While critical essays remain the main assessment method in an Arts degree, including English Studies, teachers can occasionally, depending on the nature of the course, introduce different writing exercises. This course asks students to engage with the genre of the book review: conducting independent library research they have to identify a book with a specific theme or agenda and then write a book review of the book. Having had guidelines and a short tutorial about how to produce a book review – which, indeed, asks for different writing and presentation skills than a critical essay – students are then assessed on how well they present a summary of the book, its agenda, its presentation, its language, the way it addresses a readership….
Students learn to engage with a ‘real life’ genre; they could imagine writing amazon.com book reviews or South China Morning Post book reviews. They learn to write in a different critical genre.
Having primarily written critical research essays some students find it difficult to engage with the new, different genre and produce book reviews that resemble all too closely research essays.
With more tutorial help, outside the classroom consultation and, probably, the assessment of drafts, students will hopefully find the shift from research essay and more familiar assessment methods to a new genre of writing easier.