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POL 499: Senior Seminar [Winston Churchill]: Judging a book by its cover?

Senior Seminar in Political Science

The Search for the perfect book begins....

You need a book. That PERFECT book.

  • It has a compelling subject (Churchill).
  • It is about a topic you have become very interested in over the course of the class.
  • It will help you organize your thoughts & thesis around a SINGLE topic.

What is a Thesis?

"a thoughtful and thorough development and proof of one basic thesis or idea... A main point is not the same thing as the subject of the paper'

SUBJECT: Churchill's foreign policy towards East and Central Africa after World War II.

THESIS: Churchill's de-colonialization policies and delaying tactics toward East and Central Africa were influenced by his aversion to the liquidation of the British Empire and by the number of white European settlers living in these areas.


Critical Reading

Read pages 107-109 and 127 of How to Study History (Handout).

  • Notice how the authors walk you through two different books by two different authors, discussing how to determine the depth, bredth and scope of the work, as well as the thesis and subject. 
  • They focus a critical and evaluative reading of the first and last chapter of the book for a preliminary review.
  • They investigate the authors' background and possible biases.
  • They discuss the authors two different approaches to their organizing text.
  • Thoroughness of your evaluation  is "achieved by perceptive analysis, by constantly seeking seeking insight into nuances of emphasis offered by the writer".

The evaluation and selection of that "perfect book"

If you can locate and read a book prior to purchasing it, you will be able to make a more informed decision - look at the collections available in the library.

If you cannot peruse the book in person:

  • Read the reviews on Amazon for a general idea of popularity and readability
  • Read formal reviews available in library resources for a better idea of the appropriateness for your topic as a scholarly resource with a good "bread crumb trail"

Key words to look for in a scholarly review:

  • Well researched
  • Well documented
  • Thorough
  • Important

The abstract/description provided in the library catalog is usually provided by the publisher. It is more closely aligned with a popular review than a scholarly review.

A few books in the library (no you may not write in them!)