A critique is an objective analysis of a literary or scientific article that focuses on examining whether a writer supports the core ideas of his article with credible and relevant arguments and evidence based on facts. It's easy to get lost in simply summarizing the main ideas of an article without actually analyzing and contesting the text. A good critique reflects your impressions of the article and provides sufficient evidence to substantiate your impressions. Follow the suggestions below to learn how to write a thorough and impressive critique of an article.
Method 1 of 3: Becoming an active reader
Step 1. Read the article once to find out what the core idea is
The first time you read through an article, you should simply try to understand the reasoning the writer is putting forth. Note the writer's thesis.
Step 2. Read the article a second time and mark the text as you read
It sometimes helps to use a red pen so that your markings stand out. When you read the article a second time, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the author's thesis/reasoning?
- For what purpose does the author come up with this thesis?
- Who is the article intended for? Does the article reach this audience in an effective way?
- Does the author provide sufficient valid evidence and arguments?
- Are there gaps in the author's reasoning?
- Did the author distort, misinterpret, or use evidence objectively?
- Does the author provide a conclusion?
Step #3. Create a legend for your markers
Create unique symbols to distinguish between parts of the text that may be confusing, important, or contradictory.
- For example, you can underline important parts, circle confusing parts, and asterisk parts of the text that contradict each other.
- By creating a legend with symbols for different purposes, you are able to quickly make markings while reading the article. Even though it may take you some time to recognize your own symbols, you will be able to remember them quickly and therefore read through an article much faster than without a legend.
Step 4. Make notes as you read through the article a second or third time
In addition to coming up with a legend, it will also help you to take notes when you get extended thoughts while reading. For example, if you realize that a writer's claim can be refuted by citing a scientific study you've recently read, but make a note of it in the margin, on a piece of paper, or on a computer so you can share your idea later. can read again.
- Don't be foolish enough to think you'll remember your idea when it's time to write your critique.
- Spend the necessary time writing down your observations as you read. You'll be glad you did when it's time to present your observations in a full analytical essay.
Step 5. Form a general opinion
After you've completely read the article two or three times, evaluate the writer's overall reasoning and write down your initial reactions to the article.
Step 6. Make a preliminary list of possible places to look for evidence
Try to remember literature you have read or documentaries you have seen that could be helpful in evaluating the article.
Method 2 of 3: Gathering evidence
Step 1. Ask yourself if the writer's overall message makes sense
Test the hypothesis and compare it with other similar examples.
Even though the author has researched and quoted respected experts, you should analyze the message to see if it is workable and usable in the real world
Step 2. Examine the article's introduction and conclusion to see if they match and support each other and the article
Step 3. Search the article for examples of writer's bias
If the writer somehow benefits from the conclusions drawn in the article, he may not have been completely objective.
- Bias includes ignoring counter-evidence, misusing evidence to make conclusions look different from what they actually are, and expressing one's own, unsubstantiated opinions in a text. Well-founded opinions are fine, but opinions that are not supported by scientific evidence should be viewed with skepticism.
- Bias can also be the result of prejudice. Examine whether the writer has prejudices about race, ethnicity, gender, social class, or politics.
Step 4. Think about the way the author has interpreted other scientific papers
If a writer makes a claim about the work of another scientist, read the original work the writer refers to and see if you agree with the analysis provided in the article.
- Readers often interpret other people's ideas in different ways. Investigate the contradictions between your interpretation of a text and that of the author.
- See what other scientists are saying. If several scholars from different backgrounds have the same opinion about a text, you should give more importance to that opinion than to a line of reasoning supported by little evidence.
Step 5. Investigate if the writer is citing unreliable sources
Is the writer citing an irrelevant text that is fifty years old and no longer counts in the relevant field? If the author cites an unreliable source, the article is a lot less credible.
Step 6. Read the article carefully
Content is probably the most important aspect of the article when writing a critique, but don't forget the formal and literary techniques the writer may have used. Note unusual word choices and the author's tone throughout the article. This is particularly useful for non-scientific articles that, for example, deal with literary aspects.
- These aspects of an article can reveal deeper problems with the reasoning. For example, in an article written in a fierce, overzealous style, the author may ignore or refuse to cite counter-evidence in his analysis.
