How to Critique an Article

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What Is an Article Critique?

An article critique is an assignment that requires a student to critically read a research article and reflect upon it. The key task is to identify the strong and weak sides of the piece and assess how well the author interprets its sources. Simply put, a critique reflects upon the validity and effectiveness of the arguments the article’s author used in his or her work.

The key to success in writing this paper is critical thinking. The task of every author of a research article is to convince readers of the correctness of his or her viewpoint, even if it is skewed. Thus, the only ways to distinguish solid arguments from weak ones are to be a good researcher, have the right tools to pick out facts from fiction, and possess solid critical thinking skills.

How to write a critique paper – In this guide, we are going to take you through the process of writing this type of work step by step. Before we move on, it is worth noting that the main purpose of a good article critique is to bring up points that determine whether a reviewed article is either correct or incorrect—much like you would do while writing a persuasive essay. Although the purpose is similar, the structure of the article critique that we are going to address in this guide is slightly different from the standard 5-paragraph essay; however, both formats are suitable for convincing readers about the validity of your point of view.

How to Critique an Article: The Main Steps

This form of assignment is naturally challenging and rather confusing. It is no wonder why students may begin to feel overwhelmed with figuring out how to write an article critique.

To help you get your task done with ease, we have prepared a simple 3-step guide on how to summarize and critique an article:

Step 1: Reading the Article

First of all, to critique the article, you need to read it carefully. For a better outcome, it is recommended to read the piece several times—until you fully understand the information presented in it. Next, you need to address the following questions:

1. Why is the article’s author considered an expert in their field?
What makes a particular author’s opinion sound valid? Is the author knowledgeable about the topic? What do other field experts say about the author? Is the article’s author covered in academic praise or not taken seriously?

2. What is the author’s thesis/hypothesis?
What is the main message the author is trying to convey? Is this message clear? Or are there just plenty of general phrases without any specific details?

3. Who is the article’s target audience?
Is the article geared towards a general audience? Or does it appeal to a specific group of people and use language that is only understandable to that audience?

4. Are the arguments presented valid?
Are the sources used by the author from all over the place? Does it seem like some sources are taken from places that share a cult-like vocabulary?

5. What are the logical fallacies in the author’s viewpoint?
Are there any logical blindspots? How much do they affect the outcome?

6. Is the conclusion clear and logical?
Did the author arrive at a clear outcome in his or her work?

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Step 2: Collecting Proof

The first step will help you read and understand the piece, look at it from a critical point of view, and reflect upon it. Now, when you have an idea about which way you should be heading in your critique paper, it is the time to start gathering evidence. Here are the main steps you should undertake:

1. Define Whether the Author Is Following Formal Logic
One of the key things to look for when writing an article critique is the presence of any logical fallacies. Establishing that the author’s general idea follows logic is not easy, but it is an essential step to coping with the task.

Often, undereducated people have some common logical fallacies. An example of this is to accept certain information based on the feelings and/or emotions it evokes, rather than focusing on the supporting arguments.

Here is a list of some common examples of logical fallacies with brief explanations of each:

  • Ad hominem – when the author attacks someone who is expressing an opinion with the goal to discredit the other’s point of view.
  • Slippery Slope – when the author claims that an action will always end up to be the worst possible scenario.
  • Correlation vs. Causation – when the author concludes that since actions 1 and 2 occurred one after the other, then action 2 must be the effect of action 1. The problem with such a statement is mostly because the author draws conclusions about the correlation between the two actions without looking deeper to see the real causes and effects.
  • Wishful Thinking – when the author believes something that is not backed up by any proof. This issue typically occurs when someone believes the given information is true because it makes them feel good.

2. Search for Any Biased Opinions in the Article
Another step is to evaluate the piece based on the presence of biased opinions. The thing is that people often pick sides of an argument based on the outcomes rather than the evidence. If the outcome makes them feel bad in any way, they can search for any proof that would discredit it and, thus, make them feel better.

3. Pay Attention to the Way the Author Interprets Others’ Texts. Does He or She Look at Others’ Viewpoints through Inappropriate Political Lenses?
It takes a lot of experience and many years of research practice to learn to recognize the fingerprints of all of the political slants that are out there. To grasp the concept, let’s look at the subject of animal studies. To begin with, it’s worth noting that some people become involved in certain industries due to their emotional involvement in their related topics. For example, people who write a lot about animals are very likely those who genuinely love them. This can put their work at risk of being biased towards portraying animals in a way that gives their topic more importance than it deserves. This is a clear example of what you should be looking for.

