The academic disciplines of psychology and sociology require authors to submit work that conforms to APA standards. These standards are set by the American Psychological Association to “advance scholarship by setting sound and rigorous standards for scientific communication.” When writing book reviews to conform to these standards, authors should also be mindful of APA formatting, style, and usage issues.
General Book Review Requirements
When writing a book review, spend some time introducing the author's background, motivation and qualifications for writing the book. Introduce the concepts of the book clearly and thoroughly. Summarize the author’s intentions and methods, and then evaluate the effectiveness of those methods. Did the book make a convincing argument? Did the data or information presented effectively prove the thesis? Was it interesting? Humorous? How does the book engage the reader?
When using direct quotations or a paraphrase from a book in your book review, you must cite the author according to APA style. This is done by including the name of the author, the year of publication and the page number. You can accomplish this by using a signal phrase that includes the author’s last name. For instance, “According to Gosling (2008), 'We know that creative people tend to be more philosophical but no more or less anxious than other types' (p. 36)." Be sure to place the punctuation after the parenthetical citation rather than directly after the quote. If, throughout the article, you are only quoting from the one book you are reviewing, and this is clear to the reader, it is not necessary to include the date after each quote or paraphrased section.
Each quote cited in the review must correspond to a source in a reference list at the end of the article. In a book review, this usually consists of only one book. On occasion, a reviewer may cite other texts in comparison with the one being reviewed. In this case, the references must appear alphabetically. Sources must be double-spaced and formatted with a hanging indent -- that is, all lines but the first line of each entry must be indented. The references should be presented with the author’s name, the publication year in parenthesis, the title (in italics and in sentence case), the city and state of publication, and the publisher. Note the placement of specific punctuation in this example: Gosling, Sam. (2008). Snoop: What your stuff says about you. New York, NY: Basic Books.
APA format requires some general formatting standards. The preferred typeface for APA publications is Times New Roman with a 12 point font size, according to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Use a one-inch margin all around. Double space lines of text throughout the document. This includes the title, headings, body, and any references. Align the lines using the flush-left feature in your word processing software. Never divide words at the end of a line by using a hyphen. It is better to keep the line short than break a word at the end of a line.
Check Before Submitting
Always check with the source for whom you are writing as to whether certain features are required. For instance, many APA publications require an abstract, or a brief summary of the article. However, this is not usually required with a book review and is reserved for papers containing scientific research. Do not hesitate to check with your professor or copy editor with any questions before submitting your manuscript.
Style and Usage Issues
Style and usage requirements are not universal among all the disciplines. When conforming to APA standards in a book review, keep these requirements in mind. Capitalize major words in titles of books and articles within the body of the paper. This excludes conjunctions, articles, and prepositions, unless they contain over four letters. Capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound when it appears in a title. Use the serial comma throughout your work; that is, place a comma after each element in a series of three or more items, even when the last element is followed by a conjunction. For instance, “the students measured the height, width, and depth of the nests.” Use numerals to express numbers ten and above and all numbers that represent statistical data. For example, you would write, “Mr. Smith spent five years writing the book,” but “Mr. Smith spent 25 years writing the book” and “more than 5% of the sample.”
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