How To Write A College Book Report

So you’ve been assigned your first college book report…are you at a loss as to how to complete it? Don’t worry; you aren’t alone. Many students enter college not really knowing where to start when it comes to book reports. College professors expect a much higher level of work than high school teachers expect. Step by step, here’s how to write a book report that’s on that higher level:

Read the book. Yes, every word. You can’t just skim over the book when you’re going to be writing about it. As you read, use a highlighter or sticky notes to mark the most important passages. You can also take notes if it will help you remember the book’s plot.

Read what others have written about the book. If you have a popular selection, narrow down your research to read about the research that interests you most. Don’t worry about the topic of your own paper just yet; read the research that interest you. Draw research from scholarly sources, not popular magazines, and if you do research online, find credible sources.

Narrow your topic. Start by reading the guidelines for the report given to you by your professor so that you stay within the parameters of the project. Think about the topics and debates you enjoyed the most when reading through research on the book.

Write a thesis statement. In one or two sentences, you should be able to describe the argument of your paper. In college, a book report isn’t expected to just describe the book and your personal opinion of it. You need to have an arguable point, which could be as simple as “this book is one of the most important pieces of literature for young adults” to something much more specific about the author’s theme, characters, setting, writing style, or plot. Avoid a thesis statement that is extremely similar to any research you’ve read.

Outline your report. You should start with an introductory paragraph (or few paragraphs if your report is extremely long) that includes your thesis statement and can include a very brief summary of the book. Your final paragraph should restate your thesis statement. Between, focus on at least three points that support your thesis statement’s argument.

Narrow down the resources you’ll use from your research. Your professor likely has a requirement for the number of resources you’ll have to use; stick to it carefully. Highlight specific quotes you want to use from your resources.

Write! If you’ve done your research and created a good outline, this part should be easier than you think. Remember, this is your first draft, so it doesn’t have to be too refined.

Edit and proofread. This is a crucial step, and one that many students avoid. Some professors give you time to review work in class or will give you feedback on your first draft, but if yours doesn’t, make sure you edit and proofread on your own.

Cite your sources. This should be your final step and is one of the most important. Ethical writing is your key to success in college, at least when it comes to papers. Plagiarism and inappropriate paraphrasing will not just destroy you academically – it is also illegal. Follow your professor’s preferred citation method carefully.


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