Book reviewing is an important writing skill for academic purposes, and can be a good way to enter the world of academic publishing. However, reviewing a book in a specialized field is not as easy as it may seem. The reviewer typically requires a certain tact and consideration – especially when he/she does not appreciate all aspects (or even the entirety) of the book under review.
When writing a book review, the reviewer should not lose sight of the following:
- A review is aimed at people who want to know whether or not the book under review is worth reading. As such, a review must include both a summary and a critical evaluation of the book’s contents. A balance should be found between having a strong critical attitude and focus, and merely giving a general summary or agreeing with everything the author says.
- If you feel confident enough to appraise it, you should evaluate the book’s novelty. Assessing whether or not the book brings relevant contributions to the field makes for a very valuable review. You might also spend a few words mentioning whether the book also brings novelties in other areas or disciplines that may be interesting for your readership.
- If you can, you should contextualise the book. However, excessive contextualising should be avoided – readers want to know about the book itself!
- Writing a book review does not entail embracing sarcasm and harshness. These do not contribute to a good book review. Be measured, be sober, and be fair!
To get a sense of where a bad book review can lead, you can read about a famous scandal in philosophy, one which probably represents the worst case scenario in terms of book reviewing.
For more on how to do a book review: see a very interesting piece by George Sarton and the guide to writing a book review produced by the Research & Publish Lab.
There are plenty of so-called predatory journals out there. The libarian Beall (famous for his list of predatory journals) explains it all to you in a Q&A with helpful links at the Chronicle of Higher Education Brainstorm Blog.
Compare it with the opposite end of the world of publishing, the ERC gate-keeping initiative ERIH, listing approved journals only (for Humanities and Social Sciences, formerly ranked, but now not anymore).
But some good journals might not be listed at the ERIH and wrongly listed as predatory journal. A critical stance and common sense, together with some critical thoughts and recommendations from Declan Butler will help you through the jungle.
Welcome to the homepage of the Central European University’s Philosophy Research & Publish Lab. This Lab – existing in real life and virtually – aims to transmit skills for philosophy, knowledge on how to do philosophy in an explorative manner.
Here you can find information about the Lab’s aims and history, information about its ongoing activities, and access to resources. The section ‘resources for students‘ includes individual handouts for topics in research, writing and revising, and publishing. The section ‘resources for lecturers‘ includes our Research & Publication Handbook, complete with handouts for delivering research & publication sessions in a graduate philosophy course.
In what follows, you can find a number of blog posts on a range of topics concerning current trends and issues in academic research, writing, and publishing, produced by members of the Lab or by guest authors.