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Critical Analysis – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

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Critical Analysis

Critical Analysis

Definition:

Critical analysis is a process of examining a piece of work or an idea in a systematic, objective, and analytical way. It involves breaking down complex ideas, concepts, or arguments into smaller, more manageable parts to understand them better.

Types of Critical Analysis

Types of Critical Analysis are as follows:

Literary Analysis

This type of analysis focuses on analyzing and interpreting works of literature , such as novels, poetry, plays, etc. The analysis involves examining the literary devices used in the work, such as symbolism, imagery, and metaphor, and how they contribute to the overall meaning of the work.

Film Analysis

This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting films, including their themes, cinematography, editing, and sound. Film analysis can also include evaluating the director’s style and how it contributes to the overall message of the film.

Art Analysis

This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting works of art , such as paintings, sculptures, and installations. The analysis involves examining the elements of the artwork, such as color, composition, and technique, and how they contribute to the overall meaning of the work.

Cultural Analysis

This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting cultural artifacts , such as advertisements, popular music, and social media posts. The analysis involves examining the cultural context of the artifact and how it reflects and shapes cultural values, beliefs, and norms.

Historical Analysis

This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting historical documents , such as diaries, letters, and government records. The analysis involves examining the historical context of the document and how it reflects the social, political, and cultural attitudes of the time.

Philosophical Analysis

This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting philosophical texts and ideas, such as the works of philosophers and their arguments. The analysis involves evaluating the logical consistency of the arguments and assessing the validity and soundness of the conclusions.

Scientific Analysis

This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting scientific research studies and their findings. The analysis involves evaluating the methods used in the study, the data collected, and the conclusions drawn, and assessing their reliability and validity.

Critical Discourse Analysis

This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting language use in social and political contexts. The analysis involves evaluating the power dynamics and social relationships conveyed through language use and how they shape discourse and social reality.

Comparative Analysis

This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting multiple texts or works of art and comparing them to each other. The analysis involves evaluating the similarities and differences between the texts and how they contribute to understanding the themes and meanings conveyed.

Critical Analysis Format

Critical Analysis Format is as follows:

I. Introduction

  • Provide a brief overview of the text, object, or event being analyzed
  • Explain the purpose of the analysis and its significance
  • Provide background information on the context and relevant historical or cultural factors

II. Description

  • Provide a detailed description of the text, object, or event being analyzed
  • Identify key themes, ideas, and arguments presented
  • Describe the author or creator’s style, tone, and use of language or visual elements

III. Analysis

  • Analyze the text, object, or event using critical thinking skills
  • Identify the main strengths and weaknesses of the argument or presentation
  • Evaluate the reliability and validity of the evidence presented
  • Assess any assumptions or biases that may be present in the text, object, or event
  • Consider the implications of the argument or presentation for different audiences and contexts

IV. Evaluation

  • Provide an overall evaluation of the text, object, or event based on the analysis
  • Assess the effectiveness of the argument or presentation in achieving its intended purpose
  • Identify any limitations or gaps in the argument or presentation
  • Consider any alternative viewpoints or interpretations that could be presented
  • Summarize the main points of the analysis and evaluation
  • Reiterate the significance of the text, object, or event and its relevance to broader issues or debates
  • Provide any recommendations for further research or future developments in the field.

VI. Example

  • Provide an example or two to support your analysis and evaluation
  • Use quotes or specific details from the text, object, or event to support your claims
  • Analyze the example(s) using critical thinking skills and explain how they relate to your overall argument

VII. Conclusion

  • Reiterate your thesis statement and summarize your main points
  • Provide a final evaluation of the text, object, or event based on your analysis
  • Offer recommendations for future research or further developments in the field
  • End with a thought-provoking statement or question that encourages the reader to think more deeply about the topic

How to Write Critical Analysis

Writing a critical analysis involves evaluating and interpreting a text, such as a book, article, or film, and expressing your opinion about its quality and significance. Here are some steps you can follow to write a critical analysis:

