A review essay examines a piece of writing, a film or some other form of art, but it differs from a literary essay in a couple of key ways. A review essay is evaluative. That means that its purpose is to tell the reader whether the work is good or not and whether the work is recommended. Also, unlike a literary essay, a review essay is not written for someone who is already familiar with the work in question. The audience for a review essay is someone who is wondering whether to spend their time and money on the work reviewed. A review essay may contain more plot summary than a literary essay, but it shouldn’t give away any of the major revelations or the ending.
Read Sample Reviews
Reviews are common in journalism, and examples of reviews of everything from movies to video games to computer software and more can be found online. Reading a few reviews of films and books from major publications such as nationally known magazines or large city newspapers can be a good way to get a sense of what is expected in a review essay.
Characteristics of a Good Review Essay
A good review essay will place the work in some sort of context. For example, a good review about a movie that tells the story of traveling circus people would briefly mention other movies about traveling circus people and how this film compares with those others or how it fits into the overall picture of traveling circus people that film has presented over the years. In a literary essay, this might be the whole point of the paper, but in a review essay, it would only be a paragraph or two. The introduction or the paragraph just after the introduction is a good place for this context.
A review essay is somewhat subjective, but it still needs to have standards and examples to demonstrate its points. It needs to give some reasons that the work is good or bad and it needs to support those reasons. This will help the audience to decide whether to follow the reviewer’s advice.
A thesis statement for a review essay should make an evaluation of the film and explain why the writer has made that evaluation. Here’s an example:
“Sideshow on the Road” is a terrible movie about traveling circus people with poor acting, an implausible plot and a boring, talky script.
The body of the review would then expand on these reasons to convince the reader to avoid the film.
The review itself should use specific examples from the work to illustrate the reviewer’s point. For example, the reviewer has complained about the poor acting in the movie. To illustrate this, the reviewer might describe a scene in which a character learns a loved one has died and seems to have no reaction at all. The boring, talky script might be illustrated by explaining that the characters spend a full ten minutes arguing about whether they took a wrong turn.
Review essays may be formal or informal and may be more or less personal. Depending on the style of the review, “I” may or may not be used. More informal reviews may use humor, sarcasm and personal stories to highlight points about the work in question. Formal reviews should avoid these devices. With tone, it’s important to stay consistent. If a formal tone is chosen, it should be maintained throughout the piece, and the same is true for an informal tone.
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