Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
December 2006


Writing a Book or Article Review


Claude Bélanger,

Department of History,

Marianopolis College.


In a review article, you present a critical evaluation of a scholarly work, in this case an article found in a scholarly journal. Presumably, this should be one of the articles that you included in the bibliography that you submitted earlier in the term to me. Select an article that you feel will be especially useful to write your term paper. I have to approve your choice of the article. Bring a photocopy of it to my office when you come to see me.


There should be two parts to the article review that you will submit: the first part concerns the content of the article and the author; the second discusses your evaluation of the thesis of the author.


Part one: Content


Identify clearly the author, his/her credentials and the title of the piece under review. When was it written? Outline the author’s intention(s) in writing this piece (was there a specific purpose?). Was there a specific context that provoked the writing of this piece? Identify clearly the thesis of the author; outline sub-themes that may be found in the article. Summarize briefly the findings.

It may be tempting to lengthen this summary; avoid this. Seek to synthesize efficiently. The purpose of this section is to give your reader an idea of what there is of interest in this article, with this author and what he/she was trying to do. If your article falls in a particular genre or point of view (for example: analysis of a primary source, or specific methods are used, biographical, nationalist, feminist or Marxist writings, etc.), identify it clearly. Your first part should also state your thesis in connection with this article. This thesis statement serves as the link to the second part of your review.


Part two: the evaluation of the article


There are a number of strategies possible in evaluating an article. However, in all cases, you are expected to discuss the validity of the findings of the author, and how well the author achieved the book/article's objectives. You may discuss the assumptions or the evident omissions of the article. You might focus on the clarity, the coherence or the organization of the argument. You can discuss the strength or the value of the evidence raised, the logic displayed, even the style of the author. Discuss how this article contributes to an understanding of the subject, and whether or not it was worth doing at all! What is truly new about it? What are the strengths and limitations of the author's methodology? Do you think the thesis is valid? Why? How important is the subject to the study of Canadian History? In order to be able to do some of these things, you might have to compare this work with the findings of others in the field.


Tips to consider:

  • Do not use the personal form (me, my, I)
  • Avoid extreme judgments; treat the author with respect.
  • Beware of meaningless generalizations (“This was an interesting article” — tell me instead what made it interesting)
  • If unsure of how to proceed with the review, examine the book review section of major historical journals (such as the Canadian Historical Review or the Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française. These are available online at the College. For examples of reviews available on the web, see the text below.)
  • The title page should follow the sample from my Essay Writing Guide available at the Quebec or Newfoundland websites.


Length of the review: 250-450 words


For examples of book reviews done by professional historians, see the following:

Review by Bruce Trigger of The Indians' New World: Catawbas and their Neighbors from the European Contact Through the Era of Removal, in the Canadian Historical Review, issue of December 1989.

Review (in English) by P. A. Dutil of Lendemains Piégés: Du référendum à la nuit des longs couteaux, in the Canadian Historical Review, issue of December 1989.

Review by Gerald Tulchinsky of The Italian Immigrant Experience, in the Canadian Historical Review, issue of January 1990.

Review by Christopher Armstrong of The Beauharnois Scandal: A Story of Canadian Entrepreneuship and Politics, in the Canadian Historical Review, issue of December 1990.

Review by F Dreisziger of King's War: Mackenzie King and the Politics of War 1939-1945, in the Canadian Historical Review, issue of January 1991.

Many other reviews are found on this page.



© 2006 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College