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3.2: Reviews

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    What is a Review?

    A review is an essay expressing an informed opinion about a subject while explaining why a writer came to an opinion [1]. Instead of simply stating whether a writer likes something or not, a review expresses opinions based on common expectations shared with readers. Opinions in a review are important; however, a review must consider what a potential audience might find successful or unsuccessful. [2].

    MichaelPickar (discusscontribs) 22:39, 16 November 2012 (UTC)

    What Is In a Review?

    Most reviews are films, books, or events. In a review, the writer determines whether a film, book, or event was enjoyable; with films and books, a writer determines whether a reader should or should not watch or purchase the film or book [3]. Many often read a review after purchasing the film or book to see if others agree.

    MichaelPickar (discusscontribs) 22:39, 16 November 2012 (UTC)

    What Can I Review?

    In many college courses, the review assignment gives writers the chance to express their personal opinion about anything the writers would like [4]. The main purpose of the interview, however, is to develop the ability of supporting arguments and demonstrating an understanding of a subject at hand.

    MichaelPickar (discusscontribs) 22:39, 16 November 2012 (UTC)

    How Do I Write a Review?

    At least two methods for writing a review are available. In the first method, there is the following:

    Introduction (Identifying the subject reviewed or evaluated)
        • Description or summary of the subject 
        • Strengths and weaknesses of the first feature of the subject
        • Strengths and weaknesses of the second feature of the subject
        • Strengths and weaknesses of the third feature of the subject
        • Conclusion (Offering an overall judgment of the subject) [5].

    In the second method available for writing a review, there is the following:

    IntroductionDescription or summary of the subject
        • Strengths of the subject
        • Weaknesses of the subject
        • Weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the subject
        • Conclusion [6].

    MichaelPickar (discusscontribs) 01:07, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

    What Should I Say About My Subject in the Review?

    Before writing a review on your subject, many writers use a first-hand experience [7]. For instance, if the subject of the review is a film, it is best to see the film. For a book, it is best to read it. For a product or service, it is best to use it.

    However, before actually experiencing the subject, almost all writers suggest engaging in some preliminary inquiry background research. Both can help form a critical perspective for analyzing the subject. Initial inquiries will also help to determine what both writers and readers of reviews should expect of the reviewed subject. On the other hand, background research can help develop a richer understanding of the subject's history and context.

    MichaelPickar (discusscontribs) 01:07, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

    Preliminary Inquiry

    As mentioned above, the practice of preliminary inquiry can help achieve common expectations between writers and readers of reviews. This allows for an interactive understanding of what make the reviewed subject successful or unsuccessful. Both writers and readers of reviews should keep in mind that common expectations are not always stated clearly [8].

    When engaging in a preliminary of the subject about to undergo review, it helps to do some brainstorming [9]. This can help sort out common expectations. For instance, if a reviewer wants to write about a recent psychological thriller seen in a movie theater, brainstorming can help break down the characteristics of that genre of film. When brainstorming, it is best to make a list of points that stand out the most. When writers use this strategy in the reviews they write, it helps readers understand what to expect if something about the film--for instance, a trailer--piques the interest of the prospective reader.

    MichaelPickar (discusscontribs) 01:08, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

    Background Research

    Background research can help both writers and readers of reviews better understand the experience of the person reviewing the subject [10]. There are four possible strategies used to gather background research.

    Answering the Five-W and How Questions: This can involve using online or print sources to find out as much as possible about the subject under review. The "Five-W and How Questions" are:

          ° Who were its creators or original developers?
          ° What exactly is the subject under review?
          ° When and where was it created
          ° Why was it created? (What is its purpose?)
          ° How was it made?

    Locating Other Reviews of the Same Subject:

    This can involve the use of online search engines (e.g., Google, Bing, Yahoo!) as well as library indexes and databases [11]. Some questions to consider when locating other reviews involve what others have said about the subject under review. What others have said may bring some important insights. Of course, when using another person's review, it is especially important in academic writing to cite the source properly; otherwise, it is considered plagiarism.

    Interviewing or Surveying Others:

    On many college and university campuses, experts abound, particularly regarding the potential subject under review. In cases like this, experts can help provide some common expectations [12]. If there are no official "experts" around, many writers review other people who have had a personal experience with the same subject. Here, writers often ask what others thought of the subject, how they reacted to it, and what they liked or disliked about it.

    Field Observations:

    These involve watching the subject closely and paying attention to the reactions of others [13]. For instance, if the potential subject under review is a film, and if the experience of watching the film under review takes place in a cinema, then it is best to observe the reactions of audience members.

    MichaelPickar (discusscontribs) 01:34, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

    Experiencing the Subject under Review

    Experience a potential subject under review involves, on the one hand, reviewing it is as a regular person while, on the other hand, it involves stepping back and experiencing the subject from a critic's point of view. When members of an audience, including the reviewer, react to a moment in the film, the reviewer must analyze why there was that specific reaction. Taking notes while experience the subject can provide an additional help. When taking notes, reviewers should keep in mind the common expectations found when engaging in preliminary inquiry and background research.

    Included in the experience of the subject under review is what Johnson-Sheehan and Paine [14] define as the Believing and Doubting Game involving three common ideas:

    Believing (Writing a positive review)
        • Doubting (Writing a negative review)
        • Synthesis (Writing a review with "common ground")

    MichaelPickar (discusscontribs) 02:06, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

    What is the Style of a Review?

    The style of the review depends on the readers and where they will see it. The best reviews are often those that are accurate while keeping the expectations of their audience in check [15]. For instance, if the review appears in a mainstream publication or on a website, the style should appear lively as much as it matches the reviewer's reaction to the subject.

    Some important elements of style in writing a review include the use of detail, tone, and pace.

    Detail: More often than not, reviews use sensory detail to include sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell [16]. It is not required for writers of reviews to use all of the senses. However, it is important to keep sensory details in mind while writing a review.

    Tone: This should be a reflection of the subject under the review. The voice should match the tone. If a reviewer shows excitement about the subject under review, then it should show in the tone. The same applies to if a reviewer finds the subject as belonging to "poor taste."

    Pace: The length of sentences in a review can determine how readers of that same review should react [17]. Shorter sentences can create a more hectic, fast-paced feeling while longer sentences can create a more languid, slower-paced feel.

    MichaelPickar (discusscontribs) 02:25, 30 November 2012 (UTC)


    1. Writing Today, Custom Edition for St. Cloud State University. Taken from Writing Today, Second Edition by Richard Johnson-Sheehan and Charles Paine. Boston: Pearson Education, 2013. Print, p. 84.
    2. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 84.
    3. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 84
    4. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 84.
    5. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 85.
    6. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 85.
    7. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 87.
    8. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, pp. 87-88.
    9. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 88.
    10. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 89.
    11. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 89.
    12. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 89.
    13. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 90.
    14. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 90.
    15. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p. 93.
    16. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, pp. 93-94.
    17. Johnson-Sheehan and Paine, p,. 94.

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