  • Read and re-read the text: Before you begin writing, make sure you have a good understanding of the text. Read it several times and take notes on the key points, themes, and arguments.
  • Identify the author’s purpose and audience: Consider why the author wrote the text and who the intended audience is. This can help you evaluate whether the author achieved their goals and whether the text is effective in reaching its audience.
  • Analyze the structure and style: Look at the organization of the text and the author’s writing style. Consider how these elements contribute to the overall meaning of the text.
  • Evaluate the content : Analyze the author’s arguments, evidence, and conclusions. Consider whether they are logical, convincing, and supported by the evidence presented in the text.
  • Consider the context: Think about the historical, cultural, and social context in which the text was written. This can help you understand the author’s perspective and the significance of the text.
  • Develop your thesis statement : Based on your analysis, develop a clear and concise thesis statement that summarizes your overall evaluation of the text.
  • Support your thesis: Use evidence from the text to support your thesis statement. This can include direct quotes, paraphrases, and examples from the text.
  • Write the introduction, body, and conclusion : Organize your analysis into an introduction that provides context and presents your thesis, a body that presents your evidence and analysis, and a conclusion that summarizes your main points and restates your thesis.
  • Revise and edit: After you have written your analysis, revise and edit it to ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and well-organized. Check for spelling and grammar errors, and make sure that your analysis is logically sound and supported by evidence.

When to Write Critical Analysis

You may want to write a critical analysis in the following situations:

  • Academic Assignments: If you are a student, you may be assigned to write a critical analysis as a part of your coursework. This could include analyzing a piece of literature, a historical event, or a scientific paper.
  • Journalism and Media: As a journalist or media person, you may need to write a critical analysis of current events, political speeches, or media coverage.
  • Personal Interest: If you are interested in a particular topic, you may want to write a critical analysis to gain a deeper understanding of it. For example, you may want to analyze the themes and motifs in a novel or film that you enjoyed.
  • Professional Development : Professionals such as writers, scholars, and researchers often write critical analyses to gain insights into their field of study or work.

Critical Analysis Example

An Example of Critical Analysis Could be as follow:

Research Topic:

The Impact of Online Learning on Student Performance

Introduction:

The introduction of the research topic is clear and provides an overview of the issue. However, it could benefit from providing more background information on the prevalence of online learning and its potential impact on student performance.

Literature Review:

The literature review is comprehensive and well-structured. It covers a broad range of studies that have examined the relationship between online learning and student performance. However, it could benefit from including more recent studies and providing a more critical analysis of the existing literature.

Research Methods:

The research methods are clearly described and appropriate for the research question. The study uses a quasi-experimental design to compare the performance of students who took an online course with those who took the same course in a traditional classroom setting. However, the study may benefit from using a randomized controlled trial design to reduce potential confounding factors.

The results are presented in a clear and concise manner. The study finds that students who took the online course performed similarly to those who took the traditional course. However, the study only measures performance on one course and may not be generalizable to other courses or contexts.

Discussion :

The discussion section provides a thorough analysis of the study’s findings. The authors acknowledge the limitations of the study and provide suggestions for future research. However, they could benefit from discussing potential mechanisms underlying the relationship between online learning and student performance.

Conclusion :

The conclusion summarizes the main findings of the study and provides some implications for future research and practice. However, it could benefit from providing more specific recommendations for implementing online learning programs in educational settings.

Purpose of Critical Analysis

There are several purposes of critical analysis, including:

  • To identify and evaluate arguments : Critical analysis helps to identify the main arguments in a piece of writing or speech and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. This enables the reader to form their own opinion and make informed decisions.
  • To assess evidence : Critical analysis involves examining the evidence presented in a text or speech and evaluating its quality and relevance to the argument. This helps to determine the credibility of the claims being made.
  • To recognize biases and assumptions : Critical analysis helps to identify any biases or assumptions that may be present in the argument, and evaluate how these affect the credibility of the argument.
  • To develop critical thinking skills: Critical analysis helps to develop the ability to think critically, evaluate information objectively, and make reasoned judgments based on evidence.
  • To improve communication skills: Critical analysis involves carefully reading and listening to information, evaluating it, and expressing one’s own opinion in a clear and concise manner. This helps to improve communication skills and the ability to express ideas effectively.

