When I recently took on the role of Reviews Editor for ELT Journal, I started to ask myself what book reviews are for. Who reads them, and why? What makes a good review?
I remember that when I was an English language teaching practitioner — and when I did my postgraduate studies — there was little time for reading. I often relied on book reviews to get an idea of the latest publications in ELT and to understand what was going on outside the field of research I was exploring. Is this still true? I was curious to find out, so I asked outgoing ELT Journal Reviews Editor Philip Prowse, to tell me more. After 17 years as Reviews Editor, Philip knows a thing or two about what makes a good review!
You can watch the full 4-minute video of my interview with Philip below, but if you need a quick answer to the question about what reviews are for, then read on!
Keep up to date with developments in the field of ELT
Reviews are tremendously important for busy practitioners who want to keep up with developments in our field. They keep you informed about what is being published, without having to expend a lot of time and energy.
Make an informed choice
Reading a review before you rush to buy the latest titles you found online will help you make an informed decision about the books that are most relevant to you.
Check out the key facts
A good review includes useful information: a clear summary of what the book contains and the intended readership. For research-based publications, the review will also explain how the publication contributes to the area of research as well as what has been happening in the field.
Opinion and evaluation
Ideally, the useful information on content and readership is accompanied by the reviewer’s opinion and evaluation of the book. Taken together with the factual information about the publication, you have the ingredients for a delicious dish: a good review.
In-depth Survey Review
Sometimes a title-by-title review is not enough. If you teach in a school or a university, ELT Journal’s Survey Review, which compares several textbooks from different publishers, is invaluable. Survey reviews help you decide which textbooks you might want to use in class, or what you might want to recommend to your students for independent study or for developing specific skills.
To hear more about what makes a good review and to hear about the best ELT Journal reviews, and more, watch the interview with Philip Prowse.
Read Alan Maley’s Review of Reviews to find out more about ELT Journal reviews from the past 17 years.