You are on page 1of 6

CRITICALWRITINGWORKSHOP

PurposeofaCriticalReview
Thecriticalreviewisawritingtaskthatasksyoutosummariseandevaluateatext.Thecritical
reviewcanbeofabook,achapter,orajournalarticle.Writingthecriticalreviewusuallyrequires
youtoreadtheselectedtextindetailandtoalsoreadotherrelatedtextssothatyoucanpresent
afairandreasonableevaluationoftheselectedtext.
Whatismeantbycritical?
Atuniversity,tobecriticaldoesnotmeantocriticiseinanegativemanner.Ratheritrequiresyou
toquestiontheinformationandopinionsinatextandpresentyourevaluationorjudgementof
thetext.Todothiswell,youshouldattempttounderstandthetopicfromdifferentperspectives
(i.e.readrelatedtexts)andinrelationtothetheories,approachesandframeworksinyourcourse.
Whatismeantbyevaluationorjudgement?
Hereyoudecidethestrengthsandweaknessesofatext.Thisisusuallybasedonspecificcriteria.
Evaluatingrequiresanunderstandingofnotjustthecontentofthetext,butalsoanunderstanding
ofatextspurpose,theintendedaudienceandwhyitisstructuredthewayitis.
Whatismeantbyanalysis?
Analysingrequiresseparatingthecontentandconceptsofatextintotheirmaincomponentsand
thenunderstandinghowtheseinterrelate,connectandpossiblyinfluenceeachother.
StructureofaCriticalReview
Criticalreviews,bothshort(onepage)andlong(fourpages),usuallyhaveasimilarstructure.
Checkyourassignmentinstructionsforformattingandstructuralspecifications.Headingsare
usuallyoptionalforlongerreviewsandcanbehelpfulforthereader.
Introduction
Thelengthofanintroductionisusuallyoneparagraphforajournalarticlereviewandtwoorthree
paragraphsforalongerbookreview.Includeafewopeningsentencesthatannouncetheauthor(s)
andthetitle,andbrieflyexplainthetopicofthetext.Presenttheaimofthetextandsummarise
themainfindingorkeyargument.Concludetheintroductionwithabriefstatementofyour
evaluationofthetext.Thiscanbeapositiveornegativeevaluationor,asisusuallythecase,a
mixedresponse.
Summary
Presentasummaryofthekeypointsalongwithalimitednumberofexamples.Youcanalsobriefly
explaintheauthorspurpose/intentionsthroughoutthetextandyoumaybrieflydescribehowthe
textisorganised.Thesummaryshouldonlymakeupaboutathirdofthecriticalreview.

Critique
Thecritiqueshouldbeabalanceddiscussionandevaluationofthestrengths,weaknessand
notablefeaturesofthetext.Remembertobaseyourdiscussiononspecificcriteria.Goodreviews
alsoincludeothersourcestosupportyourevaluation(remembertoreference).
Youcanchoosehowtosequenceyourcritique.Herearesomeexamplestogetyoustarted:

Mostimportanttoleastimportantconclusionsyoumakeaboutthetext.

Ifyourcritiqueismorepositivethannegative,thenpresentthenegativepointsfirstand
thepositivelast.

Ifyourcritiqueismorenegativethanpositive,thenpresentthepositivepointsfirstandthe
negativelast.

Iftherearebothstrengthsandweaknessforeachcriterionyouuse,youneedtodecide
overallwhatyourjudgementis.Forexample,youmaywanttocommentonakeyideain
thetextandhavebothpositiveandnegativecomments.Youcouldbeginbystatingwhatis
goodabouttheideaandthenconcedeandexplainhowitislimitedinsomeway.While
thisexampleshowsamixedevaluation,overallyouareprobablybeingmorenegativethan
positive.

Inlongreviews,youcanaddresseachcriteriayouchooseinaparagraph,includingboth
negativeandpositivepoints.Forveryshortcriticalreviews(onepageorless)whereyour
commentswillbebriefer,includeaparagraphofpositiveaspectsandanotherofnegative.

Youcanalsoincluderecommendationsforhowthetextcanbeimprovedintermsofideas,
researchapproach;theoriesorframeworksusedcanalsobeincludedinthecritique
section.

