How to Critique a Review Paper
Whether you are a peer or a teacher, critiquing a review paper is an important duty for you and an important rite in the author's advancement as a writer. It can be an honor and a privilege; but it's not ceremonial, it's serious. As critic, you're to pick apart the review paper and outline trouble areas, explaining how they could be better presented. Not only are you to critique the writer's grammar, syntax and style -- concepts with established rules -- you must look at the writer's work from various facets of the big picture, a task fraught with nuance and subjectivity.
Check the strength of the paper by reviewing whether the writer's information is concise and consistent, and whether it includes important research data. The information presented should also be in proper sequence. Also, determine whether the writer's ideas segue smoothly into the conclusion.
Look to see if the information provided by the writer is relevant to the subject he's reviewing. The writer's findings should be coherent and well blended. The information presented by the writer should explain the topic without causing the reader to draw up too many questions.
Check to see if the conclusion consolidates the information provided in the body of the review paper. The conclusion should not introduce new data or results but should provide an ending to the topic discussion.
Check the paper for contradictory statements or contradictory elements. Make notations to the writer so he can revisit, clarify or revise.
Double-check any data, evidence or examples provided by the author to make sure the information doesn't contain flaws in interpretation. Also, determine if the data, evidence or examples support the conclusion or idea. Make sure the evidence provided comes from credible and reliable sources. Ask yourself if you can understand how the evidence relates to the conclusion.
Determine whether enough information is presented to accurately arrive at the conclusion.
Make sure the review flows well and presents the author’s reasoning in a clear manner.
Look for ambiguous phrases and words and think about how they could be clarified.
Providing Criticism in a Constructive Manner
Explain your understanding of the review paper by using phrases such as “From what I understand, the main focus in this section is...” This way the author won’t take your opinion as an attack or misinterpret the point you’re making, or think you're a know-it-all.
Ask the author to clarify any areas you don’t understand. You could ask questions like, “What is the purpose of this section?” or “Why is this example important?”
Point out areas that seem unrelated or unnecessary to the topic, why some passages don’t fit into the paper and if any information provided isn’t supported. Instead of just saying something is "wrong," explain why it is and give examples of ways to correct it.
- The University of Ottawa states that when critiquing a review paper you shouldn't look only for grammatical errors and flaws in the author’s ideas, you should determine whether the ideas are solid and communicated well.
- Remember that the point of critiquing the paper is to help the author strengthen her writing skills.
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