Guidelines for Book Presentations

  1. The purpose of the book presentation is to educate your fellow students.  As there is not time enough during a semester to read as many books as we need to understand the course material, assigning book presentations amounts to cooperative education.  (Many hands make light work.)  Thus, the two primary rules are:
    • Know your stuff. Everyone on the team has to know the whole book, and any member of the team should be able to do any part of the presentation.
    • Present it well. Make your presentation clear, coherent, and entertaining.  Think about how you learn best, and then teach that way.
  2. Presentations that put your audience to sleep lose points.  Presentations that just divide up the book’s chapters get an automatic “F”.
  3. Your presentation should include:
    • A clear statement of the author’s central point in writing this book.  What is s/he trying to say?  Why us s/he trying to say it?
    • A clear outline of the book’s argument.  What line of reasoning does the author present? (NB: the logic of an author’s argument seldom follows her/his chapter structure.)
    • A clear description of the data that the author presents to support this argument.  What facts does the author provide, and why?
    • A brief evaluation of the author’s argument, data, and conclusions.  How well does it all hang together?  Are there any logical flaws?  What alternate interpretations might one make of the data?
    • A brief discussion of the implications of this study.  What light does this study shed on questions the author does not address?  What are its implications for public or private policy?  What further research does it suggest — and why?
  4. Two suggestions:
    • Handouts & visual aids help, though just reading PowerPoints is boring boring boring.
    • So does audience involvement — but not in place of intellectual content.  (I am so tired of talking heads and quiz shows!)
  5. I am happy to meet with your group before the presentation, to give you advice about your plans.  Please don’t expect this at the last minute, though; you need to plan early enough so that I can fit you into my schedule.


After your presentation, your group should make an appointment with me to get oral feedback.  I shall not provide written feedback, but I do take notes on your presentation and I will to share my impressions and suggestions with you. — JS