Reading and writing Assignments :INTRODUCTION
These instructions offer general suggestions on how to go about the tasks of reading and writing as well as specific directions on the format to be used when you prepare your book report for this course. Read through them carefully before beginning the report..
The report that you will submit is more than a book review. It is designed primarily to help you develop and perfect your ability to read critically. Keep this purpose in mind as you read. While you will undoubtedly seek to absorb new information, this should not be your only objective. You also must try to determine what message or interpretation the author is trying to put across. Therefore, whenever you encounter a sentence or passage or paragraph that suggests or illustrates what you believe to be the book’s thesis, make note of it, carefully citing the appropriate page or pages.
While reading, you also should gather materials for use in your evaluation of the book. Note passages that seem to offer examples of fair and objective treatment and scholarly workmanship. Also note examples of partisan or unfair treatment of a controversial point, sweeping generalizations without sufficient supporting evidence, and the like.
Your final report should be a critical, analytical commentary on the book and its author, not a simple summary of the book’s contents.
I. PLAN OF ATTACK: In general, the report should be prepared in four stages, as follows:
A. Before reading the book, find out as much as you can about who wrote it and when it was written.
B. While reading the book, construct statements of the book’s theme and the author’s thesis.
C. After reading the book, prepare an objective evaluation of the author’s efforts and your own subjective response to the book.
D. After completing A through C, read professional reviewers’ published opinions of the book and evaluate their reviews in light of your own critical analysis of the book.
II. FORMAT REQUIREMENTS: The following guidelines should be followed as closely as possible when you prepare the final copy of your report.
A. In terms of length, the expectation is that you provide 5 pages (7 pages including the title page and reference page – see below) of well-written material based on the information provided in this document.
B. The report should be double-spaced; have 1 inch margins; type in Times New Roman; you may write in first person (you may use “I”).
C. On the first page of an otherwise blank first page, type your first and last name, the identification numbers for this course and section, the date you submit the report, and the title of your book.
D. For the reminder of the report, you will use headings as outlined below: Identification, Analysis, Criticism, Conclusions and Applications.
E. Within each part of the report, comply with all of the directions that are relevant, but do not follow the form faithfully when it clearly does not apply to your book.
III. GRADING CRITERIA: Obviously the criteria by which your report will be graded are many and complex. Broadly speaking, however, you will be rated on your performance in three general areas:
A. Presentation : you are expected to prepare a report according to these instructions and in which you express your points in clear, concise, and grammatically correct English.
B. Research : you should show ingenuity and resourcefulness in uncovering biographical data on the author and in locating critical reviews of the book.
C. Argument : your ratings here will depend upon the capacity you demonstrate to select and arrange evidence so as to reveal sound reasoning toward justified conclusions.
DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS FOR PREPARING THE REPORT
A. In the first paragraph of your report, identify the book for which you will include a reference at the end of your paper. In this paragraph, indicate why you selected the book, how will it contribute to your future work career. etc. The expectation is that you should provide about 8-10 sentences to answer these questions. (This is the info you sent me about the book you selected).
B. Provide a brief biography of the author(s) of your book. You must find information about the author(s) from at least two sources – the book itself + one additional source (remember, use a good source). Include what the biographical facts lead you to expect from this author writing about the subject of this book. Do his or her strengths give you confidence? Do his weaknesses make you wary?
This is perhaps the most important part of the whole report because all that follows depends in large part upon it. You cannot evaluate a book critically unless you first understand exactly what the book is about and comprehend fully the main point or points the author is trying to make.
The subject or theme of a book tells you what the book is about; the thesis reveals the author’s interpretation or point of view regarding that subject. To read critically, you should try to see through the subject matter to the central idea or thesis the author is trying to put across. Sometimes it is possible to discover valuable clues, explicit or implied, in the subtitle, foreword, acknowledgments, dedication, preface, or bibliography. It is, therefore, a good idea to study carefully all of these external appendages before you begin to read the main body of the book itself.
Include the following information in your report.
A. Theme: State what the whole book is about as briefly as you can, in one sentence if possible. If appropriate, also indicate here any aspect of the subject that received special emphasis in the book. Be factual; save your opinions for later in the report.
The following is an example of an acceptable theme statement.
“Fifteen Weeks is a detailed, insider’s descriptive account of the formulation of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union by the White House and the Department of State during the decisive fifteen-week period in 1947 from February, when the British announced their decision to suspend their aid to Greece, through March, when the President Truman proclaimed his Doctrine, to June, when Secretary of State Marshall proposed his plan for European recovery.”
The following is an example of an unacceptable theme statement.
“Fifteen Weeks is about the formulation of U.S. foreign policy after World War II.”
