Interpersonal Aspects of Academic Book Reviews
: A Thai-English Comparison

  • Kamontip Klaibanmai

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The academic book review is an underrated genre. Compared to a monograph, textbook, research or academic articles, the review receives scant attention. However, it is a platform to provide feedback to the book’s author, develop research, writing and evaluative skills of the reviewers, broaden the body of knowledge to members in the discipline and possibly the general public, and increase citations. Still, writing an academic book review can be a fraught task because of its evaluative quality. Praising may not be burdensome, but criticising probably proves otherwise because interpersonal relationships are at stake. This study aimed to examine interpersonal issues in academic book reviews and compare these aspects between Thai and English texts in five groups, namely business and economics, interdisciplinarity, linguistics, political science and public administration, and religion and philosophy. Altogether 200 book reviews from qualified academic journals were selected based on various criteria, such as the year of publication, language, length and content. Then, the texts were manually coded in a qualitative analysis software according to the nodes formulated based on the points of comparison. Concerning evaluation, appraisal theory (Martin & White 2005), particularly the framework of attitude, was applied to extract positive and negative assessment with affect, judgement and appreciation for quantitative results, namely coding reference and coverage. Authorial presence and terms of reference were also thoroughly explored. For qualitative analysis, face and politeness theories, such as the idea of politic behaviour (Watts, 1989, 2005), face (Goffman, 1967 [1955]), participation framework (Goffman, 1981) and cultural-specific concepts were employed.

The findings indicated that there were more positive assessments than negative ones for the whole corpus. The Thai reviewers also expressed less criticism, which was probably due to the Thai cultural value of face-saving, criticism avoidance and khwāmkrēngčhai. Book reviews in political science and religion tended to have more criticism. While the reviews written in English were prominent in the use of first-person authorial presence, those in Thai were from the third-person point of view or utilised pro-dropping, which is one of the language’s distinctive features. Referring to the book’s authors with their title was unique, and a title could occur with full names, first names, surnames, on its own or as a pronoun. Identifying distinctions between politeness1 (lay notion) and 2 (scientific notion) plus face1 (cultural-specific face) and 2 (pan-cultural face), the study discussed how these concepts were applicable with academic book reviews. The research presented here confirms that, like many Asian cultures, face1 is salient in book reviews written by Thai reviewers, whereas any reviewers may have concern for face2 when they do the task. Ultimately, interpersonal issues are discernible in this type of asynchronous written texts, as proven by this study.
Date of Award18 Nov 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJim O'Driscoll (Main Supervisor)

Cite this