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45.How to write critical review of articles
1. Don’t try to cover everything in the article. Do give your reader an idea of the main thrust of the article, perhaps in a one-paragraph summary. But then perhaps go
on to explore the chief strengths or weaknesses or both.
2. Support your arguments with evidence. Don’t quote long passages from the article, but do refer to specific points (include page numbers). Don’t be frightened of
paraphrasing the author’s point/s. It is more effective to put these points in your own words than to keep quoting the article, otherwise your reader would be better
off reading the article themselves!
3. Consider the article’s theoretical argument/s. Ask questions about this.
• Is the argument clear?
• Does it explain some aspect/s of social life in a useful way?
• How might it connect with other theoretical perspectives you know about?
• Does the argument ignore characteristics of social life that you think ‘might be important?
• Does it support a particular perspective?
• If the author discusses other work, what do you think about this discussion? Is it useful? If you know the authors concerned, do you agree with what this article
says about them?
4. Structure the review. Cuba (1993) suggests the following structure, however feel free to come up with your own, BUT you do need to have some kind of logical order
to the piece:
a) Introductory paragraph identifying the article, saying what it is about (in general) and ‘giving some indication whether the author achieves the stated purpose’
b) One or two paragraphs summarising the article and relating it to its theoretical context.
c) A paragraph discussing the strengths, drawing upon other relevant
d) A paragraph discussing the weaknesses, drawing upon other relevant
e) A ‘concluding paragraph that conveys, on balance, your assessment of the
strengths arid weaknesses’ of the article and therefore summing up
whether the article ‘succeeds’ (p.22).
5. Read the article well. Don’t start writing until you have read the article thoroughly. Don’t expect to understand everything straight away. Everyone finds reading
theoretical material difficult. People read in a range of ways, but what helps me is to read the article through fairly quickly to get a general sense and then re-read
more slowly considering each paragraph and trying to ensure I have an understanding of what each paragraph is saying before I move on. It helps to make notes while you
do this second read through. When you finish you will have a list of points that the article covers. It may then be worth reading through at least one more time (more
if it helps) before you write your review, so that you end with a sense of the whole article as well as the specifics.
6. Work with what you can. If you find the arguments difficult to follow don’t give up. Read and re-read. Perhaps discuss the points with fellow students (but don’t
forget to write the work on your own). Having worked at the article, if you are still finding aspects of it difficult, work with what you do understand. Discuss the
points you have understood. Perhaps speculate about some points you think you understand but you are not certain about. Remember point 1 above – you are not expected
to cover everything.
7. Don’t criticise the author for not doing everything! It might be tempting when writing a review to criticise an author for what they haven’t done. This is fine, up
to a point, BUT remember there is only so much any author can do with a limited number of words. It is also worth thinking about what the author’s intention was in the
first place. There is no point in criticising them for not doing something, which wasn’t in their original remit anyway.
8. Rework the review. This is a basic reminder about any work you submit. Edit, rewrite and proofread as appropriate. Check spelling and grammar to ensure you are
communicating your review clearly.
9. Don’t forget to reference where relevant. You are expected to read other material, so remember to reference it properly. Also, don’t forget that you should,
somewhere (before or after), include the full reference for the article you are reviewing.
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