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Sociology Research Lab: Authoring Book Reviews

Scholarship as Conversation

Academic libraries and librarians are concerned with information literacy - helping their students with accessing, evaluating, and utilizing information. Strategies for this work have been researched, and evaluated, for years by the Association of College and Research Libraries, and its members. In 2016, the ACRL adopted the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education to help guide the instruction and conversation related to information literacy.

One of the concepts contained within the Framework is "Scholarship as Conversation" which is the basis of this project. Understanding how a community of researchers, scholars and professionals engage around a particular topic or discipline can help foster new discoveries and insights. For students, seeking out this conversation and  "ease-dropping" on various perspectives can help you find your own voice and gain the confidence to share your own ideas to keep innovation and discovery moving forward.

Included in the "Scholarship as Conversation" frame are example strategies and skills that students can develop, many of which will support your Book Review Project.

  • cite the contributing work of others in their own information production;
  • contribute to scholarly conversation at an appropriate level, such as local online community, guided discussion, undergraduate research journal, conference presentation/poster session;
  • identify barriers to entering scholarly conversation via various venues;
  • critically evaluate contributions made by others in participatory information environments;
  • identify the contribution that particular articles, books, and other scholarly pieces make to disciplinary knowledge;
  • summarize the changes in scholarly perspective over time on a particular topic within a specific discipline;
  • recognize that a given scholarly work may not represent the only or even the majority perspective on the issue.

Book Review Checklist

This guide will help you develop your books review and help you as you consider the following criteria.

  • Work of Others
    • What is the context of this book? What other titles cover the same or related topics? Where would the book belong in the library's collection? What other books would we expect to see next to this one on the library's shelves?
  • Appropriate Level
    • Has the faculty member discussed student coauthors with the editor? Have the faculty member and student discussed the perception that students are sometimes seen as nonexperts?
  • Identify Barriers (Student Perspective)
    • ​​​​​​​What barriers do students face to entering the "scholarly conversation"? What limits their ability to join?
  • Identify Barrier (Author Perspective)
    • ​​​​​​​What barriers do authors face in joining the scholarly conversation? What reasons might account for authors struggling to join the scholarly conversation?
  • Evaluate the Contribution of Others
    • ​​​​​​​ Without focusing on what you liked or displayed about the book, what is good or bad, effective or ineffective in the author's effort to join the "scholarly conversation"? Are there standards or expectations in the discipline of the book under review? How does the book related to those standards?
  • Disciplinary Contributions
    • ​​​​​​​What is the distinctive contribution this book makes to knowledge that no or few other books make? How does this book further the "scholarly conversation" on this topic? What does this book accomplish that is unique in a given disciplinary area?
  • Changes to Perspective over Time
    • ​​​​​​​How does this book fit into previously published work by the same author or similar works? (see also "Works of Others")
  • Not the Only Perspective
    • How do other reviews of the book characterize it? How do your thoughts of the book agree or disagree with these characterizations? What may cause any differing perspectives?