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Book Report Outline: Writing Steps, Key Elements, Templates

01 May 2019

Book report can be defined as an objective summary of key ideas or arguments contained in a book. This task is frequently assigned to elementary, middle school, high school, college students in the US. It’s aimed at fortifying or verifying their abilities to precisely summarize and convey large written works.

Hence, learning to do it right is not only important for scoring higher grades but also for mastering these essential associated skills. Some of these skills should do with reading and comprehending content, sketching detailed book report outline by extracting key points, main body, etc.

Chief purpose of book report is to make readers familiar with book’s content in brief and efficient manner (so that he/she can decide whether it is of any interest or use without having to read this book).

What Elements Should Outline Include?

Book report outline completed for fictional works usually contain following elements:

  • Introduction made up of key bibliographical information – this is helpful in identifying written work you focus on, besides providing some useful contextual information.
  • Book summary or plot – this summarizes content, characters, main event or plot twist.
  • Description of main characters & most relevant/telling story elements/plot moments associated with them.
  • Overall book message & purpose as intended by the author.
  • Attitude towards or interpretation of book – this section allows to express your state, feelings, thoughts. impressions about this work. However, that unlike in reviews, where this is the most important and bulky section, in reports, this part is rather brief. To find out more about reviews proceed to our book review services.

Obviously, format of nonfiction book report outline would differ given that there are no characters or plots – in this case, it is ideas presented in each major section that is described along with other elements listed above.

Steps Involved in Writing a Report

Acing this kind of assignment implies mastering all related sub-tasks, like

  1. Reading, highlighting/making important notes. Balancing amount of highlighting is essential for it to be useful – you should limit it only to most important points and quotes to include them in outline. You might also be willing to mark quotes differently, to allow easy visual distinction from other highlighted sentences.
  2. Completing report outline by extracting main points from highlighted material, summarizing information, rearranging paragraphs to ensure smooth content flow. Page numbers might be included here to facilitate information retrieval in later. One could do this either on paper or on computing devices (even mobile phones), whichever is more convenient.
  3. Composing report itself using that outline for book report assembled earlier. Include quotes and numerous examples/details – these would prove to evaluators that you read text itself rather than its summary.  Use quotes for greater effect but do not exaggerate with these. Also consult your instructions – various citation formats would require you to indicate page numbers from where quotes are taken.
  4. Editing/revising/proofreading of outline – to eliminate mistakes, confusing formulations, unclarities, etc. If you’ve got ready essays/reports/papers you want to edit/proofread, use our online essay editor that includes grammar, spelling, task requirement check.

Read also: Paraphrase Citation: How to Not Make a Mistake

How to Write Report for Students of Different Level

Students at various educational levels have various abilities, which suggests that assigned tasks should be adapted correspondingly:

  • How to write a book report for the 4th grade – at this young age, students should be presented with straightforward strategies, ideally practiced outside this project, such as evaluating good or bad sides of characters, summarizing plots, creating report outline samples, expressing personal opinions. Illustration and practice on minor tasks are key before proceeding to bigger projects.
  • How to write a book report for the 5th grade – 5th graders are somewhat more advanced in their competences. If they had at least one report assignment in previous grades, they should approach more complex projects.
  • How to write a book report for the 6th grade – most elementary schools in US continue up to grade 6, hence, this is when students in primary education possess most evolved abilities, which translates in even more complex projects they can undertake (in particular, more complex readings). Also, these students are much better at individual work than younger ones.
  • How to write a book report for college level – obviously, in this case, there is a qualitative leap in comprehension, thinking, ability to summarize, and synthesize information that simply outshines those of elementary, middle, or high school students. College students can approach complicated projects based solely on provided instructions without much clarification, they can self-organize and find the best strategies to accomplish corresponding sub-tasks, like completing book report outline, character description, etc. Finally, they can explore very complex or even professionally-related literature.

Read also: How to Format Dialogue Correctly (for books, essays, stories)

College Book Report Template  

The college book report template provided below gives good sense of what content should be included in report, how outline should be completed. You can use this outline as a structure for your own report, or just read it for inspiration before completing your essay:

1. Introduction. Here, bibliography elements should be listed (author's name, genre, publication date, publisher number of pages, etc.), main idea of the story (along with occasional lines for capturing reader’s attention).

Example: “The book “The Big Sleep” authored by Raymond Chandler and published in 1988 (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) belongs to the detective genre. It focuses on degrading morals of many representatives in society, as a side effect of capitalism/consumer culture.”

2. Summary. Here, one should list: setting, atmosphere, time of events, general plot (very brief), narrating perspective, but also main theme/argument.

“The narrative is set during the Depression, in the 1930’s in Los Angeles and Hollywood – at that time, a dark, rain-soaked, depraved, dangerous city jungle (an atmosphere portrayed in detail). Detective Philip Marlowe comes in contact with wealthy Sternwood family as part of his job. Here, he comes to know the Sternwood sisters and becomes involved in a series of events, which he investigates, revealing dark secrets they hide.”

3. Characters. One should outline here main characters as well as their pursuits/conflicts. Note that this section is only valid for fiction books.

The central characters are detective Philip Marlowe (the protagonist from whose perspective narration happens) and the Sternwood sisters: Vivian and Carmen. Marlowe is a fairly young gentleman, formal and polite, with high moral standards – he is a positive character (a moral gauge), always in his quest for truth. Vivian is the elder sister, very careful with her looks but with a rather vicious lifestyle (she becomes somewhat acquainted with Marlowe) and who is protective of Carmen. As for Carmen, she is an ill-mannered, ill-tempered, possessive, vengeful young lady – a truly negative character.

4. Plot. This section should contain the overall story, listing only major plot twists, conflict resolution, ending. Note that this section only applies to fiction books.

Example:

As the head of the Sternwood family invites Marlowe to find out more about a disappeared relative, he finds out more about this family getting to interact with both Vivian and Carmen. After a series of adventures, Marlowe discovers that it is Carmen who killed missing relative (for refusing her romantically), while Vivian covered up the crime. Carmen even tries to shoot Marlowe, but Marlowe anticipates this and takes appropriate action.

5. Evaluation with Conclusion. The last part of report outline. Mention here whether you found reading interesting or not and why, what you felt and learned from it, what its strong/weak aspects are, etc. Note that this part should be rather brief, unlike in reviews, where analysis rather than summarizing is key.

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