Importance of Critical Analysis

Here are some specific reasons why critical analysis is important:

  • Helps to identify biases: Critical analysis helps individuals to recognize their own biases and assumptions, as well as the biases of others. By being aware of biases, individuals can better evaluate the credibility and reliability of information.
  • Enhances problem-solving skills : Critical analysis encourages individuals to question assumptions and consider multiple perspectives, which can lead to creative problem-solving and innovation.
  • Promotes better decision-making: By carefully evaluating evidence and arguments, critical analysis can help individuals make more informed and effective decisions.
  • Facilitates understanding: Critical analysis helps individuals to understand complex issues and ideas by breaking them down into smaller parts and evaluating them separately.
  • Fosters intellectual growth : Engaging in critical analysis challenges individuals to think deeply and critically, which can lead to intellectual growth and development.

Advantages of Critical Analysis

Some advantages of critical analysis include:

  • Improved decision-making: Critical analysis helps individuals make informed decisions by evaluating all available information and considering various perspectives.
  • Enhanced problem-solving skills : Critical analysis requires individuals to identify and analyze the root cause of a problem, which can help develop effective solutions.
  • Increased creativity : Critical analysis encourages individuals to think outside the box and consider alternative solutions to problems, which can lead to more creative and innovative ideas.
  • Improved communication : Critical analysis helps individuals communicate their ideas and opinions more effectively by providing logical and coherent arguments.
  • Reduced bias: Critical analysis requires individuals to evaluate information objectively, which can help reduce personal biases and subjective opinions.
  • Better understanding of complex issues : Critical analysis helps individuals to understand complex issues by breaking them down into smaller parts, examining each part and understanding how they fit together.
  • Greater self-awareness: Critical analysis helps individuals to recognize their own biases, assumptions, and limitations, which can lead to personal growth and development.

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Writing a Critical Analysis

What is in this guide, definitions, putting it together, tips and examples of critques.

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This guide is meant to help you understand the basics of writing a critical analysis. A critical analysis is an argument about a particular piece of media. There are typically two parts: (1) identify and explain the argument the author is making, and (2), provide your own argument about that argument. Your instructor may have very specific requirements on how you are to write your critical analysis, so make sure you read your assignment carefully.

critical analysis of a research paper

Critical Analysis

A deep approach to your understanding of a piece of media by relating new knowledge to what you already know.

Part 1: Introduction

  • Identify the work being criticized.
  • Present thesis - argument about the work.
  • Preview your argument - what are the steps you will take to prove your argument.

Part 2: Summarize

  • Provide a short summary of the work.
  • Present only what is needed to know to understand your argument.

Part 3: Your Argument

  • This is the bulk of your paper.
  • Provide "sub-arguments" to prove your main argument.
  • Use scholarly articles to back up your argument(s).

Part 4: Conclusion

  • Reflect on  how  you have proven your argument.
  • Point out the  importance  of your argument.
  • Comment on the potential for further research or analysis.
  • Cornell University Library Tips for writing a critical appraisal and analysis of a scholarly article.
  • Queen's University Library How to Critique an Article (Psychology)
  • University of Illinois, Springfield An example of a summary and an evaluation of a research article. This extended example shows the different ways a student can critique and write about an article
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Write a Critical Review of a Scientific Journal Article

1. identify how and why the research was carried out, 2. establish the research context, 3. evaluate the research, 4. establish the significance of the research.

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Read the article(s) carefully and use the questions below to help you identify how and why the research was carried out. Look at the following sections: 

Introduction

  • What was the objective of the study?
  • What methods were used to accomplish this purpose (e.g., systematic recording of observations, analysis and evaluation of published research, assessment of theory, etc.)?
  • What techniques were used and how was each technique performed?
  • What kind of data can be obtained using each technique?
  • How are such data interpreted?
  • What kind of information is produced by using the technique?
  • What objective evidence was obtained from the authors’ efforts (observations, measurements, etc.)?
  • What were the results of the study? 
  • How was each technique used to obtain each result?
  • What statistical tests were used to evaluate the significance of the conclusions based on numeric or graphic data?
  • How did each result contribute to answering the question or testing the hypothesis raised in the introduction?
  • How were the results interpreted? How were they related to the original problem (authors’ view of evidence rather than objective findings)? 
  • Were the authors able to answer the question (test the hypothesis) raised?
  • Did the research provide new factual information, a new understanding of a phenomenon in the field, or a new research technique?
  • How was the significance of the work described?
  • Do the authors relate the findings of the study to literature in the field?
  • Did the reported observations or interpretations support or refute observations or interpretations made by other researchers?

