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AT 1501 Introduction to Anthropology 2.

Critical Review

How to read

Everything you read must be noted. Make notes as you read, main argument, things
that you agree and disagree with, evidence, and conclusions. Don’t re-write the whole
paragraphs, but just enough detail or key words that would trigger your memory later.
It is suggested that you have 3-5 pages of notes per 100 pages of text, more and it will
be too much. Have page numbers for each quotation, important extract. Don’t just
forget about a book as soon as you closed it. When you have a minute, try to
recapitulate the main idea of the chapter you have read, main argument. Or try to re-
tell a friend who will not be bored by your research.

AT 1501 Introduction to Anthropology 2. Critical Review

Critical Review
●What is literature review?
This is your piece of work demonstrating your knowledge of a chosen book.
In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader/tutor what
knowledge and ideas were expressed in the book. As well as its strengths and

●Why review has to be critical?

kritikos (Greek) from krino – to judge, to decide

It is a standard approach to any research large or small to ask two main questions:
what have been done? and how has this been done ?
Critical does not mean negative.
Critical is decisive and judging. Be critical constructively.
This is not an account of what the book is about. Your tutors know this. Yet they are
more interested in the way you shape your opinion about the book.

●What is critical reading:

Critical reading is careful decision as whether to accept, reject, or suspend judgment.
Definitions of Critical Reading:

◊ making judgments while reading: how adequate is the author writing about the
◊ questioning the logical analysis and inference in what is read
◊ judging the author's intent or purpose; the accuracy, logic, reliability and
authenticity of writing; and with the literary forms, components, and devices
identified through literary analysis. Is he following the announced purpose as
described at the beginning of the book (introduction, first chapter).

Critical evaluation is judgment based on the quality of what is read regarding the
form, style, readability of the author.

AT 1501 Introduction to Anthropology 2. Critical Review

Critical readers:
▪ can reflect on the ideas presented in their reading assignments
▪ can evaluate and solve problems while reading rather than merely compile a set of
facts to be memorized
▪ logical thinkers
▪ eager to express their thoughts on a topic
▪ seekers of alternative views on a topic
▪ open to new ideas that may not necessarily agree with their previous thought on a
▪ able to base their judgments on ideas and evidence
▪ able to recognize errors in thought and persuasion as well as to recognize good
▪ willing to take a critical stance on issues
▪ able to ask penetrating and thought provoking questions to evaluate ideas
▪ in touch with their personal thoughts and ideas about a topic
▪ willing to reassess their views when new or discordant evidence is introduced and
▪ able to identify arguments and issues
▪ able to see connections between topics and use knowledge from other disciplines to
enhance their reading and learning experiences


AT 1501 Introduction to Anthropology 2. Critical Review

When you read ask yourself:

What is the problem or question of the book?
Has the author formulated a problem/issue well?
Is its significance clearly established?
Could the problem have been approached more effectively from another perspective?
What is the relationship between the theoretical and research perspectives?
Is the analysis of the data accurate and relevant to the research question?
Does the author use the correct language and tone: free of emotions, sentiments?
How does the author structure the argument? Can you "deconstruct" the flow of the
argument to see whether or where it breaks down logically?
In what ways does this book or article contribute to our understanding of the problem
under study, and in what ways is it useful for practice? What are the strengths and

In assessing each piece, consideration should be given to:

Provenance—What are the author's credentials? Are the author's arguments supported
by evidence (e.g. primary historical material, case studies, narratives, statistics, recent
scientific findings)?
Objectivity—Is the author's perspective even-handed or prejudicial? Is contrary data
considered or is certain pertinent information ignored to prove the author's point?
Persuasiveness—Which of the author's theses are most/least convincing?
Value—Are the author's arguments and conclusions convincing? Does the work
ultimately contribute in any significant way to an understanding of the subject?

AT 1501 Introduction to Anthropology 2. Critical Review

This is what it should look like

Any piece of written work must have: introduction, main body (discussion), and
conclusion. Academic work has to have a list of literature that was used in an essay.
This is what should be in your essay – critical review of an ethnographic monograph.
●Statement of the purpose of your essay
●Statement of your choice
●Information about the author
●Any other introductory information about the book: name of the publisher, place of
publication, number of pages. Whether the book has been re-printed?
●General review of the book.
●What is the main argument?
●What is the author attempting to describe?
●How does the author go about her/his task?
●In what way do the specific ethnographic examples or quotations used in the book
strengthen, prove, or contradict the main argument?
●What do you find most striking in the book?

●In your view, what is the single most important contribution of this book and its
single most glaring weakness (if any)?
●Your critical evaluation here may rest entirely on subsidiary arguments and themes
that were not explicitly stressed by the author.
●In the case of a weakness, how might the book be improved?
●As this is a work in anthropology, is the author's ethnographic fieldwork credible
and authoritative?
●On what do you agree/disagree with the author of the book?
●Evaluate how accurate or helpful are the appendices and index?
●Does the bibliography seem complete?
●Are the charts and figures clear and explained sufficiently in the text? Do
illustrations/lack of such help understanding of the book?
●General summing up of what was said above. Avoid repetitions here.
●Would you recommend your friends/colleagues to read this book? Why?
●Who would find the book most useful?

AT 1501 Introduction to Anthropology 2. Critical Review

What to do next:

●Write down a plan of your essay: introduction (sketch the idea), body of essay
(review, evaluation, details), and conclusion. Expand your sentences where you can.
If coherence is lacking, add linking sentences.
●Write in full length. Read carefully. Edit. Read again.
●Cut out/expand to the suggested limit of 1500-2000 words, with 300 used for
introduction, 200 words for conclusion, and about 1000-1500 words for the main part.
●Give to somebody else to read through if possible. Edit again. Check spelling,
referencing, and format.
●Before you submit check that you have inserted page numbers, entered title of your
essay and your name.
●Fill assignment cover sheet and submit on Monday 14 March in the allocated boxes
in EWB (1st floor).
This essay is formally marked.

AT 1501 Introduction to Anthropology 2. Critical Review

Alfred, G. 1995. Heeding the voices of our ancestors. Toronto, Oxford: Oxford
University Press.


Balzer, M. 1995. A state within a state. The Sakha Republic (Yakutia). In: Kotkin, S.
and D. Wolff (eds.). Rediscovering Russia in Asia. Siberia and the Russian Far East,
pp. 139-159. New York, London: M.E.Sharpe.

Allworth, E. 1990. A theory of Soviet nationality policies. In: Huttenbach, H. (ed.).
Soviet nationality policies: Ruling ethnic groups in the USSR. London, New York:
Mansell Publishing Limited.


Anderson, D. 1998. Tundroviki: Ekologiia i samosoznanie taymyrskikh evenkov i
dolgan (Tundroviki: The ecology and identity of the Taimyr Evenkis and Dolgans).
Novosibirsk: Izdatel’stvo Sibirskogo otdeleniia Rosiiskoi akademii nauk.

Bodenhorn, B. 1990. I am not the great hunter, my wife is: Inupiat and
anthropological models of gender. In: Etudes Inuit Studies, vol. 14, N1-2, pp. 55-74.

Galvan, J. 1999. Writing Literature Reviews. In: Retrieved 10 March 2004.

You can devise your own form of referencing but be consistent.