CRITICAL ANALYSIS: Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights
Movement. HISTORY 1301: FALL SEMESTER 2019
Requirements: Typed 3-5 pages, double-spaced (if handwritten, 6-10 pages singlespaced) – must be submitted through the folder provided on D2L – Contents page –
Due: November 26, 2019
Objective: Submit a critical analysis on Sally McMillen’s Seneca Falls and the Origins
of the Women’s Rights Movement. The purpose of your paper is NOT to summarize the
entire book from chapter one to conclusion. Your objective is to identify the author’s
purpose in writing this book and the themes he utilizes to support his position.
Critical Book Review Guidelines
The introductory paragraph of your book review conveys the main point of the book that
you are reviewing. An analytical summary of the book should follow the introduction,
addressing the issues McMillen deals with as well as assessing the primary sources (i.e.
showing how he uses primary sources to prove his points, focusing on the most important
points of course). Finally, the book review should end with a critical analysis of the
strengths and weaknesses of the book and a brief conclusion that sums up the key
elements of your evaluation of the book you are reviewing. Any direct quotes from the
book must be properly footnoted.
Book Review Primer
A critical analysis, i.e. a review of a book or article that evaluates its strengths,
weaknesses, and potential uses, is a staple of historical work. It is not hard to review a
piece of academic work effectively, but it requires some understanding of what must be
done. Here are the sections that are in a proper review with hints as to how to execute
Introduction/Thesis Description: This is the main piece of information that the
introduction of any good review needs to convey, viz. the main point that the work under
examination is trying to make. You need not explain how the point is being made as
that’s a matter for the analytical summary. Rather you’re trying to give your reader the
punchline of the work. So, you want to write a brief synopsis of the thesis that should be
no more than a short paragraph. The best introductory paragraphs will also identify the
work being reviewed and indicate in some way the possible broader significance of the
thesis (an author will almost always give you clues as to what this is so you needn’t make
Analytical Summary: This is probably one of the most difficult skills to master in
reviewing another person’s work. The idea is to show the reader how the argument in a
piece of historical writing works. This means you have to do more than just summarize.
You have to identify the major points the piece you are evaluating is making and then
show how the author tries to make those points. Also you must do this without
expressing your judgment (that comes during the critique portion of the review). An
analytical summary should be on the order of a few paragraphs (certainly no more than
Critique: This section, as with the thesis description, is shorter than the analytical
summary. In the critique you are basically deciding whether or not the author achieved
the goals that you examined in the analytical summary. You SHOULD NOT comment
on style, readability, whether you “liked” the book or article, or whether it suited your
moral or other personal inclinations. Those are not standards applied to the evaluation of
scholarship. Rather you should decide 1) if the author’s argument flowed logically from
step to step; 2) whether the author supported the argument with enough evidence; and 3)
whether the author drew conclusions that were related to the argument and supported by
his/her sources. Your critical analysis should be no more than two paragraphs in length
and should contain specific examples from the text you are evaluating to illustrate the
critical points you are making.
Conclusion: Here you just want to sum up your findings with regard to book you
reviewed. The paragraph should be brief.
Late submission of the critical analysis will result in ten points being deducted from your
grade for each day past the due date.
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