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Review Criteria

I have been reviewing books since 1984. During that time I have developed a policy which, I believe, allows me to comment fairly on books so that both publishers and readers can see what criteria I apply (I send reviews to publishers for comment before they appear on the web!).

Selection Criteria

Availability: Must be readily available in the UK;

Price: Be within the price range schools could afford. In reality this usually means paperbacks with a maximum price of £35.00;

Content: Contents should be of use to students up to undergraduate level. The focus is ecology and environmental science and the books should deal with aspects of these topics. However, it is often the case that more specialised texts have a wealth of information that teachers can easily use in lessons and these are also reviewed;

Review Focus: Reviews focus on the range of material presented, the quality of presentation and overall educational stimulation. This differs from the more traditional academic review because there is not the emphasis on testing ideas and hypotheses - it is assumed that most of the material is regarded as "standard" for that topic. A large number of academic errors detract from any book but a few minor controversies are not usually part of a student’s initial education (or, therefore, part of the review).

Publication: Before any review is published in any format it is sent to the publisher so that they may have the right of reply. This does not alter my view on the subject but might show an error in pricing, ISBN etc. In hundreds of such reviews only one review has ever been commented upon!

Summary Table Notes

For these web reviews I am using a summary table so that people can see at a glance how I felt about the book. Mostly, the greater the number of stars the better! For more detail on each term:

Target Readership - Stars don't work here! I use the standard school ranges: Primary ( age 5-11), Secondary (age 11-16), Senior secondary (age 17-18), educator and undergraduate. Books often have a wide range of readers. I have used as my guide the lowest age range that would be able to use the book. It follows that educators/teachers would be able to use it in their work;

Presentation/style - the flair with which the whole package has been put together. The better the presentation (diagrams, photographs etc.) the more likely the book is to be picked up by students. 5 stars here is an outstanding design and production effort;

Content - the range of material written about. This depends on the actual book but here is where I comment on the depth and breadth of academic argument. It might be that an otherwise excellent text gets a lower rating because it concentrates just on one area e.g. North America and is less applicable to the British teaching scene;

Literature - some books are written so well that they ought to be bought just to show students what good examples look like. Its also possible to find great material hidden beneath obscure language. This is where you see which is which.

Originality - how much of the material or perspective is "new" to standard literature?

Overall ranking - one star suggests a library loan; 5 stars is a must-buy!

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