This assignment has two goals. First, to provide students with an opportunity to explore an area within the history of higher education that is not directly addressed within the confines of this course in which they may be interested. Second, to allow students to critically consider a written work within the confines of a book review.
Guide for Writing Book Reviews [ courtesy Dr. T.V. OBrien]
The following questions should be answered in your review, but this list should not preclude your raising other questions, nor should it dictate the way in which you organize the finished review. You should devote roughly equal space to answering each of the three questions.
1. Whats the Point of the Book?
Most authors of non-fiction advance a thesis (or point), which is something that holds the book together in addition to its covers. Your job is to find that point and present it, together with specific illustrations that will serve to make the books generalizations clear. Hints: Pay attention to the books title. It often contains or at least alludes to the thesis. If you conclude that the book has no point, then that is something to talk about in evaluating the book (see next question).
2. How Well Does the Author Support the Point of the Book?
Here you are asked to evaluate the book by discussing its persuasiveness. If the author is attempting to describe an event, he/she is attempting to persuade you that the event occurred, or that a state of affairs exists, and/or that it impacted future events. How adequately does the author support this point by evidence? Does the author cite the sources of the information used as evidence? If there are notes or bibliography, take a look at them. Moreover, does the author go beyond mere description and attempt to explain the event or state of affairs? If he/she offers an explanation, are you persuaded this is the only possible explanation of the event, or does the author ignore other possibilities? Next, does the author go beyond description and explanation and attempt to evaluate the event or the state of affairs? Read between the lines if necessary to discover how the author feels about the story being told. Here also is an opportunity for you to comment on the authors style of presentation. Finally, remember that criticism means evaluating, not just fault-finding. Summarize the weaknesses of the book (no book is perfect), but summarize as well its strengths. Weigh weaknesses and strengths to arrive at a summary judgment. Hints: Consult The Book Review Digest to locate and read scholarly reviews of the book as a help in arriving at your own evaluation, but do not substitute these scholarly judgments for your own opinions. Dr. Thomas addition for our class: I can read what other people say, but I want YOUR view as someone studying the history of higher education as you will bring your own cultural understandings, history, and engagement to the topic and that has as much relevance as that of other people. No need to plagiarize the views of others, yours are perfectly valid!
3. What Difference Does the Book Make?
Discuss the significance of the book by discussing if the author raises questions worth asking. To answer this third question, you must discover linkages between the book and this course. How does the book support, elaborate, or contradict other materials dealt with in this course? You might also link the book to your personal experiences outside this course.
Within these guidelines, please prepare a 3-4 page book review that meets all of the above requirements and addresses the subsections, focus, and elements outlined in Dr. OBriens guide.
Thelin, J. (2019). A history of American higher education. 3rd ed. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press. (this is the name of the book)