A book report is an essay that summarises the main ideas presented by the author. But how do you write a good book report? Our top tips include:
Check the assignment instructions so you know what you need to do.
Read the book, making notes as you go.
Plan your book report and create an essay outline.
Write up your report, using examples and quotes to support your points.
Revise and proofread your work to eliminate errors.
In the rest of this post, we look at how to write a book report in more detail.
1. Check the Assignment Instructions
Book reports come in many different types, so the first thing you should do if you’re asked to write one is check the assignment instructions carefully. Key aspects of the essay instructions to pay attention to include:
Whether you will be assigned a book to write about or whether you will be asked to pick one yourself (either from a list supplied by the tutor or based on a set of requirements, such as a book about a set topic).
What aspects of the book to write about (e.g. will it just be a summary of the book’s content, or will you also need to offer some critical analysis?).
Any requirements for structuring and formatting your report (e.g. whether to break the essay up into sections with headings and subheadings).
If anything about the instructions is unclear, check it with your tutor.
2. Read the Book and Make Notes
Next, you’ll need to read the book you’re writing about in full, not just skim through or read a synopsis! This means you’ll need to leave enough time before the deadline to read the text thoroughly (and write up your report).
When you are reading, moreover, make sure to take notes on:
Basic bibliographic details, including the title, author name(s), year of publication, publisher and number of pages.
How the book is structured (e.g. whether it uses chapters).
The overall plot or argument, plus key ideas and/or plot points from each part.
For works of fiction, important characters and themes.
Significant quotations or examples you might want to use in your report.
Where possible, make sure to note down page numbers as well. This will make it easier to find the relevant parts again when you’re reviewing your notes.
3. Outline Your Book Report
How you structure your report will ultimately depend on the length (e.g. a short, 500-word report is unlikely to use separate sections and headings, while a longer one will need these to help break up the text and guide the reader) and the assignment instructions, so make sure to review these carefully.
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However, common elements of a book report include:
An introductory paragraph or section with basic book details (e.g. the title, author(s), genre, publisher, publication date and intended audience).
Information about the author’s background and, where relevant, credentials.
An overview of the book’s plot (fiction and narrative non-fiction), or its main idea (other non-fiction), sometimes with a section-by-section breakdown.
Information on characters, setting and themes (fiction and narrative non-fiction), or key ideas and concepts set out by the author (other non-fiction).
Where required, critical analysis or evaluation of the book.
When planning your book report, then, use your notes and the assignment instructions to outline your essay, breaking it down into clearly defined sections and noting what you will include in each one.
4. Write Up Your Book Report
When it comes to writing up your report, helpful tips include:
Imagine the reader will be unfamiliar with the book and try to ensure your report covers all the information they’d need to know what it is about.
Use clear, concise language to make your report easy to follow. Look out for wordiness and repetition, and don’t be tempted to pad out your report with irrelevant details just to increase the word count!
Use examples and quotations to support your points (but don’t rely too heavily on quotations; keep in mind that the report should be in your own words).
Follow the formatting instructions set out in your style guide or the assignment instructions (e.g. for fonts, margins and presenting quotations).
If you use quotations in your report, moreover, make sure to include page numbers! This will help the reader find the passages you’ve quoted.
5. Revise and Proofread Your Work
When you have the first draft of your book report, if you have time, take a short break (e.g. overnight) before re-reading it. This will help you view it objectively. Then, when you do re-read it, look out for ways you could improve it, such as:
Typos and other errors that need correcting.
Issues with clarity or places where the writing could be more concise (reading your work aloud can make it easier to spot clunky sentences).
Passages that would benefit from being supported with a quote or example.
It’s also a good idea to re-read the assignment instructions one last time before submitting your work, which will help you spot any issues you missed.
Finally, if you’d like some extra help checking your writing, you can have it proofread by a professional. Submit a free sample document today to find out more.