How to Write a University Level Book Report
University book reports present information for the report reader to make a judgment about reading the book. Quality reports demonstrate your knowledge of the book and your ability to follow the assignment requirements. Some professors ask for your critical opinion about the book, but this type of analysis typically falls under the required elements for a book review, not a report.
The first segment of the book report identifies the book title and author and provides general background information about the author that relates to the content of the text. The report also includes the book publisher and the date of publication. Reports classify the book content according to a type or genre. Scholarly books, for instance, include a table of contents, bibliography and occasionally footnotes, while books written for a popular reading audience generally do not have any scholarly notes or a bibliography.
Book reports include short summaries that provide information about the general book elements. Reports note the author's thesis for a nonfiction book and support for that main idea. A report for a fiction work provides the book's theme, setting, character development and a quick plot summary. Assume the report reader has not read the text when developing your ideas for the paper and explain how the book's author presents the main elements.
Reports use supporting examples and quotations from the book to illustrate your points and the ideas presented in your paper. Some students buy assigned books to highlight important passages while reading while others want to resell class books and instead take notes for quotable passages on a separate paper. Make a note of the page number when pulling quotations to help you quickly refer to the context, if necessary, when writing the report.
Effective reports use quotations taken from the text to illustrate your ideas unless your assignment specifically asks you to avoid using quotations from the text. Short quotations, a sentence or two, can illustrate your point and still allow your information to flow as a narrative. Use quotation marks or italics to identify the text taken from the book, making it clear to the report reader that the passage comes from the book. Format your quotations using an approved style guide or manual for your class.
Style manuals and guides provide the rules used to cite quotations, set margins, select type font and other required formatting for your book report. Your university instructor typically selects the accepted style manual for the report assignment, but some teachers allow each student to select the style guide. Some departments adopt one style manual for all classes using the standards associated with the professional field of study. Social science and science departments, for example, often use the Chicago Manual of Style. Humanities and liberal arts classes generally use the Modern Language Association guide.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Writing a Book Report
- University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center: The Writer's Handbook -- Using Literary Quotations
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: MLA Formatting and Style Guide
- Concordia University Libraries: How To Write a Book Report and a Book Review
- Williams College Libraries: Chicago Manual of Style
Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.