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How to Write a Scholarly Book Review

Updated on February 7, 2018
LisaKoski profile image

I have had a lifelong passion for reading and writing and graduated with a bachelor's in English literature.

Books | Source

Writing a Scholarly Review

There are so many different types of book reviews out there but a scholarly book review is one of the most informative. Not only must it include basic facts of the book and author as well as your evaluation, but it must also provide insight into the sources used for the book. Furthermore, your reader might even want to know what makes you a reliable source for evaluating the book.

For any type of book review, there aren't a concrete set of rules. However, there are some guidelines that help to ensure successful review writing for each type of book review. It is important to remember that scholarly book reviews should be somewhere between 500-1500 words, depending on their purpose, and should not merely be an overview of your opinion of the book but act as an informative source for your audience.

Unlike most book reviews, scholarly book reviews focus more on the reliability of the book as a source before looking at its content. Therefore, you want to give only a brief overview for what it’s about and focus more on its scholarly merits. Most scholarly book reviews begin with some basic information about the book such as its date of publication. Usually this is done with the MLA format.

In your review, you want to go over the strengths and weaknesses of the book and point out any flaws, if any, in the credibility of the author’s sources. For every point you make, be sure to provide the facts to back yourself up. You want to be just as reliable a source as the ideal book your scholarly audience is looking for. Only go through the major points in the book and not a chapter by chapter overview, which can get really boring fast and doesn’t read as scholarly. It is also important to go through the sources used and determine whether or not the author did enough research and/or used reliable sources.

Another important point to remember when writing a scholarly book review is that you want to maintain a voice throughout the review that is professional and concise. This means not adding any kinds of creativity to how you choose your wording or structure your sentences. All of your energy should be focused on constructive criticism and providing the most important information on the book.

General Guidelines for Writing a Scholarly Book Review

Here are some pieces of a scholarly book review that are necessary but do not have to be followed exactly. These points are intended to just help get you started or give you an idea of what you need to include and the basics on how to write a scholarly book review:

  1. Provide important information about the book: here you want to start off with information such as subject matter, date of publication, and all other parts of the book usually included in an MLA format. Important information in this case is more about where the book is from and who wrote it, rather than what it's about. That part can come further on in your review.
  2. State the main claim of the book: what is the author's thesis? The person reading your scholarly book review will not only want the information from number one above to check the reliability of this book but they will also know what the author is actually talking about as their main argument or claim.
  3. State the author's purpose: this ties into telling the main claim of the book but it covers more about why the author wrote this topic and who they wrote it for. Why is their work important for the reader? This may be the point in your scholarly book review that makes or breaks the book for the reader as it is a major determining factor into whether or not this book will provide the insight or information they are looking for.
  4. Describe the method of development: Was the author successful in providing a solid claim with strong, reliable evidence for support? This is key for a scholarly review because if the sources for the book aren't sufficient, then your readers will not want to use it for their own purpose. Readers of scholarly book reviews are hoping to find a work that will help in their education, general knowledge, or their own writing so they want to be sure that it is reliable and trustworthy.
  5. Your Reliability: What makes you an expert in providing this book review? Make sure that your reader understands who is writing the scholarly book review so that they know that you are also a reliable source.

Book and pencil
Book and pencil | Source

How to Write a Scholarly Book Review

When you take on writing a scholarly book review, as opposed to a review written for a younger audience or for an audience who is reading purely for entertainment, you are taking on a responsibility in proving yourself a reliable source for your readers. The books you review are intended for audiences seeking information on books that may or may not be a good source for what they need. That's where you come in. As a scholarly book reviewer, your job is to decide what is good material and what isn't and help guide your readers in the right direction.

Bad scholarly reviews come to those who either do not have sufficient skills to evaluate and provide a thoughtful perspective on a book or those who do not completely understand the process for writing a book review. Remember, rules for writing book reviews aren't set in stone but following specific guidelines can lead you on the right path to promising articles. Now that you know the basics for how to write a scholarly book review, you are well on your way toward producing reviews that your readers can rely on.

© 2012 Lisa


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    • Ericajean profile image


      6 years ago


      What I like about your article is what you said in the first paragraph: that "a review should be an informative source for the audience-not just an opinion." Although I review fiction and YA literature- your advice of how to stick to the main points can certainly be applied there too.


    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 

      7 years ago from Tennesee

      Very helpful info, Lisa!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Great advice for anybody writing a scholarly book. Really interesting and every article like this is always such a help when we get stuck! lol! cheers nell

    • dmop profile image


      7 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      I probably won't be writing any scholarly book reviews, but I found your article interesting and useful all the same. I would recommend it to anyone who is considering this type of writing.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      7 years ago from Taos, NM

      Excellent hub! Well written and your tips and advice are so good. You obviously have experience writing scholarly book reviews and know quite well how to do it. Thanks for an informative and interesting hub!


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