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Writing a book review: organizing the material
One of the major challenges in writing a book review can be the process of staying organized. This is especially true when reviewing a long or complex writing. The tips listed here can help you to keep your material well organized and make writing your review in the end a painless endeavor.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is how helpful it is to take notes as you go. Different writers utilize different methods of note-taking, but nearly all reviewers do take copious notes during reading. This is helpful not only so that you remember specific points which are easy to forget once you’ve finished reading, but for other reasons as well. For example, your opinion of the book’s content or the author’s writing style can change or evolve considerably over the course of your readings. It can be just as interesting to chronicle this change and the reasons for it as it can be to express only your final opinion of the book.
Taking notes alone won’t help you stay organized if your notes themselves are in considerable disarray. To keep your notes in good order as you progress, it’s helpful to set up categories for them in advance. You can keep them in different notebook sections, digital files, or in different folders—whichever is most convenient for you and your style of organization.
Your categories should be based on the topics you plan to cover in your review. At the least, they should include things like characters, character development, plot, setting, author’s writing style and techniques, as well as your personal opinion on all of these matters.
Once you’ve finished reading and you’ve taken detailed notes, it’s time to further organize your material by creating an outline for your book review. Your outline should address each of the topics you plan to cover, how you will cover them, and how you will transition between each topic. You can also include shorthand references to those lines and passages you intend to quote in your rough draft. This can be done by noting the page number or highlight number of the passage in question. Don’t be too concerned initially with outlining the introduction or conclusion of your review—that will be easier once you have a rough draft of the main body of writing, as you can reference your strongest points for those outlines after the fact.