Rubric for a book review of a novel

I want to share a rubric for book review that was developed by Rosie David, an outstanding graduate assistant in our International Studies program at Portland State University. Rosie improved upon a rubric that I had shared with her by rethinking the categories, and creating very detailed guidelines for each section. I hope that this may be useful to some of you in your classes. Prof. Smallman, Portland State University

Student’s Name: ________________________________________________________


Analytical Paper Grade: ___________________________________________________


Summary of the Novel   (700 words)

Critique/Review of the Novel                                 (400 words)

Connection between Classroom Materials and the Novel                          (400 words)

Organization of Analytical Paper

Excellent           (4 points)

The writer clearly summarizes the major themes and ideals presented in the novel while providing specific details about the characters. The writer includes a few excerpts (5+) from the novel with citations. The overall summary displays an extensive understanding of the characters, plot and theme of the novel. The author analyzes interesting ideas and questions raised in the novel and clearly explains why these topics were thought provoking.

The writer expresses his or her own thoughts clearly about the novel and discusses his or her responses and reactions to the novel in detail. The writer discusses the aims and intent of the book noting the novel’s strengths and weaknesses along with its successes and failures. The critique provides its reader a clear understanding of how the writer felt about the book and if it is a novel that he or she would recommend to someone.

The writer demonstrates a clear understanding of the key concepts discussed in class and throughout the course materials. The writer makes clear connections between the theme of the novel and the material covered in the texts and in class discussions. The writer supports his or her argument using several specific examples and citations from both texts, and the novel. Thus, the writer’s arguments are supported with specific detail, and he or she demonstrates a mastery of the course material.

The essay is clearly organized with distinct sections labeled, making it easy for the reader to follow. The paper includes a word count at the end of each section. The paper does not have distracting grammatical errors or spelling errors. The paper has clear citations, directing the reader to the material referenced. The paper has a clear introduction explaining the author’s objectives. The paper has clear conclusion that explains what the writer has sought out to do throughout the analysis. The paper follows the template provided on D2L with precision.

Good                (3 points)

The writer summarizes the novel and covers the general theme and ideas in the novel. The writer briefly discusses the characters and the plot. The writer incorporates a few (3-4) of excerpts from the novel with citations. The writer demonstrates that he or she has read the book in its entirety and has a clear concept of what the novel was trying to convey. The writer discusses a couple trends or ideas that he or she finds interesting without giving too much detail as to why these themes were important.

The writer briefly discusses his or her responses and reactions to the novel. The writer discusses the novel’s strengths and weaknesses and explains the author’s aim and intent but without giving a detailed account. The writer critiques the weaknesses and highlights its strengths while demonstrating that he or she has a general understanding of the material.

The writer connects the theme to the course material using specific examples and detail. The paper includes a few appropriate examples from the course readings and the novel to illustrate the relationship between the text, classroom materials and the novel.  The writer has demonstrated his or her general  understanding of the course material.

The essay generally demonstrates a good understanding of the materials used, but a few points are not clear or lack specific examples or citations from the readings and novel. The paper includes a words count and the end of each section with at least the minimum suggested. There are minor grammar and spelling errors but are not too distracting for the reader. The paper’s introduction explains the objectives of the paper fairly well and the conclusion attempts to pull together the main ideas of the essay. The paper follows the template on D2L fairly well.

Needs Improvement  (2 points)

The writer displays a sufficient understanding of the characters, plot, and theme of the novel but doesn’t go into much detail. The writer does not paint a vivid picture of the book and makes it difficult for the reader to decipher if the author has thoroughly read the novel. The writer provides one or two excerpts.

The writer’s critique of the novel consists of thoughts, responses and reaction to the novel. The writer only discusses one or two aspects/themes of the novel without fully demonstrating his or her understanding of the novel.

The writer generally connects the theme to the course material, although at times they could have used more detail to express ideas. The paper has a couple examples from the texts and the novel but doesn’t go into much detail. The relationship is blurred and the reader has a hard time understanding the writer’s interpretation.

The essay has some organization, but sometimes jumps from one topic to the next. There is no clear beginning or conclusion. The sections are not clearly labeled. Each section does not have a word count or the word count is below the allotted number. There are problems with the writing, including grammar and spelling errors. The paper does not follow the template provided on D2L very well.

Weak (1 point)

The writer provides minimal understanding of the characters, plot and general them of the novel and does not go into depth about the book. The summary reads more like an outline. The writer does not make it clear that he or she has read the book in its entirety. The writer does not discuss major themes or ideas. There are not quotations or excerpts.

The writer’s critique consists of a general opinion of the novel that is purely based on personal feelings that is demonstrated through the use of “I think,” or “I feel” statements. The paper does not sound academic in nature.  The critique does not focus on the theme or the author’s intent.

The essay has very little material that supports the connection between the novel and class materials. The writer does not demonstrate their overall understanding of the classroom material in relation to the novel. The writer’s ideas are difficult to understand and do not relate to class discussion, the texts or the novel.

Key details from the novel or predominant themes from class are sometimes omitted.

The essay lacks organization, and jumps from one topic to the next without any coherence. The essay does not have distinct sections. The paper does not have a word count in each section of the paper. There are multiple and major grammar, spelling and style problems making it difficult for the reader to comprehend. The paper does not have citations. The paper lacks an introduction and conclusion. The paper does not meet the word count requirements. The paper does not follow the template.


Submitted On Time (2 points)  Yes/NO

Word Count is included (1 point) Yes/No 

 Word Count is at least 1500 words (1 point) Yes/No                                                                                                         

Total Points/20


Note: Excerpts for the purpose of this class can be the use of quotations or a summarized thought presented by the author (think paraphrasing) with a citation.


Created by Rosie David.    Adapted from Shawn Smallman


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