- Always look up the meaning of words you don't know. The meaning of a word can completely change the meaning of an entire sentence, especially if that particular word has multiple meanings. Ask yourself why the writer chose one word over another. This might reveal something about the writer's reasoning.
Step 7. Dispute research methods in scientific papers
If you're writing a critique of an article discussing a scientific theory, don't forget to evaluate the research methods used in the experiment. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the author describe the research methods in a thorough manner?
- Has the research been set up without errors?
- Is there a problem with sample size?
- Was a control group used for comparison?
- Are all statistical calculations correct?
- Could another party repeat the investigation in question?
- Is the experiment important for that particular field?
Step 8. Dig deeper
Use the knowledge you already have, educated opinions, and any other research resources you can gather to support or refute the writer's article. Provide empirical evidence to support your position.
- While you can never have too much good evidence, having too many sources can become a problem if you keep repeating your arguments with them. Make sure each source provides unique evidence or argument for your criticism.
- In addition, you must also ensure that you do not crowd out your own opinions and evidence by using sources.
Step 9. Remember that a critique doesn't have to be wholly positive or wholly negative
In fact, literary critiques are often most interesting when they not only disagree with the writer, but also refute the writer's idea with additional evidence and build on it.
- However, if you completely agree with the writer, be sure to build on the writer's reasoning by coming up with additional evidence or counter-arguments.
- You can provide counter-evidence to an argument while still claiming that a particular point of view is correct.
Method 3 of 3: Structuring your criticism
Step 1. Start with an introduction in which you briefly state your reasoning
The introduction should be no longer than two paragraphs and should outline the basic structure for your critique. Start by describing the strengths or weaknesses of the article in question and why.
- Do not forget to include the author's name and the title of the article in the introductory paragraphs of your critique, as well as the name of the scientific journal or other publication in which the article appeared, the date of publication and a description of the topic and/or the thesis elaborated in the article.
- The introduction is not the place to provide evidence for your opinions. You cite the evidence in the middle of your critique.
- Be bold in the claims you make in the introduction, and be clear right away about the purpose of your criticism. If you twist your opinion around or don't fully support it, you come across as less credible.
Step 2. In the middle of your critique, provide evidence to support your reasoning
Each paragraph in the middle section should describe a new idea or expand your reasoning by looking at it from a new angle.
- Begin each paragraph in the body with a core sentence that summarizes the content of the next paragraph. However, you should not get the idea that you have to summarize the entire paragraph in the main sentence. This is just a place to transition to an idea that is new or somehow different.
- End each paragraph in the middle section with a transition sentence that alludes to the content of the next paragraph, but does not explicitly state it. For example, you could write, "Even though Jan Jansen shows that childhood obesity rates are rising remarkably fast in the United States, there are some US cities where the rate has actually fallen." Then, in your next paragraph, you should give specific examples of these anomalous cities that you just claimed to exist.
Step 3. At the end of your critique, provide counter-arguments to your reasoning
No matter how well-founded your reasoning is, there's always at least one way you can give a sweeping, final twist to your reasoning or take it a step further and suggest possible counter-evidence. Do this in the last paragraph of the conclusion body to give the reader one final argument that will leave a lasting impression.
Step 4. Work out your ideas in a well-argued and objective way
Do not write in an overzealous or annoying, passionate tone. This may put off many readers. Show your drive by doing thorough research and expressing yourself effectively.
Step 5. Complete your critique by summarizing your reasoning and suggesting possible consequences
It's important to succinctly summarize the main points of your article, but you should also tell the reader what your critique means for the field in question.
- Are there any general implications for the field in question, or is your critique simply an attempt to see through another scientist's messy work?
- Do your best to make a lasting impression on the reader in the conclusion. You can achieve this with confident language to show how important your criticism is.
- Try to avoid summarizing the article at all costs. It is better to write a shorter critique than to attempt to fill the empty space with a boring summary.
- Don't criticize the style of the article or write things like "I liked it" or "It was poorly written." Instead, focus on the content of the article.
- Write your critique in the third person and present tense, unless the style calls for a different spelling. Always review the style guidelines before you start writing.
- Write confidently and be bold in your statements.
- Always double-check your writing before handing it in to your professor, boss, or publisher.