If your college professor has just assigned you a book report and you don’t know what to do, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we hope to give you some idea of what a college-level book report will look like. Since each college and each professor expects something different out of their students, this article is only meant to serve as a starting point to aim you in the right direction.
Many first-year college students can feel overwhelmed with their first few college-level assignments, so we hope that this article can help take some of the stress out of your first book report at college. Remember that your college professors are there to help you. We can’t stress enough that the best thing you can do if you are feeling overwhelmed or confused is to go ask your professor.
First Things First: What is a Book Report?
It is important to understand what a book report is before you try to write one. In general, a book report is a summary and analysis of a book. They typically focus on the general themes that are discussed and explored throughout the book but can also focus on the setting of the book, the character relationships, or any other aspect of the book that your professor is interested in.
A book report is focused on the book and its themes. This differs from a book review, which typically includes your opinion on the book, author, or themes. A book report is not an opinion piece and is always grounded in the text you are writing on.
Before you begin writing a book report, make sure that you have thoroughly read the book and understand the concepts covered by the book. It is important that you have a good understanding of the book before you begin trying to write your report. While you may have been able to get away with SparkNotes or a similar summary resource in high school, that won’t fly in college. Make sure you read the actual book and not just a summary.
What is the Format of a Book Report?
Writing a book report at a university level is different from a book report you may have written in high school or middle school. College level book reports tend to focus much more on the main themes and issues covered in the book, as opposed to providing an in-depth summary of the book. This means that the general format of a college-level book report will be different than the format of a high school level book report.
Generally, a book review should have an introduction, a summary, a thematic analysis, and a conclusion. Most professors will provide you with some more guidelines on exactly what they would like to see and how they will be grading you, so make sure you pay attention to what your professor says. For example, some professors want a detailed summary, while others prefer a paragraph or less of a summary. It all depends on what the professor is looking for.
The introduction of your book report should introduce the reader of your book report to the book that you read. It should include the title and author of the book. A good introduction should act as a type of road map to the rest of your book report and give your reader some idea of what they can expect from the report. Some professors like your introduction to include a specific thesis statement, while others are less particular about it; it just depends on the professor.
Like we said above, some professors want a detailed summary, but other professors don’t want any more than a paragraph. Make sure that you structure your summary section how your particular professor wants the report to be structured. The summary section is often the easiest to write, assuming you read the whole book, but it can sometimes be a challenge if your professor wants it short since you’ll need to narrow down the main points to cover into fewer words.
The main body of your book report will come from your thematic analysis. Again, your professor will give you any specific guidelines on what they expect you to cover in this section, so make sure you follow the guidelines. This section is generally the longest and will include an analysis of the plot, the setting, or the characters, just to list a few.
The end of your book report should have a conclusion paragraph. The conclusion should tie up any loose ends from your report and bring together the ideas you have discussed throughout the report. Since a book report is not opinion-based, try to make sure and not state your opinion of the book or the themes covered within the book unless your professor asks for your opinion.
One thing to think about when writing in college is to make sure that you are citing any resource appropriately. Since a book report is written about a book, ask your professor how they would like you to cite the book. Many professors have a particular citation format that they prefer, but others will let you choose. Just make sure you remember to cite the book and any other resources you used.
What are Some Book Report Ideas for College Students?
While many book reports in college are the standard written book report, there is some room for more creative expression, depending on the course and professor. Ask your professor if you want to do a more creative expression for your book report. Generally, a creative aspect must be accompanied by a written aspect explaining the connection between your creative piece and the book. This is usually where any written analysis is found, as well.
There are endless possibilities for what you could do for a creative piece, but here are some of the more common ones:
- A short film
- A photography exhibit or collection
- A dance piece that you choreograph
- A song that you wrote and either perform on an instrument or sing
- A sculptural art piece
- A drawing or series of drawings
If your professor lets you do a creative book report, make sure you run your idea by them before you launch into it. Make sure that whatever creative aspect you plan on making is closely tied to the academic nature of the book report and accurately represents the themes or ideas that are expected to be covered in the report.
Just because you are allowed to do a creative book report doesn’t typically mean that you have to. If you want to write a traditional book report, most professors won’t stop you. There really is no one right way to do a book report as long as you are writing at an appropriate college level and are covering the material that is expected of you.
How to Write a Book Report Outline?
