Writing critical reviews of research material can be a daunting task! In all likelihood, you will not be as experienced in the field as the author, and critiquing someone else's work can be somewhat intimidating. Fear not: quality and credible research always goes through a critical review or peer review process. Authors of research materials expect and encourage critical analysis of their research.
In writing a review of research materials, the first step is to skim through the article, making a note of any terms or concepts you are not familiar with. This step may require you to consult with an additional resource to clarify the terminology and to explain unfamiliar concepts contained in the research.
Once you have completed the initial scan and review, the next step is to complete a close read of the research. A close read means you are reading each sentence and paragraph, examining the deep meaning and purpose of the study. For many students, making an outline and recording the main ideas from the sections helps understand the author's intent. Whether you use an outline or an alternate note-taking method, it is essential when reading research to make notes and to put into your own words what the study says. Once you have completed this step, you are ready to begin writing your critical review.
Some students mistake the word "critical" to mean that they must point out all of the negative flaws in the research. The written portion of the critical review means you want to identify the main ideas and aspects of the research in a summary form. Once the summary is complete, the reviewer examines each of the points in the author's thesis and analyzes the evidence in the arguments for the author's claims. Is the evidence credible and supportable by other research, or is the evidence lacking?
The objective in a critical review is to validate the conclusion by the researcher or to present an alternate conclusion when additional evidence is suggested. Is there other research that confirms or refutes the claims by the researcher? A critical analysis is an examination of the evidence and methodology of the study. The purpose of the review is not to attack the credibility of the researcher. A critical review focuses on the research and not the researcher. In this way, critical analysis helps validate claims or put forth new ideas that need consideration.