Language and Linguistics

Descriptive review characteristics usage and examples

Descriptive review

descriptive review consists of an expository text whose purpose is to describe a work or an event. Reviews are commonly used in academic, journalistic, and literary fields, and are generally featured in periodicals, such as cultural or scientific newspapers and magazines.

In the reviews, a count of the content of the work is made. This count includes the main ideas, purpose, objectives, and other supporting elements. There are different types of reviews; in the area of literature, there are reviews of novels or other types of literary works.

From the journalistic genre, reviews can be made of cinema films, plays or various events. In academic spaces, reviews of research papers or textbooks are common. In any case,  a descriptive review should offer concise guidance on the content of the work or publication.

Although it is not a summary, the reviewer must have the capacity for analysis and synthesis. In addition, the descriptive review should be informative and have a respectful and level-headed tone. As for the style, it must be precise, agile, and clear.

Descriptive review characteristics

Brief writing

A descriptive review is a short writing that presents the relevant features of a scientific or literary work. It can be done from a written work (novel, poem, specialized article), visual (film or theater) or musical (group or performer).

Provides information

Its main function is to provide accurate, essential, and concise information. In this way, it makes it easier for the reader to understand the object reviewed.

Particular superstructure

The descriptive review has a particular superstructure. In general, the review begins with the title of the work and a technical sheet or an introductory heading where the details of the work are specified.

Depending on the nature of said work, the data varies. For example, if it is a bibliographic material, it will probably include the name of the author, publisher, city and year of publication. Subsequently, an exhibition summary of the work is presented.

Language adequacy

A professional review is characterized by the appropriateness of the language to the audience for whom it is addressed. Taking this into account, it will be more or less specialized. In addition, their topics are diverse and are determined by the medium in which they are published.

The observations in the reviews should expand the knowledge about the reviewed work. The authors are specialists in different areas of knowledge or in the media.

Structure of descriptive reviews


Descriptive reviews begin with the title of the work to be analyzed, as well as a technical sheet if applicable. This will vary depending on the work, since if it is a play it will not have the same data as a historical book.

In general, the title includes the name of the work and author. The technical sheet adds other data such as publication or publisher date (in the case of a book), producer, director (in the case of a play).


The exhibition summary of the work is also known as a synopsis, being a text where it is developed in a synthesized way of what the work to be analyzed is about and what precedents are noteworthy.

For example, if a classic of literature is analyzed, it will be possible to explain what the book is about and the fame that precedes it, being a fact that can be significant for the reader.


It is the synopsis in a more developed way and stopping in some details that are more interesting. It is the most significant part of the descriptive review since it serves to expose the main ideas that can be obtained from the work.


The conclusion is used to synthesize all of the above and to make the message that has been wanted to convey more clear. In turn, this section can include recommendations.


Part in which the person making the descriptive review and the means of communication, if applicable, is identified. You can include your education or experience as an encouragement for the reader to trust your judgment. In addition, the reviewer can include some method of contact such as social networks or email to dialogue with his readers.

How to make a descriptive review?


The first step is planning. To do this, the purpose and type of audience must be determined. Then you should make a first approach to the work and select the key information.

It is very important to identify the author of the reviewed object and collect the relevant data. The theme, main idea, and purposes of the work should also be determined.

Organization of ideas

Then you should organize the ideas and specify the length of the review. This will allow the text to be structured in a logical and coherent way. Preferably, the writing should follow the same order of the work.


Then the textualization process begins. In general terms, three parts are recognized in a review: introduction , development and conclusion.

The introduction includes informing the reader about the purpose of the review; at this point all the identification details of the object to be reviewed are specified. Then we proceed to describe the most important aspects of the work. To close, the conclusions are presented.


Finally the text is revised. This implies verifying that the purpose of the text has been fulfilled and that it is adapted to the target audience. Formal aspects such as writing and spelling should also be reviewed.

Difference between descriptive and critical review


Descriptive review and criticism differ primarily in purpose. The first seeks to inform about the content of a work through the objective description of its parts. Instead, the critical review offers an interpretation and assessment based on key aspects in the reviewed work.

The purpose of a critical review is to persuade through the reviewer’s opinion about the object of the review.

Information organization

The organization of the information in the two classes of reviews shows little variation. Although the structure is the same (introduction, development and conclusion), the introduction is the thesis (or opinion) of the author. This assessment is taken up in the conclusions.


Language, expressive devices, and tone differ greatly. Denotative language and objective tone are common in a descriptive review. Critical reviews are characterized by connotative language, in which subjectivity predominates. That is why qualifying adjectives and adverbs abound .

That said, it is important to clarify that the critical review makes use of the description. But also, a descriptive review implies certain criticism, since certain positive or negative aspects are selected over others.

Examples of descriptive reviews

Brief review of the book Angela’s Ashes

Angela’s Ashes tells the memoirs of Frank McCourt, its author. The book won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. It also earned first place in the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Boeke Prize.

The novel recounts the events of McCourt’s childhood prior to his move to the United States when he was 20 years old. McCourt grew up in poverty with his family in Ireland.

His mother, Angela, lost many children to miscarriages and childhood illnesses, and suffered from severe depression. His father was a drunk who lost countless jobs by not showing up. This kept the family in poverty.

In his memoirs, McCourt tells stories about the timeless antics of childhood interspersed with devastating stories of poverty. Coming from a family of fanatical Irish Catholics, McCourt also talks about the shame she felt in having premarital sex.

At the beginning of World War II McCourt’s father moved to England to work. After a while he stopped contacting the family.

McCourt’s book deals with the limitations imposed by social class, and some of his motives are guilt and anti-English sentiment.

Brief review of the book The Lies My Teacher Told Me

The purpose of this writing is to describe the book The Lies My Teacher Told Me by the sociologist James W. Loewen. Published in 1995, the text won the American Book Award in 1996, as well as several other awards.

The main goal of the book was to deconstruct the use of textbooks in American high schools and universities. Loewen explores the topics that history books often miss.

The author delves into the good and bad sides of such famous historical figures as Helen Keller, Woodrow Wilson, and Betsy Ross. He also talks about the racism and bias of white men who approve of the content of the books.

In part, this work makes a forceful critique of existing books. The author concludes that textbooks propagate Eurocentric views on the history of the United States. He also narrates his version of American history.

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