Effective Review Essay Writing: Guidelines and Tips

The main purpose of a review essay is to demonstrate what the writer feels about and thinks on the topic. It is devoted to the key messages and themes in the text. So, what you have to do is discussing the book critically and evaluating the opinion of the writer with solid support with the actual pieces of evidence taken from the book to analyze.

What is the basis for the review essay? It is a collection of views that other writers have as well as their analysis of the book. The stages of writing are: creating an argument and writing a well-arranged review. More than one reading can be assigned for covering in the framework of the course.

The essay is to let the students demonstrate that they have an in-depth understanding of the presented arguments, as well as key issues of the assigned readings. More than that, they show that they have good skills of organizing the text to get coherent content on the basis of thematic arrangement of the ideas. It is not the task that the professors give to let the students get better at research. You get the papers to analyze; so, no external research is required for the task. What you actually need to do is to show your writing skills and ability to think in an analytical manner.

The topics of readings that the students get for analysis can be different. This diversity of themes creates a challenge as the students need to learn how to make connections between different readings. They need to know how to reorganize the writing and build a bridge between the texts. The focus still needs to be on a particular section of those writings. So, it is important to give an argument which connects different readings and create the basis for a dialogue between the texts. You have to be able to do that and your success in this type of essays is a proof of your intellectual ability to make profound analysis. The goal you have to set is to produce a single theme which will let you interpret all the assigned readings and review them fully.

NB: These are essential things to do before you get down to writing a review essay:


Guidelines on reading …

  • Start with reading the preface. Find the key statement of perspective, main purpose, and all major themes.
  • Read the whole book – from the very beginning to the very end. A preview of all key ideas and themes will be useful.
  • Review the key ideas and themes after you have read every chapter. Write down the most important issues not to lose them afterwards.
  • Try to start a discussion with the book author in your essay. Asking questions to this person in your imagination, you can compare the answers you expect to get with those from the book.

Guidelines on writing a review essay…

  • It is a must for a review to contain a brief statement of the problems raised, subject matter, or key issues from the book.
  • You need to incorporate a short summary of the key arguments of the author along with the discussion and conclusions.
  • A discussion in the review has to be accompanied with the explanation of the strengths and weaknesses of the book.
  • Last but not least, a review is weak if it contains no explanation of the contribution of this particular book to the general understanding of the subject. The discussion of the role the book plays is what makes a review really good.

Important things to take into consideration…

  1. Evaluation of the review as well as any other paper is based on how well it can communicate ideas and how concise the text is. Do not forget to do careful proofreading and editing of your text. After you have completed your first draft, there is still a lot of work ahead for you.
  2. Main terms from the book require clear definitions in your review.
  3. All general statements and conclusions have to be accompanied with bright examples and evidence.
  4. The average length of the paper is ten pages of typed or written text.
  5. Every review essay has to be given in a standard form with double spacing, standard font (12 cpi preferably), an 1-inch margins.
  6. There ought not to be a lot of quotes from the book you review. However, if a direct quote is necessary, you have to use quotation marks and a specific indication of the page from this particular edition of the book to show where you have found the quote.
  7. A book review is different from a book report essay. If you give a summary of chapters one by one, you will definitely fail in your task.
  • Essay Introduction
  • The first section of the review is an introduction. Its first identification sentence is to refer to the key theme and main claims from the book. A well-written thesis statement is also a part of the introductory paragraph. Actually, it is the final sentence of the first paragraph. It is possible to include two or more central ideas in the thesis statement, but the main thing for you is to give a short summary of the key theme you have in your writing. Overall, an introduction can take not more than 10% - 25% of the essay.

  • Essay body
  • This is the section in which you have to present the key ideas and arguments along with the book findings with reference to the book summary. You need to explain to the readers your ideas about the book and tell how your claims can be supported with specific pieces of evidence. One of the key recommendations is not to use personal pronouns in the body of the formal essays. Also, it is wrong to include the background details, statistics, or specific examples which are too sophisticated for the readers.

    You have to evaluate how clear the content of the article or book is. Back up your ideas with quotes and evidence, if needed. Tell whether the key arguments get enough support in the essay. Indicate all cases of bias, if any, as well.

  • Essay conclusion
  • Summarize the key issues from the book and add your opinions to them. Give your comments on the role of the article or book in further research. Consider referring to the thesis statement in the conclusion of the essay.


"The business book for self-development called Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High is written by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. It is considered as one of the most popular books of 2013 due to its peculiar business ideas and effective tips. In particular, the book is devoted to communication being the basis of any relationship. The authors focus on the problem of interaction, since communication is an integral part of every person’s life, and the issue of effective relationship that concerns everyone. The puzzle of mutual understanding implies that it is one of the most important factors of communication. Considering all these circumstances, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High is based on studying and mastering the techniques of proper conduct of crucial conversations (some decisive talks), and realizing them in a positive way under the pressure of highly influential emotions.