When reading and re-reading the article, find and highlight cases in which the author overstates the importance of some things due to his or her own beliefs. To polish your mental research instruments, go back to point 1 of this list to review the list of logical fallacies you can look out for.

4. Check Cited Sources
Another big step to writing a perfect critique paper is to identify whether the author of the article cited untrustworthy sources of information. Doing this is not easy and requires certain experience.
For example, let’s look at the Breitbart news. How would you define whether it is an untrustworthy source or not? To rate trustworthiness, one should know about its long history of distorting facts to suit a far-right agenda. Learning this requires paying a lot of attention to local and international news.

5. Evaluate the Language Used in the Article
Language plays a vital role in every article, regardless of the field and topic. Therefore, while working on your critique, you should pay close attention to the language the article’s author uses.
Just to give you a clear example of what you should be looking for: some words have cultural meanings attached to them which can create a sort of confrontation in the article. Such words can place people, objects, or ideas into the “them” side in the “us vs. them” scenario.

For example, if someone conservative refers to an opponent using the word “leftist”, this can be considered a form of attacking the messenger and not the message. A similar concept applies to a case when someone progressive refers to an opponent using the word “bigot”.

The use of such language in an article is a clear sign of logical fallacies. Authors use it to discredit their opponents on the merit of who they are, rather than what they say. This is poor word choice because the debate does not get resolved.

6. Question the Research Methods in Scientific Articles
This may not be always mandatory, but if you are writing an article critique for a scientific piece, you are expected to question and evaluate how the author did their research.

To do this, ask the following questions:

  • How is the design of the study? Are there any errors in it?
  • How does the piece explain the research methods?
  • Was there a control group used for this research?
  • Were there any sample size issues?
  • Were there any statistical errors?
  • Is there a way to recreate the experiment in a laboratory setting?
  • Does the research (or experiment) offer any real impact and/or value in its field of science?

Step 3: Formatting Your Paper

Just like any other written assignment, a critique paper should be formatted and structured properly. A standard article critique consists of four parts: an introduction, summary, critique, and conclusion. Below is a clear checklist to help you grasp the idea of how a good paper should be formatted:

Introduction

  • The name of the author and title of the article.
  • The core idea of the author.
  • A clear thesis that reflects the direction of your critique.
    Summary
  • The main idea of the article.
  • The main arguments presented in the article.
  • The conclusion of the article.
    Critique
  • Highlight the strong and weak sides of the article.
  • Express an educated opinion regarding the relevancy, clarity, and accuracy of the article. Backup your claims with direct examples from the piece.
    Conclusion
  • Summary of the key points of the article.
  • Finalization of your conclusion with your comments on the relevancy of the research.
  • If you claim the research is relevant, make a statement of why further study in this field can be useful.

How to Critique a Journal Article

So, you were assigned to write a critique paper for a journal article? If you are not sure where to start, here is a step-by-step guide on how to critique a journal article:

1. Collect basic information
Regardless of the subject of the article you are going to critique, your paper has to contain some basic information, including the:

  • Title of the article reviewed.
  • Title of the journal where it is published, along with the date and month of publication, volume number, and pages where the article can be found.
  • Statement of the main issue or problem revealed in the piece.
  • Purpose, research methods, approach, hypothesis, and key findings.
    Therefore, the first step is to collect this information.

2. Read the article once and re-read after
First, get an overview of it and grasp the general idea of it. A good critique should reflect your qualified and educated opinion regarding the article. To shape such an opinion, you have to read the piece again, this time critically, and highlight everything that can be useful for writing your paper.

3.Write your critique based on the evidence you have collected
Here are the main questions to address when writing a journal article critique:

  • Is the article’s title clear and appropriate?
  • Is the article’s abstract presented in the correct form, relevant to the content of the article, and specific?
  • Is the purpose stated in the introduction made clear?
  • Are there any errors in the author’s interpretations and facts?
  • Is the discussion relevant and valuable?
  • Has the author cited valid and trusted sources?
  • Did you find any ideas that were overemphasized or underemphasized in the article?
  • Do you believe some sections of the piece have to be expanded, condensed, or omitted?
  • Are all statements the author makes clear?
  • What are the author’s core assumptions?
  • Has the author of the article been objective in his or her statements?
  • Are the approaches and research methods used suitable?
  • Are the statistical methods appropriate?
  • Is there any duplicated or repeated content?

