Blog Improvement Project Week #11: Book Reviews by the Numbers

by Kim on June 1, 2009 · 11 comments

2009bip-150x210Oh man, am I excited for this week’s BIP topic! This week’s task is a content analysis of book reviews to get some info about reviews. How long are they? How personal are they? How many paragraphs does the average book review have?

By comparing book reviews written by bloggers to reviews written by professionals, I hope we can come up with some interesting stats to know more about what makes a book review.

The Backstory

This idea is something I came up with a couple months ago, but had to put off because I didn’t have the time to do it justice. Now that summer is here, I think we all have the time to make this awesome.

This task is modeled after an activity I did in a couple of writing classes. In order to think about how academic writing works, our professor made each of us break down a page in an academic article. We counted how many words were in each paragraph, how long each sentence was, stuff like that. We put all the stats together and got a picture, numerically, of what academic writing is. We could then compare that to our own writing to see how well we were meeting the conventions other academics use.

Doing this isn’t going to definitively say what is a “good” review — I mostly want to compare some numbers between professional and amateur (not the word I want exactly, but you get it) reviews. So, that’s what we’re gonna do.

Add here’s the task:

  • Pick a book review you’ve written that you’re particularity proud of. Then, search around until you find at least one other professional review of the same book. If you don’t write book reviews, compare a review of something else instead.
  • webpageWhen you have some time (I’d say 30-45 minutes) follow this link to a Google Docs spreadsheet (nice anchor text, right?). It should look something like the picture at the right (but hopefully with more lines filled in).
  • Fill in your name, blog URL, and book title in the lines. Feel following the columns and answering the questions as best you can for both of the reviews you have.
  • Once you’re done, spend some time thinking about what you’ve observed. This can be about the numbers, or it can just be general impressions of the two reviews. If you’re feeling excited, write a post explaining some of your findings and what this comparison helped you learn about your reviews or about reviewing in general. Leave a link back to your post in the comments.
  • For extra credit, find a few more reviews of the book you chose (another blogger, or a professional), or pick another book and add the stats for your review and a professional review. The more entries we have, the more I think we can learn.

So that’s that. Since it’s summer, I am more confident I’ll have time to go some analysis of our combined findings to see if I can get some numbers to compare. You can always go back to the link over the course of the next few weeks to see what others have found.

If you have problems with the link, please e-mail me. If you have any BIP comments generally, please do the same.

We’re almost half way through the BIP folks, congrats and good luck with the task this week!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Louise June 1, 2009 at 8:27 am

I am thrilled to be back in the loop and able to participate in various challenges, BIP, etc. I will definitely look into this one of the days in the near future, now that I actually have time and doesn’t have to feel bad not working on the thesis. :)

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Julia Smith June 1, 2009 at 10:58 am

This sounds really fun. I’ve never used one of those spreadsheets, but the BIP has been all about going where I’ve never gone before.

I do book reviews as a Thursday Thirteen event – because I get the highest traffic for those posts. I enjoy the set-up I’ve got for these reviews, and I’ve had a lot of feedback over the two years I’ve had my blog that I’m responsible for adding to many TBR piles! *high five between me and the author*

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Anastasia June 1, 2009 at 7:12 pm

Eek, that was fun! :D I wasn’t sure whether or not to include the summary and quotations in my count of paragraphs/words, though. I didn’t technically write them myself, but they’re part of my review. Um?

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Jodie June 2, 2009 at 6:45 am

This looks like fun (yes I am a stats geek despite a low maths GCSE) – I’ll fill it in tonight.

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Florinda June 11, 2009 at 7:40 am

This was an interesting task, although I’m not sure what it all means :-). I’ve filled in the spreadsheet, and posted about it here.

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Sherrie June 12, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Hi Kim,
I went to the spread sheet and filled in all the info, well I think I did it right. I have also posted my thoughts on this project, if you want to take a peek, it’s at my place, Just Books. Have a great day!

Sherrie
http://sherriesbooks.blogspot.com/2009/06/blog-improvement-project-week-11.html

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Callista July 4, 2009 at 3:04 pm

I’m really behind and just did a catch up post: http://smsbookreviews.blogspot.com/2009/07/bip-7-11.html

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Kim June 1, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Welcome back! I’m glad you’re back with time to blog :)

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Kim June 1, 2009 at 3:35 pm

I’ve never shared one, so I’m learning too! I think it should be pretty simple, but e-mail me if you have any problems.

That’s a good idea, meshing a review and a meme like that. I love reading a review and seeing that I influenced someone to read a good book — it makes all the reviewing seem even more worthwhile.

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Kim June 1, 2009 at 10:22 pm

That’s a good question — I hadn’t thought of it. Since you didn’t count the quotes, I put a note in the spread sheet for other people to not count quotes. That way we’ll be a little more consistent. Thanks for filling yours in so quickly, I was excited to see the spreadsheet worked!

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