I’ve organized and updated some notes from earlier classes and added a few more tips for this checklist/guide to doing reviews. If you’re not sure about something, be sure to ask questions.
Some important overall notes about the assignment:
If you have time, you can revise an earlier review and resubmit for more points.
Based on what’s in this checklist, you may look at one of your previous reviews and say, “problem X and Y mentioned in the checklist would be easy to fix.” Fix it and send me a Sakai message that you’ve resubmitted. This is completely optional – you may decide to just do another review, and that’s fine, too.
Write enough to review and discuss the subject.
I didn’t give you a word count for the videos because they are different sizes; I was expecting you to write longer reviews for the longer videos. Based on reviews already graded, here are some rules of thumb for reviews:
- Book review: about 1800 – 2200 words.
- Video review (75pts) 900 – 1500 words.
- Video review (35-50pts) 750 – 800 words.
- Video review (<35 pts.) 500 – 750 words.
Read your work. Better yet, get someone else to read it.
I put this up at the top because: a) I’m seeing a lot of really simple mistakes like missing words or typos, and b) because I am really, really bad at this myself, so I understand. Have a friend or family member read it over. They’re reading what you wrote, not what you think you wrote.
Doing a review – review structure:
- Your first step is to prepare.
This just means that you want to know something about the author or speakers and subject before you dive into their work. Ask yourself questions like:- Who is speaking? Why are they an authority on this topic? (Why should I listen to what they have to say?) If it is an interview, who is the interviewer?
Does anything (i.e. their job or affiliation, the audience they are speaking to) give you a reason to think this person might have a bias or agenda, some reason to think they might not be truthful?
In some cases you’ll find this information is easy to learn. For example, all videos on the TED site have an speaker bio connected to each video. In other cases you may need to do a little research.
- Next, as you read or watch, make notes about points that you find important.
Write down any quotes that really make the point or to which you really agree or disagree.
In addition to looking at each individual point, think about their overall argument. What is the author/speaker talking about here? If they are making an argument for something, what is the argument? Do they explain themselves well? When they make their points, is it clear what their reasons are, what evidence they are using?
- Your first paragraph should set up the review.
In your first 1 or 2 paragraphs you should:
a. make it clear which book or video you are reviewing and give the context. (If it is a video, was it a panel or a presentation or an interview? If it was from a conference, what was the conference? When was it done?)
b. In a video, briefly introduce the people speaking. Who is involved?
c. summarize the main points of the video in one or two sentences.
d. summarize your reaction to the video in one or two sentences.
- The bulk of your review should be stating the key points of the book or video, then giving your reaction to those points.
a. Does the speaker make points related to other things we’ve discussed in the class? If so, make those connections.
b. See the general points on critiquing and writing below.
- The final part of your review should be overall conclusions.
Explain why you think the speaker’s conclusions or observations are correct or not correct. In the case of an interview,
a. It should read like a conclusion. This is the bottom line, the key point or points and your reactions that people should remember if they remember nothing else.
- List your sources.
If you talk about any other sources in your review (like mention the Wesch video in your review of Jenkins’ book) be sure to put your sources at the bottom of your review. In the case of sources from the Web, you can also link to those sources.
General tips on thinking critically and writing the assignment:
- Use examples to back up your ideas when you make a claim about something. (For example, if you say, “Mark Zuckerberg has great ideas, but his speaking style really gets in his way,” you should provide an example of this in the book or video.)
- Make sure it is clear what is the speaker’s opinion and what is your opinion.
You’re reacting to something, whether it is new information or a persuasive argument. So be clear about what it is that you’re reacting to before you give your own thoughts. It’s ok to paraphrase a speaker but make sure you can state the point without changing the meaning. Use quotes to back up your take on a point, especially if there’s any doubt about your characterization. So instead of just saying, “Shirky says, …” and going on to the next point, you might follow your statement of what he says with a quote to back it up.
- If you quote, cite the quote.
Example: (Shirky, 129) or just (129) if you aren’t discussing any other sources. You can’t cite page numbers in a video, but you can put times in for key quotes. ex. (1:30) No need to cite every quote in a video review, but do cite the key points.
- Informal writing voice is ok, but not too informal.
I allow a much more informal writing voice than many other teachers, but don’t be too informal. Don’t let a conversational style get in the way of what you are trying to say. If you have any questions about this point, just ask.
Example: in a review I wrote when I first read the Shirky book
… what I thought was: “This book is freakin’ awesome!”
… what I wrote was: ”Writer and Internet critic Cory Doctorow writes that the book is ‘able to crystallize the half-formed ideas that I’ve been trying to piece together into glittering, brilliant insights that make me think, yes, of course, that’s how it all works.’ (Doctorow, 2007) About three chapters into the book I needed a notepad at hand for sentences that not only worked as part of the surrounding text but demanded to be written down as aphorisms.”
Not nearly as much fun, but probably better for a scholarly review.
Here are some links on writing critiques or reviews, and a few other helpful resources.
- Guidelines for writing in a scholarly manner from UF’s Journal of Undergraduate Research
- Purdue Online Writing Lab
- Resource links from the UF Reading and Writing Center