Deconstructing a review of The Digital Scholar

2014-04-21 10.49.06In preparation for writing my own book review for the WrAP 1 unit, I’ve analysed the moves in a review of a book I am already familiar with. The following is a breakdown of Robert Farrow’s (2013) review of Martin Weller’s ‘The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice’ (NB Martin’s book is available online free of charge). I have also noted the discourse reporting verbs (DRVs) used in each section:

P1: Short sentence summarising aim of book. Statement on how author’s reputation/experience qualifies them to comment on these phenomena at this time.

P2: Author’s definition of topic/scope. Why this topic is interesting/pertinent at this time.

P3: Summary of author’s central argument(s), leading into limited praise: ‘Weller makes a fairly convincing case…’ [DRVs: argues, connects, argues] and mitigated (hedging) criticism: Perhaps less convincingly…’ [DRVs: wants, writes]

P4: Summary of book structure: common thread, outline of first three sections, comment on particular value of final section: ‘The final two chapters are more reflective…’, ‘the re-appropriation of Boyer… provides the core of Weller’s contribution’ (perhaps an example of limited praise?).

P5: Summary of specific chapter/section [DRVs: finds, suggests].

P6: Summary of specific chapter/section [DRV: argues]. Mitigated criticism (praise-criticism pair?): ‘Aside from X, the connection between Y and Z is not explored in detail.’

P7: Summary of specific chapter/section [DRVs: construes, respects, contends]. Direct quote (praise – agreement with author?)

P8: Summary of final section: Praises relevance: ‘of interest to the widest audience.’ [DRVs: argues, ‘puts it’, considers, stops short]. Direct quote (praise – agreement with author?). Hint at shortcoming?: ‘A number of different… although Weller stops short of endorsing any one in particular’.

P9: Longer paragraph of holistic comment, utilising the following evaluative moves:

  1.  Praise-criticism pairs/strings:
    • idiosyncratic v. portrait of a particular kind of digital scholar
    • Useful record of technologies used v. unclear how others might follow v. book not presented as a plan for others to follow v. more succinct guidance may be welcome.
  2. Abstracting criticism to a general audience:
    • ‘for readers who are lacking confidence or don’t know where to begin with social networks or microblogging…’
    • ‘more casual readers might have preferred to have this presented as a clear and distinct section of the text…’
  3. Hedging:
    • ‘this is perhaps to underplay the importance of institutional affiliation’
    • ‘The book might…have concluded with a clearer summary of Weller’s position or tips for engaging with open, digital scholarship’

P10: Acknowledges author’s position and mitigates earlier criticism further through rationalising the author’s approach:

“Some idiosyncrasies may be in some part related to the fact that the book was written through Weller’s blog ( and therefore connected to a particular set of Web 2.0 networks and associated communities (2). The process of composition reflects the fact that Weller’s commitment to digital scholarship is more than just theoretical…”

P11: Focused criticism of polarisation of content, giving several examples of potential downsides of the open, networked approach to scholarship which the reviewer implies have been underexplored.

P12: Mitigation of the above criticism by underplaying its significance:

  • ‘None of this really undermines Weller’s basic contentions…’
  • ‘Weller never glosses over difficult questions…’

P13: Positive final message outlining key strengths of book.
Conclusion with direct quote implies allegiance with the author.

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