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7 Other Academic Writing Assignments Contents: • Book reviews • Literature reviews • Opinion editorials • Case studies Key Terms: • Book review • Literature review • Opinion editorial (op-ed) • Case study Thus far, this book has focused on the standard academic essay. The goal of this chapter is to explore a number of other writing assignments that military personnel might pursue either in a staff college or while writing for a larger audience. Specifically, we will consider book reviews, literature reviews, opinion editorials, and case studies. I. Book Reviews Book reviews are a critical component of the academic process. There is far too much being written about international security for any student to read it all, and (good) book reviews provide academics and other interested readers with a sense of whether the book (or in some cases the article) is worth more than a cursory glance. Unfortunately, like other forms of academic writing, book reviews are often less than completely effective. In this section we begin by describing some of the characteristics of a meaningful 113 07-Military:07-Military 19/10/09 08:33 Page 113 review and then consider some of those characteristics that we do not find helpful. The primary aim of the book review should be to allow readers to determine whether or not they should read the book from beginning to end (or at least at greater length than just the review). As such, the review should contain a summary of the author’s main argument, the strengths and weaknesses of the book, the suitability of the book for the intended audience, and an overall assessment. Typical book reviews might be as short as 500 words or as long as 5000. No matter the length, the good ones consider all the issues that we have mentioned. Treat a book review like a (potentially very) short essay for which the research question is already defined: is this book effective in fulfilling its aim(s)? The introduction to a review is usually short. A broad opening sentence ties some of the issues in the book, or in your review, to a slightly bigger idea. Major John Grodzinski’s review of The Canadian Battlefields in Italy begins as follows: This is the first of three guidebooks to Canadian battlefields in Italy to be published by the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies (LCMSDS) and edited by Terry Copp, Professor Emeritus of History at Wilfrid Laurier University and Director of the LCMSDS.1 Another sentence establishes the author of the book’s credibility and might note whether the book was published in response to a particular event or circumstance. The next line in Major Grodzinski’s review reads, “He may be more familiar to readers of this journal as author of several studies on the army in NorthWest Europe, including the recent Cinderella Army: The Canadians in North West Europe.”2 This sentence confirms that Professor Copp is a suitable editor and implies that the book should be credible. If the length of the review allows for it, you can embed a line of approach next, but a standard book review proceeds in a fairly formulaic way, so explicit lines of approach are less nec114 Other Academic Writing Assignments 07-Military:07-Military 19/10/09 08:33 Page 114 essary than they might be in formal academic essays. It is more important that you include a brief thesis statement that notes whether or not you think that this is a book worth reading. The next paragraphs summarize the book’s main argument. We recommend that no more than one-third of the review be consumed by this information.Your aim is to articulate the author’s outline as clearly as possible without going into excessive detail. Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Rostek’s review of Amy Chua’s World On Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability provides a good example of an effective summary: Chua’s thesis—the pursuit of free markets and democracy in the face of a market-dominant ethnic minority has resulted in ethnic conflict—runs counter to the proglobalization belief that the market system is the most economically efficient system in the world and the antiglobalization belief that democracy is the fairest political system in the world. Her linking of ethnic violence to both democracy and free markets throughout the developing, nonWestern world has seemingly been overlooked by many pro/anti-globalization writers and as such, it provides and intriguing and relatively new...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780776618869
Related ISBN
9780776607344
MARC Record
OCLC
794702117
Pages
148
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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