone else's original work (therefore, they are secondary sources). 
    • Book Reviews are good for deciding whether to buy/rent a book, they are not good to use for projects or papers. 

What are Book Reviews?


Book Reviews are written for the purpose of rating the usefulness of a published volume.  BOTH fiction and non-fiction books are reviewed by publications like: New York Times Book Review, New York Review of Books, Booklist, Library Journal, Times Literary Supplement, Kirkus Reviews, & many more. 

Many Non-Fiction books are reviewed by Academic & Scholarly Peer-Reviewed Journals.  Academic Journals will review the Books (Sometimes called Monographs: A detailed written study of a single specialized subject or an aspect of it) published within their Academic Subject or Field. 

Book Reviews rate the quality of the Monograph Based on these Criteria:

  1. Quality of the Writing - How well the author(s) clarify their research.
  2. Book Format & Organization - How well the content is organized: Does it create a coherent timeline and/or thesis? 
  3. Quality of Research Conducted - How well the author(s) selected the research resources that built the historical and/or scientific foundations of the monograph. An author(s)' conclusions are far more reliable and sound when seminal and quality sources are used. 

Short Quiz

Question 1.) Why do you want to avoid using book reviews as scholarly sources? 

A. Book reviews are not original studies 

B. Book reviews do not have an original methodology

C. Book reviews do not have conclusions that impact the science in a particular field 

(ALL OF THE ABOVE) - Book reviews are not made up of the usual components of a scholarly article because they are not original studies.

Question 2.) What is a good use for a book review? 

A. Creating a literature review

B. Deciding whether to purchase a book for your own reading or collection

C. Building a reference list

(B). - Book reviews are useful when deciding to purchase a book for your own research, or if you are a Librarian and looking to build your collection.

Question 3.) How do you try to spot book reviews in a database article search?

A. Look for clues like a price or ISBN (International Standard Book Number)

B. Look for an Icon that says 'review'

C. Look for a listing of an author for the article AND and author for the book that is being reviewed 

(ALL OF THE ABOVE) - When conduction database research, be sure to examine your articles to make sure they are not reviews. Reviews tend to be short articles and also exhibit some of the clues listed above. You can always ask a Librarian if you're confused!

How to Spot Book Reviews in the Databases

Here Are A Few Tips To Spot Which Articles are Book Reviews

TIP #1 - If the Icon in Front of the Article Says "Review."

TIP #2 - Even Though the Icon DOES NOT Indicate a Review, The Title and Article Information Indicates it is a Book Review.  Additionally, The Article is 1 to 4 Pages Long, Book Reviews Are Normally Short.

TIP #3 - If There is a PRICE or an ISBN (Like 978-3715299075). 

TIP #4 - There Is an Author or Editor in the TITLE OF THE ARTICLE, And a Different Author or Editor in the Article Information.