Step-by-Step Outline for a Book Report

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Almost every student in the United States is assigned a book report at some point. The purpose of a book report is not to torment students, but to ensure their understanding of literature. Book reports help students learn to summarize and to state their opinion, but they also help teachers obtain a more accurate perception of what their students gain from a given story. Many teachers have specific guidelines their students must adhere to; however, the guide below outlines the basic process for generating an acceptable book report.

1 Rough Draft

After you have read the book, take a blank sheet of paper and fold it into thirds. Label the first portion "Introduction" and then make a list of the numbers 1 through 4; label the second portion "Body" and divide the area underneath into "Part A" followed by the numbers 1 through 4 and "Part B"; label the third portion "Conclusion."

2 Introduction

Begin the introduction by filling in the following information. Beside the number 1, write the title of the book. Underline the title. Then write the author’s name. Beside the number 2, write the name of the book publisher, the year the book was published and the number of pages. Beside the number 3, write the book's genre (science fiction, mystery, romance, etc.). Beside the number 4, write one or two sentences that describe the book's general theme or message.

3 Body

When you have written down the basic information that will be used in the introduction, move on to the Body portion of your rough draft. Under Part A, number 1, describe where the story takes place. Beside number 2, make a note of the time period in which the story is set. If you’re not sure, make a guess as to whether it is the past or the future. At number 3, give a brief description of the main character. If the story spends an equal amount of time on several characters, describe them as well. Beside number 4, describe the plot of the story. Do not re-tell the tale; simply choose the most important events. Begin by describing the circumstances of the main character at the beginning of the story. Then describe any goals the character is trying to achieve or overcome. Follow this with a brief account of anything that happens to either help or interfere with the achievement of the goal. End by giving a few clues about the story’s ending without actually revealing the final outcome.

Beneath the area labeled "Part B," state your opinion of the story. As you ponder your general views on the book, consider the following questions: Did you enjoy the book? Did you have a favorite part of the story? Do you agree with the author? Do you think the book was well written? Support your opinion with examples from the story.

4 Conclusion

Write one paragraph stating why you think others should or should not read this book. Consider the overall impression the story has made on you and emphasize any information you feel future readers should know.

5 Revision

Once you have captured your initial impressions and thoughts about the book on paper, go back and revise your report. Restate your ideas using clear language and complete sentences. Double-check your spelling and grammar, correcting any errors as you go. If possible, type your report on a computer using a word processing program, as this will make it easier for you to revise and it will make the final draft easier for your teacher to read.

Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.