A book report should contain the basic elements, but a good book report will address a specific question or point of view and back up this topic with specific examples, in the form of symbols and themes. These steps will help you identify and incorporate those important elements in a process that takes three to four days.
How To Write a Book Report
- Have an objective in mind, if possible. Your objective is the main point you want to argue or the question you plan to answer. Sometimes your teacher will offer a question for you to answer as part of your assignment, which makes this step easy. If you have to come up with your own focal point for your paper, you may have to wait and develop the objective while reading and reflecting on the book.
- Keep supplies on hand when you read. This is very important. Keep sticky-note flags, pen, and paper nearby as you read. Don't try to take "mental notes." It just doesn't work.
- Read the book. As you read, keep an eye out for clues that the author has provided in the form of symbolism. These will indicate some important point that supports the overall theme. For instance, a spot of blood on the floor, a quick glance, a nervous habit, an impulsive action--these are worth noting.
- Use your sticky flags to mark pages. When you run into any clues, mark the page by placing the sticky note at the beginning of the relevant line. Mark everything that piques your interest, even if you don't understand their relevance.
- Note possible themes or patterns that emerge. As you read and record emotional flags or signs, you will begin to see a point or a pattern. On a notepad, write down possible themes or issues. If your assignment is to answer a question, you will record how symbols address that question.
- Label your sticky flags. If you see a symbol repeated several times, you should indicate this somehow on the sticky flags, for easy reference later. For instance, if blood shows up in several scenes, write a "b" on the relevant flags for blood. This may become your major book theme, so you'll want to navigate between the relevant pages easily.
- Develop a rough outline. By the time you finish reading the book, you will have recorded several possible themes or approaches to your objective. Review your notes and try to determine which view or claim you can back up with good examples (symbols). You may need to play with a few sample outlines to pick the best approach.
- Develop paragraph ideas. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence and a sentence that transitions to the next paragraph. Try writing these first, then filling out the paragraphs with your examples (symbols). Don't forget to include the basics for every book report in your first paragraph or two.
- Review, re-arrange, repeat. At first, your paragraphs are going to look like ugly ducklings. They will be clunky, awkward, and unattractive in their early stages. Read them over, re-arrange and replace sentences that don't quite fit. Then review and repeat until the paragraphs flow.
- Re-visit your introductory paragraph. The introductory paragraph will make the critical first impression of your paper. It should be great. Be sure it is well-written, interesting, and it contains a strong thesis sentence.
The objective: Sometimes it is possible to have a clear objective in mind before you start. Sometimes, it is not. If you have to come up with your own thesis, don't stress about a clear objective in the beginning. It will come later.
Recording emotional flags: Emotional flags are merely points in the book that bring about emotion. Sometimes, the smaller the better. For example, for an assignment for The Red Badge of Courage, the teacher might ask students to address whether they believe Henry, the main character, is a hero. In this book, Henry sees lots of blood (emotional symbol) and death (emotional symbol) and this causes him to run away from the battle at first (emotional response). He is ashamed (emotion).
Book report basics: In your first paragraph or two, you should include the book setting, time period, characters, and your thesis statement (objective).
Re-visiting the introductory paragraph: The introductory paragraph should be the last paragraph you complete. It should be mistake-free and interesting. It should also contain a clear thesis. Don't write a thesis early on in the process and forget about it. Your point of view or argument may change completely as you re-arrange your paragraph sentences. Always check your thesis sentence last.