Review: SparkNotes, Online Study Guides

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As an English teacher, I do not endorse reading SparkNotes, but if I hand out a novel to students, some students will flat out state: “I am sorry, but I am not reading the novel.” After I twist their arms and encourage them, some will decide to read the novel. Yet, others will not budge as they have a mindset that reading is for total losers. I tell apathetic students that since they are unwilling to cooperate to find a summary online at

Take Note

Just a note: if students are unwilling to read the assigned text, in most cases they will be unwilling to even pull a summary off the internet. The oddity here is that sometimes it is students who have intelligence that are the ones who are apathetic and uncooperative to read the selected book. Students who never established a solid background in reading are those students who tend to work really hard just to pass, and these students tend to be the students who struggle in their reading abilities. They love to read, but they know that they lack the ability to read well.

Helpful to Students who Refuse to Read

SparkNotes has summaries of many novels, poems, short stories, and plays. It is a useful website that you may wish to refer students to. I tell my students about SparkNotes generally the day before we test on our outside reading project. This allows those who read the novel to enhance their understanding.

The notes are accurate but are sometimes full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. It is common to see typos as well. They do, however, provide students with the plot.

Each work contains a character list, a summary of the plot, analysis of the summary, analysis of common themes as well as questions that can be used for discussion or essays.

Apart from English study guides, SparkNotes also contains notes on chemistry, physics, biology, math, and philosophy.