ANOTHER MESSAGE FROM THE BOOK REVIEWS EDITOR
The Journal of Advanced Nursing continues to publish over 100 reviews of books and other media each year. This annual editorial aims to highlight some issues arising from the book reviews section and, on this occasion, to consider the pressure for space in the review pages, the standards of presentation of reviews and the originality of reviews.
The material for review comes to the journal office in several ways. The majority arrives unsolicited from publishers who value the reviews that appear in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, but a significant amount is selected by the book reviews editor due to its importance to nursing and the availability of suitable reviewers. There is no shortage of material for review and this is demonstrated by the length of time between publication of a book and the publication of a review in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. Reviews used to appear only a few months after the publication of a book. Unfortunately, some book reviews are now unlikely to be published within a year of the publication of their respective book, and this is frustrating for authors and reviewers.
A question of space
One step has been taken to alleviate this problem and that is the publication of mini review articles combining reviews and comment on several books. However, as no more space in the Journal of Advanced Nursing has been allocated to these to date, the effect has been minimal. As the number of original papers submitted to the Journal of Advanced Nursing continues to increase, there is no possibility of devoting more space to reviews. Therefore, further measures will be taken in order to maintain the book reviews section while maximizing its utility.
In future, reviewers will be asked to limit their reviews of single items to 250 words and mini review articles of several items will be limited to 1000 words. At the very least it should be possible to double the number of reviews. Reviewers will be expected to confine their comment to the contents of the items that they are asked to review. General comment should be kept to a minimum.
Being book reviews editor for the Journal of Advanced Nursing is a pleasure. The efforts of those who review books quickly and provide reviews that are replete with all the details of the book, including the title, the author(s) or editor(s), the ISBN number, number of pages, publisher, place and date of publication and price are greatly appreciated. In addition, when personal details are provided, such as name, qualifications, place of work and town, this is a great help. Such attention to detail makes a pleasurable job easier.
The book reviews editor has to ensure that, in addition to grammar and sentence construction, the book reviews conform to the journal’s house style and reviewers can help by looking at previous reviews in the Journal of Advanced Nursing and conforming to the same style. The same standards applying to original papers should apply to reviews. A comprehensive list of directions is unnecessary but there are a few helpful points. The first is to limit the use of capital letters unless referring to proper names. For example, job titles, such as clinical nurse manager or staff nurse, mentioned in the review, should not begin with capitals. Reference to chapters should not use capitals and the chapter number should appear as a numeral, for example, chapter 2. Apostrophes should be used sparingly and only around genuine quotes. Abbreviations should always be given in full the first time they are used.
While the management team of the Journal of Advanced Nursing is delighted that publishers and individuals value the book reviews section, we do wonder to what purpose reviews are being put. The pressure on the editors from authors of the original papers to publish their papers rapidly is immense and increases dramatically towards the end of the census period of the United Kingdom (UK) periodic research assessment exercise in UK universities. Some individuals make enquiries about reviews that they have submitted.
Units of assessment for research assessment purposes in the UK, however, are required to be original scholarly pieces of work with the gold standard being the refereed research paper. Textbooks intended for use in teaching do not count and it is certainly the case that book reviews do not count. Scholarly ability is certainly required to review books, but the activity can hardly be described as original when it is predicated directly on the work of others and is commissioned. This is not to demean the book review; rather, it is intended to identify its proper place in the hierarchy of scholarship. Book reviewing is its own reward in the sense that the reviewer gains a free book!
The Journal of Advanced Nursing always welcomes more reviewers. International reviewers are particularly welcome, as are reviewers who are willing to review media other than books, such as videos, computer software and world wide web sites. There are some areas of nursing where it is hard to find appropriate reviewers, such as disability and health promotion, and more reviewers in these areas would be particularly welcome.
If you would like to review material for the Journal of Advanced Nursing, please write, asking for a reviewer’s form, to the Editorial Assistant, Journal of Advanced Nursing, Blackwell Science, Osney Mead, Oxford OX2 0EL, England.