Writing an outline of your book report before you begin is a great way to organize your thoughts while writing. You can even write an initial outline before reading the book to give you some structure to pay attention to when reading. There are many ways to make an outline, so don’t feel like you have to do exactly what we say here.
The most important thing to think about when writing an outline for your book report is what your professor is looking for. Most college professors will give a grading rubric of what things they would like to see covered in your book report. Use this as a guide to writing your outline. If your outline includes all the topics that your professor would like to see in your final book report, you already have a great start to your report.
An easy way to write a book report outline is to create a bulleted list of what you plan to cover in each section of the report. This is also a great way to help you make sure you have enough information to meet any page requirements that your professor may have given you.
This is an example of what a book report outline could look something like:
Intro: 1 paragraph
- Title, author
- Thesis statement
Summary: 2-3 paragraphs
- General setting
- Main characters
- Main plot points
- Common themes of the book
Analysis: 5-7 paragraphs
- Detailed analysis of the theme of your choice
- Discussion of how writing style lends itself to the book
- Placing the book in the context of the course topic
Conclusion: 1 paragraph
- Wrap up any loose ends
- Tie all ideas together
- End in concluding thought
Some people prefer to write their outlines in a different format, so if you are a more visual learner and thinker, feel free to make it more visually pleasing to you. Some people just list what information they plan to put in each section and organize it more once they write it. There is no one right way to create an outline, so you’ll just have to take some time and figure out what will work for you.
How to Write a Nonfiction Book Report in College?
A nonfiction book report in college is typically the most basic book report you are likely to write. When writing about nonfiction, you will be discussing the information covered in the book, which tends to require less analysis of the writing than a fiction book report.
One way to make a nonfiction book report more engaging and make your report stand out to your professor is to ground the book in the course that the report is for. Ask your professor if you can use other texts from the course to tie into your book report to make it more engaging. Some professors want a book report on a specific book, but others love it when you make connections with other texts from earlier in the course.
Generally, nonfiction book reports in college are much more structured. They tend to be the type of report that includes a book report title page, and a full works cited page at the end. Many professors will have a strict set of guidelines that you should follow. Some professors will even give you a book report template that they would like you to follow.
Another direction that you could take when writing a nonfiction book report is to look more at the author of the piece and their viewpoint. Examining how the author’s experience or expertise shaped the work they wrote is a great way to approach a nonfiction book report. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find your new favorite author?
How to Write a Fiction Book Report in College?
When writing a fiction book report, you tend to be writing more about the writing and the themes than the direct information covered in the book. This style lends itself to more personal interpretations of the themes covered in the book. A fiction book report can cover anything from an analysis of the setting of the story to the way the narrative of the story was told, giving you much more choice as the writer of the book report.
Some college professors will also give you more freedom in how you present your book report. This is a time where some professors will give you some creative liberties to make a book report into a creative expression. Generally, if your main book report is not a standard, written report, professors will require a written analysis of your creative piece, but this is often the type of assignment with slightly more freedom.
A fiction book report can also be more along the lines of a literary novel report. This could include some background research into the major themes of the book and how they fit into the setting of the novel. There are so many ways to write a fiction book report, so don’t feel boxed in by one idea of what information you should cover.
Examples of College Book Report
A college book report typically is a standard written book report. They can range in length from half a page to over ten pages. They can be written in first-person, second-person, or third-person. Book reports are not a one-size-fits-all sort of paper, but they do tend to include the common structural components that we’ve covered here.
If you want more help with structuring your book report to match your particular field’s accepted format, we recommend using the Purdue OWL writing lab to help you out. This is a great resource to use for any writing assignment in college. They have formatting guides and citation guides for most professional fields so you can match your book report to the field that you are writing it for.
Although you could find examples of what a book report looks like at a college, that may not be what is expected of you at your college. The best way to get a good example of a book report is to ask your professor if they have any old examples of what they expect a college-level book report to look like. This will give you a good idea of what formatting your professor expects as well as the style of writing that they might like.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Write a Book Report in College
The most important thing to think about when writing a book report in college is to find out what your professor is expecting. Professors will often have details on what they expect both on the assignment itself, but also in the syllabus that they gave you at the start of the semester. Read through both and make sure that you aren’t leaving out anything that your professor expects to be in your book report. You don’t want to lose points for silly things that you could have easily changed.