These questions were adapted from the following sources:  Kuyper, B.J. (1991). Bringing up scientists in the art of critiquing research. Bioscience 41(4), 248-250. Wood, J.M. (2003). Research Lab Guide. MICR*3260 Microbial Adaptation and Development Web Site . Retrieved July 31, 2006.

Once you are familiar with the article, you can establish the research context by asking the following questions:

  • Who conducted the research? What were/are their interests?
  • When and where was the research conducted?
  • Why did the authors do this research?
  • Was this research pertinent only within the authors’ geographic locale, or did it have broader (even global) relevance?
  • Were many other laboratories pursuing related research when the reported work was done? If so, why?
  • For experimental research, what funding sources met the costs of the research?
  • On what prior observations was the research based? What was and was not known at the time?
  • How important was the research question posed by the researchers?

These questions were adapted from the following sources: Kuyper, B.J. (1991). Bringing up scientists in the art of critiquing research. Bioscience 41(4), 248-250. Wood, J.M. (2003). Research Lab Guide. MICR*3260 Microbial Adaptation and Development Web Site . Retrieved July 31, 2006.

Remember that simply disagreeing with the material is not considered to be a critical assessment of the material.  For example, stating that the sample size is insufficient is not a critical assessment.  Describing why the sample size is insufficient for the claims being made in the study would be a critical assessment.

Use the questions below to help you evaluate the quality of the authors’ research:

  • Does the title precisely state the subject of the paper?
  • Read the statement of purpose in the abstract. Does it match the one in the introduction?

Acknowledgments

  • Could the source of the research funding have influenced the research topic or conclusions?
  • Check the sequence of statements in the introduction. Does all the information lead coherently to the purpose of the study?
  • Review all methods in relation to the objective(s) of the study. Are the methods valid for studying the problem?
  • Check the methods for essential information. Could the study be duplicated from the methods and information given?
  • Check the methods for flaws. Is the sample selection adequate? Is the experimental design sound?
  • Check the sequence of statements in the methods. Does all the information belong there? Is the sequence of methods clear and pertinent?
  • Was there mention of ethics? Which research ethics board approved the study?
  • Carefully examine the data presented in the tables and diagrams. Does the title or legend accurately describe the content? 
  • Are column headings and labels accurate? 
  • Are the data organized for ready comparison and interpretation? (A table should be self-explanatory, with a title that accurately and concisely describes content and column headings that accurately describe information in the cells.)
  • Review the results as presented in the text while referring to the data in the tables and diagrams. Does the text complement, and not simply repeat data? Are there discrepancies between the results in the text and those in the tables?
  • Check all calculations and presentation of data.
  • Review the results in light of the stated objectives. Does the study reveal what the researchers intended?
  • Does the discussion clearly address the objectives and hypotheses?
  • Check the interpretation against the results. Does the discussion merely repeat the results? 
  • Does the interpretation arise logically from the data or is it too far-fetched? 
  • Have the faults, flaws, or shortcomings of the research been addressed?
  • Is the interpretation supported by other research cited in the study?
  • Does the study consider key studies in the field?
  • What is the significance of the research? Do the authors mention wider implications of the findings?
  • Is there a section on recommendations for future research? Are there other research possibilities or directions suggested? 

Consider the article as a whole

  • Reread the abstract. Does it accurately summarize the article?
  • Check the structure of the article (first headings and then paragraphing). Is all the material organized under the appropriate headings? Are sections divided logically into subsections or paragraphs?
  • Are stylistic concerns, logic, clarity, and economy of expression addressed?

