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8 Easy Steps to a Great Book Report

written by: Ashley Hansen • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 1/4/2012

High school book reports can be stressful, especially for students who have never completed one before. While it may seem difficult to summarize an entire book into a few pages of writing, you can use the following guide to take you through the process step by step.

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    Step 1: Read With Purpose

    Instead of skimming through the book, read it thoroughly and thoughtfully. Make a list of each character that is introduced and jot down notes about them as you read. Write down any major events in the book and locations of where the events take place. It's a good idea to get some small post-it notes or scraps of paper you can use to mark important pages as you read. Annotations also work well for high school book reports.

    To make your report really shine, use this tip: Mark at least a few passages that describe an important event or character or provide some significant dialogue from the characters. Use a few quotes from the book in your report - it shows that you paid attention while reading and it will really wow your teacher.

    This first step is a very important one. You may be tempted to read the book as quickly as possible to just get through it, but if you take a little extra time to read carefully, you'll find that you'll be able to write the report much faster.

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    Step 2: Pre-Writing

    Before you begin writing, create a plan of what will be included in your paper. You can do this in the form of an outline, or by just jotting down the first sentence for each paragraph you intend to write. If you know the structure of your paper beforehand, it will be much easier to read because each paragraph will have a cohesive thought process that leads into the following paragraph. Don't spend too much time on this step - it should be just 10 or 20 minutes of brainstorming that should come fairly easy if you refer back to the notes you made while reading.

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    Step 3: Title Page

    Don't forget to add a title page to your report. In the center of the page, write your name, the name of the book, and the class for which you are writing. You may also want to include a heading on the first page of your report that includes this same information.

    *Note: If your teacher wants you to use a specific writing style, such as MLA, make sure you look up the specific guidelines before creating your title page and header.

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    Step 4: Introduction

    High school book reports are easy once you've done the pre-writing and preparation.

    Your introduction will be the easiest part of your paper to write. The first paragraph of your paper should include the basic facts about the book. This includes the title, author, date published and a short summary of the setting and plot. You should also include the genre of the book and whether it is fiction or non-fiction.

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    Step 5: Character Analysis

    For works of fiction, you should write a short breakdown of each character. Give the first and last name of the major characters of the book, followed by a short description of each. Writing a high school book report requires more than just the information about where characters are from and who they are related to. It's important to include a few key personality traits or other facts that affect each character. For example, "James is naive and very generous, and some of the other characters take advantage of him" or "Julia is shy in comparison to her sisters, so she often goes unnoticed at social gatherings; she spends most of her time alone." Each of these sentences describes how their personality affects their relationships with other characters in the book. This is also an excellent time to include some quotations from those characters that demonstrate their personality. For non-fiction, use this section to introduce the writer and how they are related to the book's topic.

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    Step 6: Plot Summary

    Writing a high school book report includes the book's major events.

    Once the characters have been introduced, move on to a description of the plot. Refer to your notes in naming important events, and remember to note when the climax of the story takes place. Longer books often have a few subplot lines going on throughout the story; only mention these when necessary, or if your teacher expects a very long and detailed report.

    For non-fiction, the plot summary is where you can describe the story or argument made by the author. Instead of focusing on events, you'll focus on main themes and statements made in the book.

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    Step 7: Analysis

    Writing a high school book report requires analysis.

    You may need to analyze the key themes in the book. One important part of any fiction work is symbolism. If a certain object or scene occurs repeatedly throughout the book, you should take note as you'll want to describe this in the analysis. Whether it's blood, keys, rainy weather or apples, you should explain the significance of the symbol to the story and give examples of when it appears.

    Historical significance can also be a great topic for analysis. For example, if the book was written during or takes place in World War II, explore how it reflects the main fears or expectations of people living at that time. Note that you can approach historical significance in more than one way. A book may have been written in 1980, but it could take place in 1900. You can choose to explore either or both of these facts.

    For examples of analysis, check out these brighthub novel guides.

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    Step 8: Conclusion

    Your book report should end with a concise summary of the story the key elements that played a part in it. One helpful hint for the conclusion section is to use the end of the story as a way to end your report. By making a statement about the way the story closes, it will also help to "close" your paper.

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    Use These Tips!

    By using these tips, you'll increase your chance for creating a successful high school book report that will earn you a better grade. The key here is to take the time to read carefully and thoughtfully - it will save you loads of time in the end.

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