Firstly, this book is step forward to motivate the development of crucial conversations because there are situations when a single moment can decide everything. Moreover, everything revolves around one concept, which does not mean solving global problems of the future by presidents, prime ministers, or other world politicians as it may sound. These are everyday important talks. Such conversations may also end any relationship, for example while talking to a colleague who behaves aggressively, criticizing the work of a colleague, solving complex issues with the boss, dealing with a rebellious teen, and many others (Patterson et al., 2012). Thus, the idea of handling crucial conversations can be not only considered as a manual for self-help in business but also used in any life situation. Therefore, every single member of the intended audience is most likely to be interested in improving communication techniques

The purpose of the book is to teach the audience to distinguish ordinary conversations from the decisive ones. In its turn, the latter include opposing opinions, strong emotions, and high stakes. The typical features of such situations are complexity, frustration, frightening, or annoyance (Patterson et al., 2012). Nevertheless, the most important thing is that they have a tremendous impact on the quality of life. In such situations, the result may be better or worse, which means there is a big difference. In this context, the biggest problem is that people often avoid such conversations because they are afraid of worsening the situation. In their book, the authors are trying to encourage readers to solve issues through effective methods but without being negatively affected. Therefore, the model suggested in the book involves certain steps to successful handling of such conversations, including starting with the heart (i.e. empathy and positive intent), learning to look, making it safe, resisting negative emotions, conciliating common goal, moving to action, and, finally, putting it all together.

The authors of the book are real skillful trainers, business teachers and superiors working in the synergic team and they are able to succeed in critical conversations. They are the founders of the world-class organization, VitalSmarts, which is the driving force for their self-development, leadership, relationships, and personal change that has an impact on millions of people around the globe. The culture and success of the authors’ organization is a reflection and evidence of the effectiveness of their principles and methodology. The researchers insist on the construction of a scheme that consists of seven principles of dialogue: starting with heart, learning to look, making it safe, mastering the stories, stating the path, exploring others’ paths, and moving to action. In addition, each principle covers the skills that are characteristic of it (for example, focusing on what you really want, looking for safety problems, apologizing when appropriate, separating facts from story, sharing different facts, asking, comparing, documenting decisions, etc.). Compliance with these rules will greatly increase the likelihood of a successful outcome of a conversation. In their research, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler use such methods as observation (watching people at home and at work), behavior analysis, and interviews. In the background of obtaining results through such research, the authors succeeded in formulating a behavioral model for conducting successful conversation. The book contains examples of various critical situations and suggestions for managing them. Therefore, it focuses on assessing the use of certain principles and communication features, which positively affect not only the course of the people’s conversations but also their ability to conduct dialogues.

The authors of the book Crucial Conversations aim at opening the art of communication to people and teaching them how to effectively communicate and successfully conduct critical conversations within and outside of business environment. The researchers have achieved this goal, since they theoretically and practically showed readers a lot of critical conversations and their possible outcomes. They explained the structure of the dialogue and gave advice on communication techniques in specific situations. In my opinion, this book is quite convincing and effective in applying its theory into practice. With the provided techniques of dialogue, I have learned to succeed in managing critical issues in everyday situations, which have a significant impact on my life.

I think that the authors are objective in their research because their results are based on true information obtained from other people’s experience in real situations. Due to such research methods, the evidence can be considered as adequate, accurate, and convincing since it is not based purely on the theory but includes practical dimension. Considering the factor that a rather diverse subject of communication is studied, which concerns not the behavior of one person but many, there can be no distortion, exaggeration, or reduction of evidence. Apparently, the outcome of each critical conversation depends on many factors and peculiarities of the interlocutors — their characters, preferences, cultural and social sentiments, etc. Therefore, each situation is different, and there is no single script for solving it. Herewith, the structure and organization of the Crucial Conversations is well judged. It includes general information, author’s assumptions, description of the methodology, theoretical aspects, and practical examples from real life. Finally, the authors collect all the principles of communication, which allow the reader to systematize and successfully master the information. This is the main strength of the book. However, it also has some weakness. Although the subject of the research is specific, it is still quite broad and, therefore, does not cover the full range of possible situations. Still, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High is certainly worth reading because its topics and issues are relevant beyond time, and the information contained in it is very useful for communication. Despite the fact that the book is a good helper for people who run their own business or are involved in political processes, it is also useful for others as all people sometimes face critical situations and should learn principles of handling them in order to practice communicative skills successfully.

In conclusion, this book concentrates on studying and mastering the techniques of communication (especially during crucial conversations), and realizing them in a positive way even under the pressure of strong emotions. People face the opposite thoughts of others almost every day, so the readers should know what principles and features of dialogue can help them achieve a successful result, which, in turn, will positively affect their life. In this context, starting with heart, learning to look, making it safe, mastering stories, stating the path, exploring others’ paths, and moving to action are the decisive factors for practicing communication skills. The book contains both theoretical and practical information, which is accessible and understandable to readers. Its foundation is to motivate people to achieve successful results in social intercourse."

Source: https://opencanterburytales.com/open-review-home/the-reeves-tale/