How to Critique a Research Article

If you are wondering how to critique a research article in particular, below we’ve outlined the key steps to follow.

Before you start writing:

  • Pick a piece that meets the instructions of your professor.
  • Read the whole article to grasp the main idea.
  • Re-read the piece with a critical eye.

While reading:

  • Define how qualified the author is on the chosen topic. What are the author’s credentials?
  • Reflect on the research methods used. Are the methods the author chose appropriate and helpful for answering the stated research question(s)?
  • Evaluate the results. Are there any signs of the generalizability of the outcomes?
  • Look for any bias in the article. Is there any conflict of interest or proof of bias?
  • Define the overall quality of the research work. Does the article seem relevant or outdated?
  • Pay attention to the sources used. Did the sources back up their research with theory and/or previous literature related to the topic?

Struggling to find the strong and weak points that can shape your critique? Here is a simple checklist to help you understand what to critique in a research article (separated by sections):

Introduction

1. Problem

  • Does the author make a problem statement?
  • Does the problem statement correspond with the focus of the study?
  • Is the problem stated researchable?
  • Does the author provide background information regarding the problem?
  • Does the author discuss the significance of the problem?
  • Does the author mention variables and their correlations?
  • Does the author have decent enough qualifications to perform this particular study?

2. Review of the Relevant Literature

  • Is the review of literature comprehensive?
  • Are all references cited properly?
  • Are most of the sources used by the author primary sources?
  • Did the author analyze, critique, compare, and contrast the references and findings contained in them?
  • Does the author explain the relevancy of his or her references?
  • Is the literature review well organized?
  • Does the review competently inform the readers about the topic and problem?

3. Hypothesis

  • Does the author specify key research questions and hypotheses?
  • Is every hypothesis testable?
  • Are all hypotheses and research questions clear, logical, and accurate?

Method

1. Participants

  • Does the author describe the size and main characteristics of participant groups?
  • If there is a sample selected, does the author specify its size and characteristics?
  • Is there enough information on the method of selecting a sample used by the author?
  • Are there any limitations or biases in the manner the author selected participants?

2. Instruments

  • Does the author specify the instruments used?
  • Are the chosen instruments appropriate?
  • Do the instruments meet general guidelines for protecting participants of the experiment?
  • Did the author obtain all of the permissions needed?
  • Does the author describe each instrument in terms of reliability, purpose, validity, and content?
  • If any instruments were developed specifically for this study, does the author describe the procedures involved in their development and validation?

3. Design and Procedures

  • Is there any information given in terms of the research design used?
  • Does the author describe all of their procedures?
  • Are the specified design and procedures appropriate to investigate the stated problem or question?
  • Do procedures logically relate to each other?
  • Are the instruments and procedures applied correctly?
  • Is the context of the research described in detail?

Results

  • Did the author present appropriate descriptive statistics?
  • Did the author test all of his or her hypotheses?
  • Did the author make the inductive logic used to produce results in their qualitative study explicit?
  • Are the results clear and logical?
  • Did the author provide additional tables and figures? Are those easy to understand, relevant, and well organized?
  • Is the information from the presented tables and figures provided in the text as well?

Discussion, Conclusion, or Suggestions

  • Does the author discuss every finding with regards to the original subject or hypothesis to which it relates?
  • Does the author discuss every finding with regards to its agreement or disagreement with previous findings obtained by other specialists?
  • Are generalizations consistent with the results?
  • Does the author discuss the possible effects of uncontrolled variables in the findings?
  • Does the author discuss the theoretical and practical implications of their findings?
  • Does the author make any suggestions regarding future research?
  • Does the author shape his or her suggestions based on the practical significance of the study?

Abstract or Summary

  • Did the author restate the problem?
  • Is the design used in the research identified?
  • Did the author describe the type and number of instruments, and subjects?
  • Are all performed procedures specified?
  • Did the author restate all of their key conclusions and findings?

Overall Impression

  • The structure of the article – Is the work organized properly? Are all titles, sections, subsections, and paragraphs organized logically?
  • The author’s style and thinking – Is the author’s style and thinking easy to understand, clear, and logical?