These questions were adapted from the following sources:  Kuyper, B.J. (1991). Bringing up scientists in the art of critiquing research. Bioscience 41(4), 248-250. Wood, J.M. (2003). Research Lab Guide. MICR*3260 Microbial Adaptation and Development Web Site. Retrieved July 31, 2006.

After you have evaluated the research, consider whether the research has been successful. Has it led to new questions being asked, or new ways of using existing knowledge? Are other researchers citing this paper?

You should consider the following questions:

  • How did other researchers view the significance of the research reported by your authors?
  • Did the research reported in your article result in the formulation of new questions or hypotheses (by the authors or by other researchers)?
  • Have other researchers subsequently supported or refuted the observations or interpretations of these authors?
  • Did the research make a significant contribution to human knowledge?
  • Did the research produce any practical applications?
  • What are the social, political, technological, medical implications of this research?
  • How do you evaluate the significance of the research?

To answer these questions, look at review articles to find out how reviewers view this piece of research. Look at research articles and databases like Web of Science to see how other people have used this work. What range of journals have cited this article?

These questions were adapted from the following sources:

Kuyper, B.J. (1991). Bringing up scientists in the art of critiquing research. Bioscience 41(4), 248-250. Wood, J.M. (2003). Research Lab Guide. MICR*3260 Microbial Adaptation and Development Web Site . Retrieved July 31, 2006.

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How to write a critical analysis

How to write a critical analysis paper

Unlike the name implies a critical analysis does not necessarily mean that you are only exploring what is wrong with a piece of work. Instead, the purpose of this type of essay is to interact with and understand a text. Here’s what you need to know to create a well-written critical analysis essay.

What is a critical analysis?

A critical analysis examines and evaluates someone else’s work, such as a book, an essay, or an article. It requires two steps: a careful reading of the work and thoughtful analysis of the information presented in the work.

Although this may sound complicated, all you are doing in a critical essay is closely reading an author’s work and providing your opinion on how well the author accomplished their purpose.

Critical analyses are most frequently done in academic settings (such as a class assignment). Writing a critical analysis demonstrates that you are able to read a text and think deeply about it. However, critical thinking skills are vital outside of an educational context as well. You just don’t always have to demonstrate them in essay form.

How to outline and write a critical analysis essay

Writing a critical analysis essay involves two main chunks of work: reading the text you are going to write about and writing an analysis of that text. Both are equally important when writing a critical analysis essay.

Step one: Reading critically

The first step in writing a critical analysis is to carefully study the source you plan to analyze.

If you are writing for a class assignment, your professor may have already given you the topic to analyze in an article, short story, book, or other work. If so, you can focus your note-taking on that topic while reading.

Other times, you may have to develop your own topic to analyze within a piece of work. In this case, you should focus on a few key areas as you read:

  • What is the author’s intended purpose for the work?
  • What techniques and language does the author use to achieve this purpose?
  • How does the author support the thesis?
  • Who is the author writing for?
  • Is the author effective at achieving the intended purpose?

Once you have carefully examined the source material, then you are ready to begin planning your critical analysis essay.

Step two: Writing the critical analysis essay

Taking time to organize your ideas before you begin writing can shorten the amount of time that you spend working on your critical analysis essay. As an added bonus, the quality of your essay will likely be higher if you have a plan before writing.

Here’s a rough outline of what should be in your essay. Of course, if your instructor gives you a sample essay or outline, refer to the sample first.

  • Background Information

Critical Analysis

Here is some additional information on what needs to go into each section:

Background information

In the first paragraph of your essay, include background information on the material that you are critiquing. Include context that helps the reader understand the piece you are analyzing. Be sure to include the title of the piece, the author’s name, and information about when and where it was published.

“Success is counted sweetest” is a poem by Emily Dickinson published in 1864. Dickinson was not widely known as a poet during her lifetime, and this poem is one of the first published while she was alive.

After you have provided background information, state your thesis. The thesis should be your reaction to the work. It also lets your reader know what to expect from the rest of your essay. The points you make in the critical analysis should support the thesis.

Dickinson’s use of metaphor in the poem is unexpected but works well to convey the paradoxical theme that success is most valued by those who never experience success.

