Monday, June 4, 2012

EDRD 640: Book Critique

Book Critique Guidelines

As teachers, we often read professional literature with an eye to understanding our classrooms better – we may, for instance, be intrigued by depictions of particular students or interactions, find ourselves weighing the promise of a given instructional method, or wondering at the unresolved complexities of our work. What I’m asking you to do here may feel strange at first, even a bit dehumanized – that is, I’m asking you to read with researchers’ eyes, scrutinizing the nuts and bolts of a particular study. I want you to reserve a certain skepticism as you read, thinking critically about your selected book as you locate the author’s (or authors’) approach within the methodological concerns we’ll be discussing in class.
             For the class session of your critique sharing, lease bring in a one-or two-page handout that provides a brief summary of the book and an overview of your analysis.
            Here are some issues to consider:
Concerning Audience/Purpose
·      Who is the intended audience for this book (teachers, researchers, teacher-educators, etc.)? What gives you this impression?
·      What do you see as the book’s purpose? How effectively does it fulfill that purpose?
Concerning Methodology
·      Do you have a sense of where this work is “coming from” – e.g., in terms of theoretic grounding, a concern over gaps in previous research, the researcher’s experiences and biases, etc.?
·      How might you categorize the general methodological approach the author has taken (e.g., sociolinguistic, ethnographic, case study, naturalistic observation, etc.)?
·      To what degree are methodological decisions and procedures explicitly detailed?
o   Are research questions  provided?
o   Are we given a list of data sources?  Does the author “triangulate” by providing varied data sources and multiple perspectives?
o   How much do we know about data collection procedures? (If, for instance, a study relies heavily upon interview data, are interview questions provided? Is the degree of interviewer control characterized?
o   Is there an attempt to describe the researcher’s role – to depict the researcher’s biases, level of participation, and effects?
o   What do you know about how the data was analyzed?  How did the researcher arrive at conclusions and interpretations? How were examples and illustrations selected? Is there any indication that the researcher conducted a systematic search for disconfirming evidence or counter-examples?
·      Do these pieces form a coherent picture – e.g., is the methodology compatible with the author’s conceptual frame and research questions, etc.?
Concerning the Style of Presentation
·      Whose voice is foregrounded here (the informants’, the author’s)? how much do you know about the author – and how is this information useful/not useful?
·      Is the account engaging? Why – or why not?
·      What drives the author’s use of story? (e.g., are narrative vignettes integrated into an overarching pattern of analysis, or is the account more purely narrative?)To what extent are stories or narrative vignettes explicitly interpreted?
Concerning Your Evaluation of the Book’s Plausibility/Validity
·      To what extent do you trust or believe this account?
·      On what grounds might one judge the plausibility or validity of work such as this?
·      Would you call this work “research”? Why – or why not? How is this designation related – or not related – to your judgment of the work’s plausibility?

Book Critique Scoring Guide

Does Not Meet Expectations
Meets Expectations
Exceeds Expectations

  • The intended audience is mentioned
  • The book’s purpose is explained.


  • The theoretic grounding of the book is explained.
  • Methodological decisions and procedures are described.
  • A link between the methodology and conceptual frame is provided.

Presentation Style

  • The author’s style is discussed.
  • Additional information about the author is provided.

Plausibility/Validity of Research

  • Reasons for your evaluation of the book’s plausibility/validity are provided.
  • A judgment about believability is offered
  • An evaluation of this work as research is offered.

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