Suggestions for your Book Review



If you plan to submit your review online (i.e. as a regular file in your 207 subdirectory), your due date will be postponed by 24 hours. Please DO NOT send the assignment by Email! Please incorporate your Review into your 207 subdirectory as a regular text or html file and NOT as a MS Word attachment!! I will NOT open any "attachments" in UNIX, Email or Web site.

To Geog.207 Students: These guidelines are more comprehensive than what is needed for the two or three -paragraph (250-350 words) review of a book / book-chapter, you are supposed to write for this assignment. Nevertheless, this statement gives you a flavor for what "reviews" are all about.

The important points here are that

  1. you are sincerely interested in what you are reading and that you are comfortable with the content and its presentation (i.e. you understand it).
  2. this review-exercise provides an early opportunity for exploring your field of interest in search for a discussion (theme) - related topic.
  3. you understand that if this review document you are selecting is relatively specialized and you have done no prior work in this area of your interests, you may have to backtrack a little to familiarize yourself with the more general subfield of Economic Geography of which your selected document could be considered a part. Thus, an alternative to selecting a relatively specialized document at this point is to find a book which presents this subfield (such as the geography of transportation, the geography of electronic commerce or the geography of international economic relations) in the form of a survey or a textbook.
  4. Given our time and length constraints, I suggest that you "skim" the book's overall content and then concentrate on the introduction, conclusion and one chapter which is particulalrly relevant to your objectives.
  5. a recently written book tends to be (but is not necessarily) a better guide to the overall literature in your field of interest than an older one.
Thus, take some care in identifying a suitable book, understanding its content and formulating your review.

Also: Please write a big "W" at the top of the page if you expect to go for Writing (W) credit in this class. Thanks.

Introduction to Review:
As (at least temporary) members of a scholarly discipline called "geography", we share not merely overlapping interests and academic goals, but also collaborative responsibilities which include, among others, the task of identifying, examining and assessing scholarly works. Thus, reviews of books (or other paper- or digital documents) have become an important mode for scholarly exchange.

The review should address the following objectives:

  1. It should be written so as to enable other students, instructors, researchers and professionals to gain a quick overview of the content of this book / book chapter and thereby also of its contribution to the field you have selected as your area of concentration.
  2. It should address the following questions:
    1. How well does the book respond to the objectives which the author/editor(s) has set for her/him/themselves?
    2. How well does the book respond to additional objectives which the reviewer suggests might be appropriate given the title or the context in which the document has been presented?
    3. What kinds of readers can the book be recommended to?
  3. It should help the reader to decide whether or not to
    1. spend the time reading the book, processing its content, taking notes etc.
    2. risk possibly substantial fines for returning the book late to the library.

Thus, for better or worse, we can simplify the structure of the typical review as to contain three parts, namely

  1. the content of the book
  2. your assessment of the book based on the explicit or implicit objectives which the author(s) set out to pursue.
  3. your assessment of the book based on your own criteria and/or the criteria which you associate with the needs of particular types of readers including yourself.


1. Selection of book to be reviewed:
You are welcome to select a book which suits your interests, provided that it has to do with economic or business geography. I encourage you to consult with me regarding your selection and to use this reading opportunity to explore the viability of any topic ideas you may have for the coming weeks. Thus, ideally, the review introduces you to the academic and conceptual perspectives of your "field" or area of interests as well as to the topic with which you plan to respond to the discussion theme you have selected.

Besides, in the social sciences, there are as many opinions as there are social scientists... thus, as an up-and-coming social scientist, develop yet another set of opinions and some judgement as to what to believe, what to check out for accuracy, when to solicit second opinions etc. But clearly be cautious with whatever you come across on paper or on the screen. We all are part of the effort to improve the quality of information and to develop, adjust and convey criteria and processes to make better judgements about the quality of any particular information.

If you want to make a judgement as to the credibility of a specific author (in a journal, book or on the Internet) and this credibility is sufficiently important for your own research plans, find more publications from this individual (through the Library data bases or via an Internet "Search Engine), find out who may have quoted this individual in what context (e.g. through the Social Science Citation Index), where this person comes from etc.. (For more help, click here!).

2. Finding materials in support of your review

    1. Has this document already been reviewed?
    2. Who is the author and what else has he/she written?
    3. What materials will help to place this document into a larger context (particularly important if it does not exactly overlap the reviewer's own field of expertise -- which happens not just in the case of student - composed reviews)

3. Deciding on form and format of your review

The shorter the review the more difficult it tends to be to reach some depth and to go beyond a summary description of the content.

