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English Language Teaching Global Blog


What’s the use of book reviews?

ELT Journal April 2013 coverAlessia Cogo, Reviews Editor for ELT Journal, considers why book reviews are important in the field of ELT.

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.


Why do people follow fashion trends?

Female model with bleach blonde hair in a fashionable styleAs part of our series of posts exploring a “question-centered” teaching approach, we asked Rebecca Arnold, author of Fashion: A Very Short Introduction, to give us her thoughts on the above question, featured in the new course Q Skills for Success.

Hello, I’m Rebecca, and I’m a London-based fashion historian. I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about why people follow fashions, and it seems to be a contradictory mix of impulses and emotions.

Desire and anxiety are at the heart of this. We’re drawn to the new and novel, to things that provide a feeling of change, and, perhaps, progress. We also want to belong – to be part of something recognizable – and there is no more obvious way to demonstrate this than through your clothes. A new outfit that fits with what magazines and advertisements are promoting can be really pleasurable to buy and wear. It can give you a new identity, even if it’s only for one night.

The flip side of these desires is anxiety – about not fitting in, not being up-to-date, and being an outsider. The international fashion industry plays on these negative feelings, to make people feel they must keep up with new trends and keep shopping.

But do you view trend following differently according to the goods being bought? Do you judge someone who has bought the latest Louis Vuitton handbag in the same way as someone who has bought an iPad?

Find out how you can use questions like “Why do people follow fashion trends?” in class.


Dr Rebecca Arnold is Oak Foundation Lecturer in the History of Dress and Textiles at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, UK. She is the author of Fashion: A Very Short Introduction (OUP).

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