Writing an Academic Review

Book reviews published in scholarly journals are an important mode of peer interaction and information within Humanities and Social Sciences academe, and a responsibility that academics should take seriously. At their best, academic reviews encourage research conversations and crossovers; they aid teachers in developing syllabi, and librarians in selecting acquisitions. Reviews can also be useful as a writing discipline, a way to think through a research issue, a means to begin publishing oneself in academic venues, and perhaps a welcome distraction from that endless process of writing a dissertation or monograph. But this mode of writing can also be a minefield! How should one approach writing an academic book review? As a graduate student (for instance), how does one get asked to write reviews for major journals? What kinds of negotiations with book review editors are possible? In sum, what are the ethical and practical questions that one might face in the process of review writing and publishing?

Incorporating a brief presentation on how to get reviews published and what journal editors’ expectations are, we will move into an open-ended discussion of what makes a review successful; what ethics should govern the process; and what are the nightmare scenarios to avoid. We’ll focus on participants’ experiences, concerns and questions. Marilyn Booth (professor for the study of the contemporary Arab world, Oriental Institute and Magdalen College) has written many kinds of reviews for a range of academic and non-academic venues; she served for five years as Book Review Editor of the Journal of Women’s History, and thus approaches the topic as a writer, reader, and acquisitions editor/editorial facilitator of reviews, as well as a target of them.