Comments to Eng 106 Students

**And you too can get comments like these if you become one of Michael’s TOEFL students or one of his speaking and pronunciation students.**


Click on the “leave your comment” link at the top right of this web page.  Using your last 4 digits of your student ID, I will make comments about our first multi-draft writing assignment.

Multi-Draft Writing Project 1: Book Review of a Non-fiction Work

Last quarter, you wrote about a controversial issue and what positions politicians, commentators, and regular folk had in regards to that issue. Then you did research to determine which version was, in your opinion, the better fairer argument to that issue.

This quarter, you are being asked to find a nonfiction book about politics or current events related to the central argument you explained and defended in that research paper. For example, if you wrote about the the Iraq War and how it was a mishandled war from the beginning, you might be interested in reading Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer, in which case he makes similar arguments. You can find such books in stores like Barnes and Noble. Get your non-fiction book as soon as possible.

As a participant in the discourse community of book reviews, there are some constraints on what can be said and how it can said. Given that the purpose of a book review is to help others decide on whether or not they might read the book or, if they have read the book, they might want to learn others’ opinions of the book they just read, you should explain what the book is about, who wrote it, and how he/she goes about establishing the purpose or point of the book being reviewed. Additionally, you may want to assess whether the author does a good job and why.

To effectively review a book, you will do a number of things: summarize the writer’s thesis or purpose, particularly focusing on what s/he teaches, argues, or answers; discuss how the writer makes his/her arguments; and assess the credibility, quality, or relevance of the work.

You should keep in mind that your initial audience for this work will be your classmates and me, some of whom may or may not have read your book. However, after your final revision of your book review, you will also post a condensed version of your review online at the appropriate web site or blog of your choosing. Therefore, you will have a “real” audience for this book review, so you want to make sure that your book review accomplishes its purpose.

There are three parts to this writing assignment: an assessment of the writing assignment, the book review, and a condensed 200 word version of your review.

Part 1: Assessing the Rhetorical Nature of Book Reviews (1-2 pages)

Before writing your book review, it is vital to understand the rhetorical situation and some general rhetorical patterns. Having this understanding BEFORE you write your book review will help you to make effective writing choices. I would like you to answer the following questions relating to the genre and purpose for writing book reviews.

What purpose does a book review serve?

What expectations do readers have from a book review?

Whom might be the readers for your book review? Try to imagine a variety of people who will read this review.

What assumptions and level of knowledge will they bring to your review? In addition to considering your classmates, you should consider the readers of the blog or web site to which you will house your book review. What type of assumptions will they make about the book and the writer?

What is your specific purpose in writing your particular book review and given this purpose, what kind of information will you include? Be VERY specific here.

Part 2: Book Review (3-4 pages)

Aim at accomplishing the following objectives by including:

A title

An MLA bibliographic entry identifying the book being reviewed (Many put this right under the review title)

The name of the book and the author early in your review

A mention of what genre the book belongs to

An explanation of the author’s background and credentials and why he/she is or is not suitable person to write the book

A discussion of the what the main point of the book is, what purpose it serves, how the writer makes the central argument, and whether or not the purpose/argument is relevant to today’s society

A discussion of whether or not the writer provides credible evidence, explanation, or examples

A conclusion of what you like, dislike, or find disconcerting about the book

Of course, you can go beyond these guidelines if you like. Write this in narrative form, not bulleted, and coherently organize your ideas around a central theme.

Part 3: Condensed Version of Book Review (1/2 page)

You may want to find the blog or web site to which you want to post your review. Read other reviews to get an idea of the formality of the language used. Then make any necessary adjustments. Repackage your book review so that it is no longer than 200 words. Then post it at whatever web site you feel will best showcase your work.

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