Conclusion
Thisisusuallyaveryshortparagraph.

Restateyouroverallopinionofthetext.

Brieflypresentrecommendations.

Ifnecessarysomefurtherqualificationorexplanationofyourjudgementcanbeincluded.
Thiscanhelpyourcritiquesoundfairandreasonable.

References
Ifyouhaveusedothersourcesinyoureviewyoushouldalsoincludealistofreferencesattheend
ofthereview.

Summarisingandparaphrasingforthecriticalreview
Summarisingandparaphrasingareessentialskillsforacademicwritingandinparticular,the
criticalreview.Tosummarisemeanstoreduceatexttoitsmainpointsanditsmostimportant
ideas.Thelengthofyoursummaryforacriticalreviewshouldonlybeaboutonequartertoone
thirdofthewholecriticalreview.Thebestwaytosummariseisto:
1. Scanthetext.Lookforinformationthatcanbededucedfromtheintroduction,conclusion
andthetitleandheadings.Whatdothesetellyouaboutthemainpointsofthearticle?
2. Locatethetopicsentencesandhighlightthemainpointsasyouread.
3. Rereadthetextandmakeseparatenotesofthemainpoints.Examplesandevidencedo
notneedtobeincludedatthisstage.Usuallytheyareusedselectivelyinyourcritique.
Paraphrasingmeansputtingitintoyourownwords.Paraphrasingoffersanalternativetousing
directquotationsinyoursummary(andthecritique)andcanbeanefficientwaytointegrateyour
summarynotes.Thebestwaytoparaphraseisto:
1. Reviewyoursummarynotes
2. Rewritetheminyourownwordsandincompletesentences
3. Usereportingverbsandphrases(eg;Theauthordescribes,Smitharguesthat).
4. Ifyouincludeuniqueorspecialistphrasesfromthetext,usequotationmarks.

WritingaCriticalReview
SomeGeneralCriteriaforEvaluatingTexts
Thefollowinglistofcriteriaandfocusquestionsmaybeusefulforreadingthetextandfor
preparingthecriticalreview.Remembertocheckyourassignmentinstructionsformorespecific
criteriaandfocusquestionsthatshouldformthebasisofyourreview.Thelengthofthereview/
assignmentwilldeterminehowmanycriteriayouwilladdressinyourcritique.
Criteria
Significanceandcontributiontothe
field

Possiblefocusquestions

Whatistheauthorsaim?

Towhatextenthasthisaimbeenachieved?

Whatdoesthistextaddtothebodyofknowledge?(Thiscould
beintermsoftheory,dataand/orpracticalapplication)

Whatrelationshipdoesitbeartootherworksinthefield?

Whatismissing/notstated?

Isthisaproblem?


Methodologyorapproach(This
usuallyappliestomoreformal,
researchbasedtexts)

Argumentanduseofevidence

Writingstyleandtextstructure

Whatapproachwasusedfortheresearch?(eg;quantitative
orqualitative,analysis/reviewoftheoryorcurrent
practice,comparative,casestudy,personalreflectionetc)

Howobjective/biasedistheapproach?

Aretheresultsvalidandreliable?

Whatanalyticalframeworkisusedtodiscusstheresults?

Isthereaclearproblem,statementorhypothesis?

Whatclaimsaremade?

Istheargumentconsistent?

Whatkindsofevidencedoesthetextrelyon?

Howvalidandreliableistheevidence?

Howeffectiveistheevidenceinsupportingtheargument?

Whatconclusionsaredrawn?

Aretheseconclusionsjustified?

Doesthewritingstylesuittheintendedaudience?(eg;
expert/nonexpert,academic/nonacademic)

Whatistheorganisingprincipleofthetext?Coulditbebetter
organised?

WritingaCriticalReview
SampleExtracts
Hereisasampleextractfromacriticalreviewofanarticle.Forthepurposesofsimplicity,onlytheintroductionand
conclusionareincluded.WethankSuwandiTijiaforallowingustousehiscriticalreviewinthisresource.

