Guidelines/Instructions for Analytical Critique Assignment
Your assignment is to write a 3-4 page historical, analytical critique/review. It is due at noon on Blackboard with a hard copy brought to class on the date designated on your syllabus.
A review is not a “book” report or summary of the book. You are evaluating the work to show that you are reading and thinking critically about history. I am providing you with some guidelines for working on this assignment.
Part I: As you Read
As you read the book, you should consider a number of different things. I also recommend that you take notesasyouarereadingsoyoudon’thavetogobackandsearchforthingsonceyoustarttowrite. Allof these should be addressed in your essay in some way, some more in-depth than others (for example, you could just barely mention style, but you absolutely must discuss sources, thesis, etc.)
Purpose/Thesis – What is the author’s purpose or intent of the book? Does he/she have a clear, central thesis statement/argument that you can identify and follow? (I will post material about writing/identifying a thesis soon.)
Interpretation – Does the author provide clear and definite interpretations of history and evidence or does he/she expect the reader to do the interpreting? Are the author’s interpretations logical and consistent? Or are they weak and inconsistent? Do the author’s interpretations make things more clear for the reader or make them more difficult to understand?
Contextualization – Does the author place their thesis/topic in the wider context/picture of history? Does he/she make connections with what else is going on during the period, location, event, etc.? Do these connections make things easier to comprehend the material or more difficult to understand? Or is the topic/thesis too narrowly focused?
Sources – What kind of sources is the author using? (primary/secondary, narrative/analytical, government documents, popular writings, personal documents, etc.) Does the author do a good job of using those sources to support his/her argument?
Bias/Agenda – Is the author impartial or biased? Is he/she providing the reader with objective observations and letting the reader decide or is he/she making biased/prejudiced points to serve a specific agenda? What is the author’s agenda if he/she has one?
Critical Observation – Does the author prove their point(s)? Has he/she answered all of your questions? Does the thesis/argument still stand at the end of the book or has it been lost in the course of the book?
Style – Is the book well-written? Is it easy to read or confusing and complex? Does it flow naturally? Is it filled with jargon (technical language) making it difficult for a non-historian to understand?
Author’s background – What are the qualifications of this author? What makes them someone you should listen to and believe? What else have they written? Is this a new topic/area of interest for them? (requires a little outside research, don’t just use what is on the back cover of the book)
Part II: As you Write
As you begin to write your review, you should be focusing on several major points and elements.
Bibliographical citation – all reviews should begin with a bibliographical citation. You will find
information about how to do this at the end of this handout. Historians use Chicago Manual of
Style for all their citations.
Introduction – You should have a brief introduction that lays out YOUR thesis of your review – what
you are hoping to state/argue about the book.
c. Profile/Summary of the book – You should have a short paragraph that gives a summary of the book – what it was about. Emphasis on short (5 or 6 sentences at the most); it shouldn’t be a detail by detail listing of the book.
Body – You should discuss your observations (from the AS YOU READ section) in the body. I won’t give you expectations regarding how to put these observations together or how many paragraphs, but it should be logical and well thought out. Remember that paragraphs are dividing different topics (even sub-topics) and each paragraph should have a mini-main idea. You can use quotes to support your points, but keep them short. You will have to cite any quotes or specific details you use (again, using Chicago Manual of Style as described later).
Conclusion – You should have a short paragraph that sums up your thesis/argument and major points of your review. Ideally, it should leave your reader with some ideas about whether they want to read the book or not.
NOTE: Your review should be well written, so make sure you proofread it for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and accuracy. I have read the book, so I will be checking your accuracy and thoroughness.
Bibliographic Citation example: (for Part II/a. above)
1st – Author’s name (last, first.)
2nd – Title of book in italics – make sure you capitalize all words except short prepositions and
conjunctions (in, and, to, etc.).
3rd – Inside parenthesis – City, State (unless it is a well-known big city like Boston or New York, then no
state necessary) then colon followed by name of publisher, comma and date published. Close parenthesis and period.
Footnote citations: (using the example above)
1st time you cite the document use the version seen in #1 above – Author’s name (first then last), Title in italics, City, State published: Publishing company: year in parenthesis followed by a colon, last the page number ending with a period.
2nd time you cite the document, you can shorten the citation to what you see in #2 above – Author’s last name followed by a comma, title in italics (can be shortened to main words) with a comma, and finally page number (or range if you are using something from more than one page) ending with a period.
FORMAT: 3-4 page paper
1 inch margins (left, right, top, bottom)
Double spaced (Times New Roman or Calibri 12 pt. font)
NO COVER PAGE
Heading should have your name and course:section number (ex. 1301:15) Title (centered – can be creative or not)
Bibliographic citation of the book
Footnotes (not endnotes)
Smith, John Doe. How to Write a History Essay: The Secrets to Getting an A. (Harlingen, TX: Rodriguez
Publishing House, 2016).
1. John Doe Smith, How to Write a History Essay: The Secrets to Getting an A, (Harlingen, TX: Rodriguez
Publishing House, 2016): 440.
2. Smith, How to Write a History Essay, 452–53.