"Book reviews perform an important function for authors, readers, and the discipline as a whole."
Interview with Dr. Kevin Steinmetz
In this engaging interview series, Dr. Kevin Steinmetz, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at Kansas State University, and the book review editor for the Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology, discusses the importance of book reviews for the scientific community and explains how book reviews are evaluated for acceptance by journals.
Dr. Kevin Steinmetz is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at Kansas State University. He was involved in starting the Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology and currently serves as its book review editor. Beyond his editorial experience, Dr. Steinmetz is a critical criminologist who researches hacker culture, technocrime, racial inequality in probation, and other issues in criminology. His work has appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as the British Journal of Criminology, Deviant Behavior, Race & Justice, and Criminal Justice Review.
Can you provide a brief overview of the aims and scope of Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice & Criminology (JQCJC) and your role as Book Review Editor?
The Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology seeks to provide a venue for high-quality qualitative research in the discipline of criminal justice and criminology—a discipline which has struggled in recent times to provide viable outlets for such valuable and necessary work. As book review editor, my job is to (1) find new and noteworthy qualitative books in our discipline, (2) solicit reviewers for these books, (3) consider unsolicited book reviews, (4) edit and provide feedback on reviews, and (5) help prepare these manuscripts for final publication in our journal. The ultimate goal is to provide exposure for these works among an audience interested in qualitative criminological and criminal justice scholarship.
In general, would you please explain why book reviews are necessary to the scholarly community and what may motivate authors to publish book reviews of another author’s work?
While some regard such reviews as curriculum vitae fodder, book reviews perform an important function for authors, readers, and the discipline as a whole. The publication of book reviews gives readers an idea of which books will be valuable in the classroom, in their own scholarship, or just for personal edification. If the reviews are favorable, they can encourage readership. Negative reviews can drive readers away. In other words, book reviews can help “make or break” a book.
Book reviews also benefit the discipline. Good book reviews will not only evaluate the academic merit of the work, but tell the reader where the book rests within the broader academic canon. In addition, since book reviews are often available through major online academic search engines (like those usually provided by university libraries) as they are typically published in academic journals, they also help direct researchers to works they might otherwise miss. Many scholars begin hunting for literature in these search engines and book reviews uncovered in this manner may direct a person to books they may otherwise have missed.
Another benefit to the discipline is a little Darwinian—book reviews help the discipline as a whole separate weak scholarship from more noteworthy contributions. In other words, book reviews help save scholars time by letting them know whether or not a particular work is worth their time.
Finally, since it is impossible to read all books printed within a discipline, book reviews allow scholars to digest the voluminous literature in an abridged form. As scholars often have many other obligations that demand their time, book reviews help them remain relatively current in the literature without having to read each book in detail. As such, reviews allow them to remain familiar with the literature while dedicating their time more judiciously to particular works of note.
In your opinion, are book reviews generally keeping up with the rate of book publications in the Criminology field?
Book reviews are a strange beast. From my point of view, they serve a vital purpose in scholarship. They are, however, generally regarded—and with good reason—as a lower level publication. One of my professors in graduate school metaphorically attached dollar amounts to the worth of publications. Top tier journal articles were $100, second to third tier peer reviewed articles were about $20-$50, book chapters were $5, and encyclopedia entries and book reviews were about $1. While we can argue the semantics concerning the dollar value distribution, the overall message stands: book reviews are not considered particularly prestigious relative to other kinds of academic contributions. For some, this means book reviews are viewed as neophyte publications.
That said, many top scholars write book reviews. For these individuals, book reviews are often not thought of as a form of “scholarship” as it is traditionally weighed, but more as a kind of service to the discipline. To take time out of their busy schedules to write a review, the book must typically be something in which they are deeply interested and the journal/editor considered respectable. They know that if they do their job right, the review will benefit others.
Read the next part of this interview in which Dr. Steinmetz discusses how book reviews are evaluated for acceptance and more.
Disclaimer of Endorsement and Liability: Dr. Kevin Steinmetz and the Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice & Criminology do not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes, or services. This interview is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as an endorsement or recommendation for Editage.
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