As you go through all of these steps, you can transition to writing. When writing your critique paper, you should make a critical evaluation of the research article you have read and use the evidence collected from the piece. To help you structure your research article critique properly, here is a sample outline of a critique of research for the article The Effects of Early Education on Children’s Competence in Elementary School:

1. Bibliographic Information

  • Author(s): M. B. Bronson, D. E. Pierson & T. Tivnan
  • Title: The Effects of Early Education on Children’s Competence in Elementary School
  • Year of publication: 1984
  • Source: Evaluation Review, 8(5), 143-155

2. Summary of the Article

  • Problem statement: Do early childhood education programs have significant and long-term impacts on kids’ competencies in elementary school?
  • Background: To perform well in elementary school, children need to possess a variety of competencies.
  • Hypothesis: Early childhood education programs decrease the rate of children who fall below the minimal competencies defined as necessary for effective performance in the second grade.
  • Dependent Variables: mastery skills, social skills, and use of time; Independent Variables: Brookline Early Education Program; Controlled Variables: mother’s level of education.
  • Research Design: A Quasi-experimental design, with a post-test only comparison group design, with no random selection of children, assignment to treatment, or control group.
  • Sampling: The study engaged 169 students into the BEEP program. Students were selected randomly from the same second-grade classrooms and matched by gender. Also, the group was divided into children who continued their BEEP program (104) and those who moved elsewhere but were still tracked (65).
  • Instrumentation: For the research, the authors used a specially developed tool – the Executive Skill Profile – to help detect and track students’ mastery, social, and time use skills.
  • Collection/Ethics: The observation took place in Spring, during the students’ second-grade year. On different days (between three and six weeks apart) the observers recorded behaviors of all children for six 10-minute periods. Duration and frequency of behaviors were also recorded.
  • Data analysis: The researchers conducted a series of tests to examine any significant changes in mastery, social, and time use skills between matched pairs of children (those who were engaged in BEEP and those who moved elsewhere).
  • Authors’ findings: The study showed that children who were engaged in the BEEP program performed better on tests and showed better mastery and social skills. There were no significant changes in students’ time use skills. The early education program made a difference at all three levels of treatment for students whose mothers have college educations. However, the same program made a difference only at the most intense level for students whose mothers don’t have college educations.

3. Critique

  • Possible Threats to the Internal Validity
    • History: Was not controlled as the comparison children may have not spent their entire lives in the same area as the treatment students.
    • Maturation: Controlled. Students were matched by gender and grade.
    • Testing: The observers recorded students’ behaviors within 3-to-6 week periods. This fact may have influenced their behaviors.
    • Instrumentation: The tool used may have been a subject to bias from the observers’ perspective.
    • Selection bias: All selected students volunteered to participate in the study. Thus, the findings could be affected by self-selection.
    • Experimental mortality: Students who left the area were still tracked as a part of the treatment group, though they should have been evaluated separately.
    • Design contamination: It is possible that children in the comparison group learned skills from the students in the treatment group since they all were from the same classroom.
  • Possible Threats to External Validity
    • Unique features of the program: The program was available both for community residents and non-residents.
    • Experimental arrangements: Brooklin is an affluent community, unlike many others.

4. Conclusion

  • Is the reviewed article useful?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Do the findings of the study look convincing? Explain.
  • Does the study have any significance and/or practical value for its respective field of science?

Article Critique Example

Now, as you know how to write this type of assignment step by step, we are going to share an example of journal article critique to help you grasp the idea of how the finished work should look.

“The education system cannot address what it does not acknowledge”
(Shewchuk, and Cooper 942). Ontario, a province in Canada, understands this and has come up with an initiative and policies to improve equity in their schools. To achieve this, they have implemented an Equity and Inclusive Education (EIE) strategy. The practical purpose for EIE strategy is to ensure that in Ontario there is inclusive education, in which there are no biases, barriers, or power dynamics that discourages student learning possibilities. Acknowledging a problem and committing to finding its solution is the first step an administration can do to be supportive of their education system. However, the proper thought, research, and policy guidelines should be formulated to ensure the policies and strategy are inclusive of the potential issues, and have room for expansion. The procedures proposed are religious accommodative, anti-discrimination, and harassment of any kind. The policy should have a sound technique of how it will be implemented and reviewed and monitored after. Ontario has done just that, and the purpose of this article is to evaluate how well the equity program has been implemented in the province in attempts to foster equity in schools.

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