/LIT/Research Review

Dissect reviews in order to reverse engineer them: what makes a good review?

/LIT/Research Review


  1. Find well-written reviews.
  2. Dissect reviews in order to reverse engineer them: what makes a good review?
  3. Work with the rest of the class to create guidelines for /LIT reviews.

On Your Own


To prepare for class, please do the following:

  1. Choose one of the items that you read, listened to, or watched for summer reading.
  2. Search the Internet and find at least three well-written reviews. Focus your search on sites and publications that provide good, in-depth reviews. Examples: major news outlets (e.g., NPR or the New York Times or the Dallas Morning News), industry magazines/publications (e.g., Variety or the New York Review of Books), or websites dedicated to reviews (e.g., Pitchfork). Do NOT use basic fan or customer reviews from sites like Amazon or IMDB. You want professional reviews by professional writers.
  3. Read the review and take notes on it based on the criteria below.


Basic information about the review:

  • Title of the work being reviewed
  • Review title
  • Review author
  • Review publication
  • Date of publication
  • URL for the article (if online)
  • Length (in words) of the review

As you read the review take notes on the following:

  • What does the review note about the background of the work?
  • What details from the work does the review share? What details does it leave out? How does it deal with spoilers?
  • What does the review say about the potential cultural impact of the work?
  • What images does the review include?
  • How does the review handle documentation/citation?
  • Who do you think is the intended audience?

After reading the review, sketch out a quick outline of it. You want to be able to look quickly at your notes and tell the structure of it.

Lastly, take note of anything else about the review that stands out to you.


After taking notes on three reviews using the questions above, bring all of that together. Reflect on those notes and try to bring them together. Here are some questions to think about:

  • What makes for a successful review?
  • What “rules” must a good review obey?

In Class

In class, you will work with a small group to develop guidelines for writing good reviews. Then your group will get with the class as a whole to draw up class guidelines for what makes for a good review.

The first piece that you produce for /LIT will be a review of one of your summer reading items based on these guidelines.

NOTE: Hebert will provide you with at least one of the guidelines: audience. Your target audience for your review will be high school and college students.