Celebrating the underrated

Candles on a dinner table

Photo by Jason Meredith: Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/merfam/3072343485/ and used according to a Creative Commons Attribution License

I consider Thanksgiving an underrated holiday.  As it approaches I call attention to two underrated source types: book reviews and letters to the editor.

Often we ask students to find scholarly articles.  I show students how to limit for material from peer-reviewed journals.  The search results will still include book reviews and letters to the editor, since even peer-reviewed journals contain such items.  More and more I try to use these search results as a teachable moment.

Though book reviews and letters to the editor don’t serve the same functions as do full-blown studies, they have their uses.  Both genres involve the writer responding to another source, either a book or an article respectively.  They not only lead us to the original source, but can also raise questions about the source–especially in the case of an in-depth review or letter.

Deitering and Jameson (2008), as well as Davidson and Crateau (2000), write of research as a conversation.  In these two source types the conversation is made explicit.  Let’s draw attention to this exchange.  Then students can join it.


Davidson, J. R., & Crateau, C. A. (1998). Intersections: Teaching research through a rhetorical lens. Research Strategies, 16(4), 245–257. doi:10.1016/S0734-3310(99)00013-0

Deitering, A.-M., & Jameson, S. (2008). Step by step through the scholarly conversation: A collaborative library/writing faculty project to embed information literacy and promote critical

thinking in first year composition at Oregon State University. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 15(1/2), 57–79. doi:10.1080/10691310802176830