How To Write A Critique Paper

by Kendra Cherry

No matter what your major is, you will probably be expected to write a critique paper at some point. For psychology students, critiquing a professional paper is a great way to learn more about psychology articles, writing and the research process itself. Students can analyze how researchers conduct experiments, interpret results and discuss the impact of the results.

While these tips are designed to help students writing a psychology critique paper, many of the same principles apply to writing critiques in other subject areas as well.


Allen's note:

The Reading section below is adapted especially to scientific papers. Yes, you will have to read and critique a lot of them before you get out of here, so you should pay attention. Papers for our course won't have the neat sections expected by Cherry's article, but you should still ask the same kinds of questions she suggests.


Here's How:

Reading

  1. Read the introduction section of the article. Is the hypothesis clearly stated? Is necessary background information and previous research described in the introduction? In addition to answering these basic questions, you should take note of information provided in the introduction and any questions that you may have.
  2. Read the methods section of the article. Is the study procedure clearly outlined? Can you determine which variables the researchers are measuring? Remember to jot down questions and thoughts that come to mind as you are reading. Once you have finished reading the paper, you can then refer back to your initial questions and see which once remain unanswered.
  3. Read the results section of the article. Are all tables and graphs clearly labeled? Do researchers provide enough statistical information? Did the researchers collect all of the data needed to measure the variables in question? Again, make note of any questions you have or any information that does not seem to make sense. You can refer back to these questions later as you are writing your final critique.
  4. Read the discussion section of the article. How do the researchers interpret the results of the study? Did the results support their hypothesis? Do the conclusions drawn by the researchers seem reasonable? The discussion section offers students a good opportunity to take a position. If you agree with the researchers conclusions, explain why. If you feel that the researchers are incorrect or off-base, point out problems with the conclusions and suggest alternative explanations. Another alternative is to point out questions that the researchers failed to answer in the discussion section.

Writing

Once you have read the article thoroughly, prepare an outline of your thoughts on the article. Use the following guide to help structure your critique paper:

  1. Introduction - Begin your paper by describing the journal article and authors you are critiquing. Provide the main hypothesis or thesis of the paper and explain why you think the information is relevant.
  2. Thesis Statement - The final part of your introduction should include your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the main idea of your critique. Your thesis should briefly sum up the main points of your critique.
  3. Article Summary - Provide a brief summary of the article, outlining the main points, results and discussion. Be careful not to get too bogged down by your summary. Remember, this section of your paper should highlight the main points of the article you are critiquing. Don't feel obligated to summarize each little detail of the main paper. Focus instead on giving the reader an overall idea of the content of the article.
  4. Your Analysis - In this section, you should provide your critique of the article. Describe any problems you had with the author's premise, methods or conclusions. Your critique might focus on problems with the author's argument or presentation or on information and alternatives that have been overlooked. Organize your paper carefully and be careful not to jump around from one argument to the next. Argue one point at a time. Doing this will ensure that your paper flows well and is easy to read.
  5. Conclusion - Your critique paper should end with an overview of the articles argument, your conclusions and your reactions.

Proportion and Strategy

It's tempting to make the article summary the largest part because that's the easiest writing. It's also very tempting to retreat into "I think that …" or "To me this means …" to prove all your points. Neither one will make a good critique. We won't be convinced of your point by a lengthy summary of the article, nor will we be convinced by a discussion of your own emotions.


This article is adapted from:

Cherry, Kendra. "How to Write a Psychology Critique Paper." Academic Resources for Psychology Students, about.com, 2011, psychology.about.com/od/psychologystudyguides/ht/critiquepaper.htm. Accessed 12 Aug. 2011.