Nature of the book and Summary of Content:

Readers are not interested in the size, weight, color and other external attributes of the book unless those attributes are particularly attractive or are missing, overdrawn or inappropriate. Thus, there are no general rules as to which external features could or should be stressed. There are also no rules as to how the content should be presented. A chapter by chapter account often cannot avoid to be boring. On the other hand, the more challenging creation of a new outline which better permits to select the major foci of the document as seen by the reviewer could be criticized as taking too many freedoms and imposing the reviewer's analytical perspectives too early. A combination of giving an honest overview of the content on the author's terms, but, at the same time stressing the most important, interesting or relevant contributions, especially those which will play a role in the assessment should almost always be a good compromise.

Assessment of the Content (Based on Author's Criteria):

The assessment or analysis of the book is not the place for preaching how the book could have been written. Concentrating on the author's mistakes is equally out of place. Given the effort of writing the document, the author deserves a sympathetic, appreciative assessment. That requires that the reviewer makes every effort to discern the objectives behind the document. Since it is likely that the author meets at least some of these objectives, identify these successes and make it easy for the reader to comprehend the significance of these high points, to relate them to already established knowledge and to find these places in the document without necessarily having to read the whole document.

Assessment of the Content (Based on Your Own Criteria): This final part of a typical review tends to be the most controversial. On the one hand, reviews should generally not be used to advance a personal agenda of opinions, prejudices or revenge. On the other hand, it may be necessary, e.g. to delineate what the book can and cannot do, or to compare it with its predecessors, to develop criteria beyond those which the author had in mind.

Sources (used for these guidelines or otherwise potentially useful for readers):

  • Calef, Wesley C., "Some Canons of Reviewing", Mimeographed statement, Illinois State University, 1964.

  • Hay, Iain. 1996. Writing reviews, summaries, and annotated bibliographies. [375 K/PDF] in: Communicating in geoography and the environmental sciences.

  • Johnston, R.J., "What Human Geographers Write for Students to Read," in Alistair Rogers, The Student's Companion to Geography, 1992, pp.252ff.

Literature Reviews:

Evaluating Internet Sources:

  • Evaluating Sources (incl. Internet Sources) [Forest Resources Library; U.of Washington;; 21 March 2000]

  • Evaluating Websites for Educational Uses: Bibliography and Checklist [ITS Center for Instructional Technology The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;; Last Update: February 15, 2002]

  • net.TUTOR : Evaluation of Web Sites [The Ohio State University Libraries; Last update: 8/6/01]

  • Evaluating Web Sites: A Guide for Writers [Bruce Leland Western Illinois University;;; Last Update: May 24, 1998]

  • Evaluating Web Sites: Criteria and Tools [Cornell University Library;; Revised 24 July 2002]

  • Evaluating Information [; with extensive list of further Web sites]

  • Evaluating Web Resources [Wiedener University] []

  • Using the Web for Research (Comprehensive Directory!)

  • Evaluating Information Found on the World Wide Web [This material has been developed to accompany the book "Searching and Researching on the Internet & the World Wide Web." Ernest Ackermann & Karen Hartman. ISBN 1-887902-26-0. Published by Franklin, Beedle & Associates.]

  • Critical Evaluation Surveys "With the advent of the World Wide Web and the huge amount of information that is contained there, students need to be able to critically evaluate a Web page for authenticity, applicability, authorship, bias, and usabilty. The ability to critically evaluate information is an important skill in this information age."

  • How to identify the nature and quality of Web pages
    Unlike most print resources such as magazines and journals that go through a filtering process (e.g. editing, peer review), information on the World Wide Web (Web) and the Internet is mostly unfiltered. So using and citing information found over the Web is a little like swimming on a beach without a lifeguard.

  • Needed Skills for Evaluation of Web Sites
    The availability and growth of the Internet offer scholars and researchers the opportunity to find information and data from all over the world. In addition, the development of the World Wide Web has made the Internet easier to use, both for finding information and for publishing it electronically. Because so much information is available, and because that information can appear to be fairly "anonymous", it is necessary to develop skills to evaluate what you find.

  • CyberGuides "Karen McLachlan, Library Media Specialist at East Knox High School, Ohio developed these guides to use with teachers and students to evaluate content and graphic design of home pages."

Other Guides:

Return to: Geog. 207 || Geog. 350 || Geog. 450 || Geog. 498 || Econ & Bus Geography
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