Critical review - quick start

  • A critical review is an evaluation of an academic text eg: an article, report, essay or book. You are asked to make judgments, positive or negative, about the text using various criteria. The information and knowledge in the text needs to be evaluated, and the criteria that should be used can vary depending on your discipline. That is, management, sociology, information technology, or literature may use different criteria. All critical reviews, however, involve two main tasks: summary and evaluation.

    Summary/Description Evaluation/Judgement

    A description of the text:

    • The topic, or the main question it proposes to answer.
    • Why does the author think the question(s) is important?
    • The arguments (answers with reasons) that it makes.
    • The structure of the text or the method used to answer the question.
    • The evidence used to support answers.
    • The conclusions reached in the text.
    • Any further questions raised, but not answered in the text.

    Be careful not to give too much detail, especially in a short review.

    YOUR judgment about the quality or value of the text (for other researchers, or to practitioners in the field, or to students).
    An evaluation of the text using criteria, appropriate to your discipline.
    When evaluating the text you could answer some of the following questions.
    • Is the question the text tries to answer relevant, interesting, new, useful?
    • Who will find the text useful?
    • Does the text give new answers to an old question?
    • Is the text detailed, or brief? Simple or complex?
    • Is the evidence presented to support the answer extensive? Strong? Weak? Contradictory?
    • Are the conclusions reached final, or preliminary?

    Source: Language and Learning (2008) Monash University www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/quickrefs/26-critical-review.xml [accessed 23 January 2008] with minor amendments.

    Your reader will want to know that you have understood the article/chapter, and will see this from your summary/description. If you follow the outline in the left hand column, you will normally achieve a pass grade. If you are looking for a higher grade, you need to ‘add value’ to the basic outline, and include thoughtful comments on the sorts of issues suggested in the right hand column. These bullet points are suggestions – you may be able to think of a better set for your subject.