B. Thesis: State as concisely as you can and in your own words what you believe to be the author’s main proposition or central thesis. In other words, report what seems to you to be the essential point the author is trying to make in the book.
1. Make your thesis statement as clear and precise as you can using a straightforward, declarative sentence.
The following is an example of an acceptable thesis statement.
“The author’s main thesis is that President Franklin D. Roosevelt willingly sacrificed the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor in December 1941 in the hope that the Japanese attack there would move the people of the United States to become totally involved on the side of the Allies in a declared war against Germany and other Axis Powers.”
The following are examples of unacceptable thesis statements.
“The book is about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.”
“The book tells why Roosevelt allowed the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor.”
2. Support your contention with from three to five examples of evidence drawn from the book itself, quoting or paraphrasing briefly the passages that caused you to decide on the thesis statement you constructed. Give page citations to identify each piece of evidence you offer.
Do not summarize the book. Remember: analysis, yes; summary, no!
If you think the book has more than one thesis, deal with each one separately. If you think it has no thesis, say so and explain why.
A. Objective Evaluation : An objective evaluation of a book with a thesis should be an evaluation of the argument the author presents to maintain his key proposition or thesis. Evaluate the book objectively and present your case persuasively by offering evidence to support your conclusions in a logical and orderly way.
B. Do not include the opinions of others here; save them for later. Make this evaluation of how well the author handled the subject on your own.
C. In preparing this part of your report, consider these questions.
1. Selection of sources: Does the author’s selection of source materials inspire confidence in his work? What sources of information did he consult? Did he use primary sources (firsthand accounts) or secondary materials (second hand information)? Did he consult sources representing different or rival points of view? Does he identify and evaluate his sources in a critical bibliography or anywhere else in his book?
2. Use of sources: How effectively does the author use the source materials he has consulted? Does he make a full and fair presentation of his case or does his account seem one-sided or incomplete? Does he make sweeping generalizations on insufficient evidence? Judging from the text alone, does the author seem misinformed, uninformed, or biased?
3. Logic of argument: Does the author defend his thesis convincingly? Is his argument logical? Is his evidence persuasive or does he make unsupported assertions, presenting opinions without facts to back them up?
4. Credibility: Do you believe the author’s account? Do you accept his thesis and conclusions fully or do you hold reservations and qualifications? Is the book trustworthy?
A word of caution: Do not assume that any book with a thick bibliography is necessarily thorough and sound and, conversely, that an opposite book is superficial.
D. Subjective Evaluation: Clearly it is important to be able to evaluate a book objectively with scholarly critical thinking. But this does not mean that your subjective responses to a book are unimportant or meaningless. A book that is biased sometimes may contribute significantly to a student’s perspective. Your report, therefore, must include your subjective responses to your book. Be completely candid.
The following questions will suggest a method for the preparation of this part of your report.
1. What is your opinion of the book? Was it interesting and enjoyable or dull and boring? Was it worth the time you spent reading it?
2. Did the book help you understand better any of the people, issues, problems, or themes being considered in this course or in your future or was it more confusing than helpful? Was it irrelevant?
3. Would you recommend that the book be used again in this course? Would you recommend the book to a friend who was not a student in this course?
4. What about the book did you like most? What did you like least? Why?
IV. CONCLUSIONS AND APPLICATIONS
The critical reader who has learned to think should not be afraid to put his conclusions up against those of others in the marketplace of ideas. Read at least two reviews of the book, dissimilar ones whenever possible. Many books are reviewed at the time of publication, but some are not reviewed until one or two years later. Only infrequently will you find a book that has not been reviewed somewhere, but sometimes it will require considerable ingenuity to locate an elusive review. Do not settle for reviews that appear in whole or in part in such online sources as Amazon.com. Some good sources of information on book reviews generally available in libraries.
Resist the temptation to read the reviews before or, worse yet, instead of the book. What may seem to be a shortcut has several dangers. Professional reviewers are often writing for a purpose quite different from yours. Moreover, if you read the reviews before you read the book, you may never know just how much you dug out of the book for yourself and how much you got only from the reviews.
Include the following information in your report.
A. For each of the two reviews you read, provide the following information.
1. A sentence or two for each separate review indicating whether the review was predominantly favorable, unfavorable, mixed, or neutral. In the body of your paper, you will reference the reviewer and then provide a complete APA reference in your reference list.
RANDOM NOTES, TIPS, SUGGESTIONS
• As stated previously, you may write in the first person.
• Try always to write in the active voice. (“I threw the ball”, not “The ball was thrown to me”).
• Actually, read the book.
• Do not plagiarize!
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