[1]ACriticalReviewofGoodwinetal,2000,'DecisionmakinginSingaporeandAustralia:theinfluenceofcultureon
accountantsethicaldecisions',AccountingResearchJournal,vol.13,no.2,pp2236.

[2]UsingHofstedes(1980,1983and1991)andHofstedeandBonds(1988)fiveculturaldimensions,Goodwinetal
(2000)conducted[3]astudyontheinfluenceofcultureonethicaldecisionmakingbetweentwogroupsof
accountantsfromAustraliaandSingapore.[4]Thisresearchaimedtoprovidefurtherevidenceontheeffectof
culturaldifferencessinceresultsfrompreviousresearchhavebeenequivocal.[5]Thestudyrevealsthataccountants

fromthetwocountriesrespondeddifferentlytoethicaldilemmasinparticularwhentheresponsesweremeasured
usingtwoofthefiveculturaldimensions.Theresultagreedwiththepredictionsinceconsiderabledifferencesexisted
betweenthesetwodimensionsinAustraliansandSingaporeans(Hofstede1980,1991).[6]Howevertheresultsofthe
otherdimensionsprovidedlessclearrelationshipsasthetwoculturalgroupsdifferedonlyslightlyonthedimensions.
[7]Totheextentthatthisresearchisexploratory,resultsofthisstudyprovideinsightsintotheimportanceof
recognisingculturaldifferencesforfirmsandcompaniesthatoperateininternationalsettings.Howeverseveral
limitationsmustbeconsideredininterpretingthestudyfindings.[]

[8]Insummary,ithastobeadmittedthatthecurrentstudyis[9]stillfarfrombeingconclusive.[10]Furtherstudies
mustbeundertaken,bettermeasuresmustbedeveloped,andlargersamplesmustbeusedtoimproveour
understandingconcerningtheexactrelationshipbetweencultureanddecisionmaking.[11]Despitesomedeficiencies
inmethodology,[12]totheextentthatthisresearchisexploratoryi.e.tryingtoinvestigateanemergingissue,the
studyhasprovidedsomeinsightstoaccountforcultureindevelopingethicalstandardsacrossnationalborders.

KEY:[1]Titleandbibliographicdetailsofthetext
[2]Introduction
[3]Reportingverbs
[4]Presentstheaim/purposeofthearticleandKeyfindings
[5]Sentencethemesfocusonthetext
[6]Transitionsignalsprovidestructureandcoherence
[7]Reviewersjudgement
[8]Conclusionsummarisesreviewersjudgement
[9]Modalityusedtoexpresscertaintyandlimitovergeneralising
[10]Offersrecommendations
[11]Concessiveclausesassistinexpressingamixedresponse
[12]Qualifiesreviewersjudgement

LanguageFeaturesoftheCriticalReview
1.Reportingverbsandphrases
Theseareusedtotellthereaderwhattheauthorthinksordoesintheirtext.
Komisarbeginshisarticleclaimingthatthenewteachingmachinesrepresentanewkindof
encounter.(1)
2.Modality
Modalverbsandotherexpressionsareusedtoexpressdegreesofcertaintyandprobability(fromhightolow).
Writersusemodalitytopresentideasasopinionsratherthanfacts.
Thewordtheoryhasanhonorificstatus.Thesamecouldprobablybesaidforpractice.(1)
3.Conceding(Concessiveclauses)
Hereanadverbialclausecanbeusedtodescribeacircumstancethatisincontrastorunfavourabletoanother
circumstance.Inacademicwriting,concessiveclausesareoneway(thereareothers!)toacknowledgethestrength/
validityofanideabeforepresentinganalternateview.Thisdoesnotweakenyourcritique;ratheritcanshowbalance
andfairnessinyouranalysis.
ThoughbynomeansthefirstempiricistamongtheGreekphilosophers,Aristotlestoodoutamong
hiscontemporariesforthemeticulouscarewithwhichheworked.(2)
Adaptedfrom:1HymanR(Ed)1971,Contemporarythoughtonteaching,PrenticeHall,NewJersey.

2DunbarR1995,Thetroublewithscience,Faber&Faber,London.)

AdaptedfromWritingaCriticalReviewUNSWLearningCentre2012.UNSW.