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University of Maryland Week 3 A History of Piute County Book Review

You will select an academic-quality secondary source book related to your topic and produce a formal book review. A book review is not a book summary; instead, it is an analysis of the author’s thesis and supporting evidence and an evaluation of how well that author constructed that argument. The book review should be 1,000 to 1,500 words long (three to five pages). You will propose a book for approval in Week 3. The final book review assignment is due by the end of Week 6.

One of the tasks that historians do is to review the work of other historians, primarily the books they write. Book reviews are very common and can be found in most academic-level journals that focus on historical topics. Book reviews tell the reader what the book author’s argument/thesis was, what evidence they used to prove their thesis, and if they were successful in their argument. Book reviews also give the reader a general sense of the book’s subject material. Journals include book reviews as they are a very efficient and rapid way for historians to see what has been printed in book form in their field, far quicker than the historian finding and reading every book that gets published. Book reviews are read by just about everyone working in a field related to History: professors, museum staff, historically themed national and state park staff, documentarians, and teachers in the K-12 levels. So all of you who go on to work in a History related job should start reading book reviews as part of your normal continuing education as a historian as they allow you to see what has recently been published, and they alert you to books you might want to read for work or pleasure.

Your assignment is to find a secondary source book (in either printed or electronic form) and write a 1000 to 1500 word (4 to 6 pages) review of the book. Your review should use essay form and be double spaced with one inch margins.

A book review should do the following things:

1. In the first paragraph state the author’s name and the title of the book. Also in the first paragraph state the author’s thesis (their overall argument).

2. In your supporting points (the body of your review), summarize the sub-arguments the author used to prove their thesis.

3. Describe the primary sources the author used in their supporting points.

4. Evaluate the author’s success: did their evidence prove their thesis? Was their thesis/argument convincing? This should come in your concluding paragraph.

An academic-level book review is not just a summary of the book (similar to what you might have done in K-12 classes). Instead it is an evaluation of whether or not the book produced a convincing argument and how the author did so (or failed to do so). Don’t be afraid as an undergraduate student to feel your book failed to successfully prove its argument. About half of the books reviewed in academic journals get a poor to dismal review.

There are a couple of steps in this assignment:

1. In Week 3, you should state what book you wish to read for your book review. Post the book in a full bibliographic entry by the end of Week 3. You may post your book earlier, which is good as I might want you to find a different book. In addition to the bibliographic entry for your book, tell me how it is related to your topic and why it is a secondary source. Remember that you need to pick a secondary source book related to your topic.

2. In Weeks 4 and 5, you should read your book, cover to cover, with your book review requirements in mind. Don’t skim your book. Make sure you fully understand what the book’s thesis is before you start reading the chapters containing the supporting points. You will typically find the thesis in the opening pages of the preface or introduction. Authors often make this easy for you. Look for phrases like this: “This book will argue …” “I contest that view and offer …” “This book provides a new approach …”

3. In Week 6 (feel free to start earlier), write your book review as it is due by the end of Week 6. Submit your assignment via this assignment.


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