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Guidelines on Writing Computer Science Book Reviews

Post date: 23 Nov 2016 07:21:05
Author: Guest Contributor

Writing book reviews about computer science texts is really no different than writing a review for any other book genre. Obviously, you will need to cater to the audience that would feel the need to read your review. This means that you will need to be quite knowledgeable about computer science lingo, and the topics associated therein.

Ensuring that your reviews incorporate significant scientific interest will help advance the goals outlined in the books you review. Make sure that you write with clarity and originality. Explore the basic concepts while providing an overview for your readers. The idea is to create a review that leaves readers wanting to ingest the books themselves.

What is a Review

First, you need to understand what you are writing. Book reviews are critical evaluations of the text. They generally make an argument for, or against, the information included in the book. In fact, the most important aspect of a review, is the fact that it is a commentary, not simply a summary.

When you write a review, you need to ensure that you reveal your personal opinion about the piece. You will need to determine whether or not you agree with the information provided. Whatever your position is, it is imperative that you evaluate the validity of the knowledge, systems, and programs discussed. Keep in mind, though, that most book reviews are brief. Here are some common book review elements:

  • They are written in a concise manner, and are generally under a thousand words in length.
  • Book reviews provide readers with a summary of the text. Good ones will include the book’s topic, perspective, purpose, and overall argument.
  • The review will provide a critical assessment. Personal reactions will be included, and that will reveal the things you found noteworthy or persuasive.
  • Ultimately, the review will be able to provide the readers with a suggestion for, or against, their own pursuit of the piece.

Before You Write

While there is no definitive answer to constructing a proper book review, it is generally accepted that there will be a thesis, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Additionally, some level of critical thinking should occur before you endeavor to put all your thoughts about the book on paper. Some would even say that it is a two-step process in which you develop an argument and then support that argument in an organized form.

If you are in need of help to focus your thinking, as you begin to critically assess the book you are preparing to review, consider asking yourself these questions:

  • What is the book’s main argument, or thesis? Essentially, what idea would the author want readers to walk away with? Did the book accomplish its goals?
  • Does the author adequately cover the main topic or subject? What approach is used? Analytical, topical, chronological, or descriptive? Was the subject covered in a balanced fashion?
  • What evidence is used to support the main argument? Is it supported in an appropriate manner? Was the evidence convincing? Was any of the information conflicting compared to other books you have read on the topic?
  • How is the argument structured? Is it persuasive? Does it make sense? What pieces connect to construct the whole of the argument?
  • How did the book help understand the subject and topic at hand? Would you recommend this book to those who will read your review?

Sometimes it is equally beneficial to consider the writer’s qualifications. You will want to be able to discredit him/her if there are controversial or contrary things in the book. Consider some of the author’s information and the incidents that spurred the creation of the book. Ask yourself:

  • Who is the author? What degrees have been attained? Who is he/she affiliated with? What are his/her interests and personal history?
  • What aspect of computer science does the book discuss? What software or systems does it embrace? Does it appear to adhere to the conventions normally supported by others in this field?

The Finished Piece

Now that you know the answers to all the questions mentioned here, and how to prepare a decent book review, it is time to finish your piece. Beginning the writing process might be a little daunting, but if you will follow these instructions, it will be considerably easier to complete the task at hand. Follow these four suggestions to complete a well-written book review:

  1. Introduction. Your introduction needs to include the title of the book, the author’s name, and its main theme. You will also want to convey relevant details, the context of the book, and the book’s thesis.
  2. Summary of Content. This is a considerably brief part of the review. Keep in the mind that the summary depth should be relevant to the audience. Your computer science peers will want to know the important things contained in the book.
  3. Analysis and Evaluation. The analysis has to be organized to delve deeper into your argumentative stance. The organizational style can be thematic, methodological, or even elemental based on how you want to structure your position. Comparisons and excessive quotations should be avoided unless they are wholly relevant.
  4. Conclusion. As with most conclusions you will restate or sum up your position and make your final judgments on the text. Avoid introducing new evidence, though new ideas that can contribute to the book are acceptable. Your conclusion should unify your evaluation. Be sure to include a balance of strengths and weaknesses.

Remember that you are reviewing the book in your hands, not the book you wish the writer had penned. That means pointing out shortcomings and failures is wholly acceptable. However, don’t criticize the book for the things you wish it had been.

Precise language will allow you to keep your tone in check. Good and bad books take equal amounts of time to write. Your obligation is to the reader while still being fair to the author of the text you are reviewing. Don’t lose focus on that truth.

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