The academic disciplines of psychology and sociology require authors to submit work that conforms to APA standards. These standards are set by the American Psychological Association (APA) to “advance scholarship by setting sound and rigorous standards for scientific communication.” When writing an APA book review to conform to these standards, authors should also be mindful of APA formatting, style and usage issues.
General APA Book Review Requirements
When writing a book review, spend some time introducing the author's background, motivation and qualifications for writing the book. Note that an APA style book report describes what happens in the book with descriptions of the book's contents and ideas. In contrast, an APA style book review looks at the book's ideas but focuses primarily on the reviewer's opinion and analysis of the book itself. In your book review, begin by introducing the concepts of the book clearly and thoroughly. Summarize the author’s intentions and methods and then evaluate the effectiveness of those methods. Did the book make a convincing argument? Did the data or information presented effectively prove the thesis? Was it interesting? Humorous? How does the book engage the reader?
When using direct quotations or a paraphrase from a book in your book review, you must cite the author according to the book review format in APA style. This is done by including the name of the author, the year of publication and the page number. You can accomplish this by using a signal phrase that includes the author’s last name. As an example, “According to Gosling (2008), 'We know that creative people tend to be more philosophical but no more or less anxious than other types' (p. 36)." Be sure to place the punctuation after the parenthetical citation rather than directly after the quote. If, throughout the article, you are only quoting from the one book you are reviewing and this is clear to the reader, it is not necessary to include the date after each quote or paraphrased section.
APA Style Reference List
Each quote cited in the APA book review must correspond to a source in a reference list at the end of the article. In a book review, this usually consists of only one book. On occasion, a reviewer may cite other texts in comparison with the one being reviewed. In those cases, the references must appear alphabetically. Sources must be double-spaced and formatted with a hanging indent with all lines but the first line of each entry must be indented. The references should be presented with the author’s name, the publication year in parenthesis, the title (in italics and in sentence case), the city and state of publication and the publisher. If an author's name is not available for the source, verify the reference by visiting the related .edu website. Note the placement of specific punctuation in this example: Gosling, Sam. (2008). Snoop: What your stuff says about you. New York, NY: Basic Books.
APA Book Review Formatting
APA format requires some general formatting standards. The preferred typeface for APA publications is Times New Roman with a 12 point font size, according to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Use a one-inch margin all around. Double space lines of text throughout the document. This includes the title, headings, body and any references. Align the lines using the flush-left feature in your word processing software. Never divide words at the end of a line by using a hyphen. It is better to keep the line short than break a word at the end of a line.
Check Before Submitting
Before submitting, always check with the source to verify whether certain features are required in the document. For instance, many APA publications require an abstract or a brief summary of the article. However, this is not usually required with a book review and is reserved for papers containing scientific research. Do not hesitate to check with your professor or copy editor with any questions before submitting your manuscript.
Style and Usage Issues
Style and usage requirements are not universal across all disciplines. When conforming to APA book review standards, keep these requirements in mind. Capitalize major words in titles of books and articles within the body of the paper. This excludes conjunctions, articles and prepositions unless they contain over four letters. Capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound when it appears in a title. Use the serial comma throughout your work. Place a comma after each element in a series of three or more items even when the last element is followed by a conjunction. For instance, “the students measured the height, width, and depth of the nests.” Use numerals to express numbers ten and above and all numbers that represent statistical data. For example, you would write, “Mr. Smith spent five years writing the book,” but “Mr. Smith spent 25 years writing the book” and “more than 5 percent of the sample.”
Debbie McCarson is a former English teacher and school business administrator. Her articles have appeared in "School Librarians’ Journal" and "The Encyclopedia of New Jersey." A South Jersey native, she is a regular contributor to "South Jersey MOM" magazine.