Book report writing guidelines

Book report writing guidelines: facts you might not be aware of

Feb 22, 2013
Though book reports are commonly associated with primary and secondary school assignments, they have also been known to work their way into college level courses as well-right alongside the book review. Knowing what a book review is can better help you understand what a book report is.
To clarify the difference between the two, it may be helpful to think of the book review as the 'grown-up' version of the book report. A book report works primarily to summarize a work and is generally objective. A book review on the other hand, is more critical, descriptive, and subjective-it provides only a small amount of summarized content and focuses mainly on interpretation and evaluation.
Both assignments work to present information about a particular book and provide relevant details regarding its structure and foundation. Each can be utilized to help a reader decide whether or not they would be interested in a book or if it would be of any use to them in their research pursuits.

Writing guidelines

The basic guidelines of a book report are that it should cover the author's main ideas, and all of the book's contents such as the plot, setting, characters and so on. And for non-narrative pieces it should focus on the chapter headings of the book as well as properly summarize the main subject being discussed. These are the common facts about book report writing in a nutshell. But also along with these are some not-so-common facts that should be considered; but are sometimes not listed in book report forms or outlines. Three examples are provided below.
Some not-so-common facts about book report writing

#1 Sources other than the book itself can be consulted and referenced

It most cases all you need to write a book report is the book and a pen and paper. But at times once the writing has begun you may feel a need to consult other sources for information. This is okay and shows that you are working to form a well-planned and crafted piece of writing; instead of just guessing your way through the additional information.
So when might you to look outside of the book for additional information?

When to use outside resources:

  • To obtain more background information on the author. This may include; (a) other famous works that the author has published, (b) the author's credentials, degrees, or experience in the field (if applicable), (c) why he/she decided to write the book (if known), (d) and any support, aid, or assistance that was received in constructing the work.
  • To research important literary terms. A major part of a book report is obviously relaying to the reader the primary contents involved. In working to accomplish this goal a writer will have to refer back to certain literary terms such as plot, climax, setting, character and so on, when explaining the details of the book. If someone doesn't know the meaning of these terms they can easily botch the report, therefore its very important to seek out additional reference materials when needed.
  • To learn a little more about the historical context in which the book was written. In some situations the historical context of a book is significant. For instance, you may be writing about a book that was written in response to a major historical event or happening. Or similarly a book that was written during a unique time in history, such as the great depression, industrial revolution, segregation, or the civil war. This information is very relevant and may be noted in the beginning of your book report.
*Keep in mind that your book report is not a research paper! So this information should be limited to only a few sentences and give the reader just enough background information to understand the circumstances in which the book was written.

#2 The author's intended audience should be examined along with their objective and purpose

In working to provide an accurate picture of the book, not only should the reporter share the writer's main purpose but also who his/her intended audience is. This may not always matter (for instance if the book is written for a general audience), but in some cases it is important to note; it may actually help to justify the author's format or wording in the book.
For example, a book that's intended for high school students, who may only have a limited amount of knowledge on a particular subject, is going to be set up quite differently from a book that is intended for professionals, or those who are peers of the writer or researcher. For high school students an author may set up charts, illustrations, small quizzes or questions and similar things to make the discussion of the topic fun and engaging. But a piece written for a scholarly audience for instance, may include more complex vocabulary and less engaging content.
So a question you may have is, how will you know who the intended audience is?
Its very simple; a few clues to look for are..
  • Word choice and jargon
  • Tone and writing style
  • Types of references made and examples provided
  • The author's introduction
By looking at any one of these areas you should easily be able to determine whether or not the author is writing to a general audience or a more specialized one (perhaps educators, professionals, parents, teens, young adults, and so on).

#3 Your main goal is to summarize; but opinions are also welcome

An important issue to reiterate is that a book report is not an in-depth analysis of an author's writing style, subject matter, evidential support or presentation. It is for the most part a summary. So if you are accustomed to writing college-level papers with a great amount of thought and analysis, you may want to turn it down a bit for this assignment. Because if you are not careful you can easily turn your simple book report into a complex book critique-which is not necessary!
Lastly, it's also good to point out that book reports have some room for opinion as well. For example, it would be appropriate for the writer to recommend the book at the end of the report or likewise comment on whether or not they enjoyed the author's argument, plot, characters or setting. This may be neglected at times if its assumed that opinions are frowned upon in book report writing. But as stated earlier, this is simply not the case; a bit of opinion is not only welcome in book report writing, it is usually something that is expected by the reader as well.
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By Martha Buckly. Martha is a good freelance writer and loves sharing posts on different topics including tips and guidelines for articles and academic writing. Her professional experience helps to create interesting and useful material.

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