The next section should include a summary of the work that you are analyzing. Do not assume that the reader is familiar with the source material. Your summary should show that you understood the text, but it should not include the arguments that you will discuss later in the essay.

Dickinson introduces the theme of success in the first line of the poem. She begins by comparing success to nectar. Then, she uses the extended metaphor of a battle in order to demonstrate that the winner has less understanding of success than the loser.

The next paragraphs will contain your critical analysis. Use as many paragraphs as necessary to support your thesis.

Discuss the areas that you took notes on as you were reading. While a critical analysis should include your opinion, it needs to have evidence from the source material in order to be credible to readers. Be sure to use textual evidence to support your claims, and remember to explain your reasoning.

Dickinson’s comparison of success to nectar seems strange at first. However the first line “success is counted sweetest” brings to mind that this nectar could be bees searching for nectar to make honey. In this first stanza, Dickinson seems to imply that success requires work because bees are usually considered to be hard-working and industrious.

In the next two stanzas, Dickinson expands on the meaning of success. This time she uses the image of a victorious army and a dying man on the vanquished side. Now the idea of success is more than something you value because you have worked hard for it. Dickinson states that the dying man values success even more than the victors because he has given everything and still has not achieved success.

This last section is where you remind the readers of your thesis and make closing remarks to wrap up your essay. Avoid summarizing the main points of your critical analysis unless your essay is so long that readers might have forgotten parts of it.

In “Success is counted sweetest” Dickinson cleverly upends the reader’s usual thoughts about success through her unexpected use of metaphors. The poem may be short, but Dickinson conveys a serious theme in just a few carefully chosen words.

What type of language should be used in a critical analysis essay?

Because critical analysis papers are written in an academic setting, you should use formal language, which means:

  • No contractions
  • Avoid first-person pronouns (I, we, me)

Do not include phrases such as “in my opinion” or “I think”. In a critical analysis, the reader already assumes that the claims are your opinions.

Your instructor may have specific guidelines for the writing style to use. If the instructor assigns a style guide for the class, be sure to use the guidelines in the style manual in your writing.

Additional t ips for writing a critical analysis essay

To conclude this article, here are some additional tips for writing a critical analysis essay:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to read the source material. If you have time, read through the text once to get the gist and a second time to take notes.
  • Outlining your essay can help you save time. You don’t have to stick exactly to the outline though. You can change it as needed once you start writing.
  • Spend the bulk of your writing time working on your thesis and critical analysis. The introduction and conclusion are important, but these sections cannot make up for a weak thesis or critical analysis.
  • Give yourself time between your first draft and your second draft. A day or two away from your essay can make it easier to see what you need to improve.

Frequently Asked Questions about critical analyses

In the introduction of a critical analysis essay, you should give background information on the source that you are analyzing. Be sure to include the author’s name and the title of the work. Your thesis normally goes in the introduction as well.

A critical analysis has four main parts.

  • Introduction

The focus of a critical analysis should be on the work being analyzed rather than on you. This means that you should avoid using first person unless your instructor tells you to do otherwise. Most formal academic writing is written in third person.

How many paragraphs your critical analysis should have depends on the assignment and will most likely be determined by your instructor. However, in general, your critical analysis paper should have three to six paragraphs, unless otherwise stated.

Your critical analysis ends with your conclusion. You should restate the thesis and make closing remarks, but avoid summarizing the main points of your critical analysis unless your essay is so long that readers might have forgotten parts of it.

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How to read a paper, critical review

Reading a scientific article is a complex task. The worst way to approach this task is to treat it like the reading of a textbook—reading from title to literature cited, digesting every word along the way without any reflection or criticism.

A critical review (sometimes called a critique, critical commentary, critical appraisal, critical analysis) is a detailed commentary on and critical evaluation of a text. You might carry out a critical review as a stand-alone exercise, or as part of your research and preparation for writing a literature review. The following guidelines are designed to help you critically evaluate a research article.

How to Read a Scientific Article

You should begin by skimming the article to identify its structure and features. As you read, look for the author’s main points.

  • Generate questions before, during, and after reading.
  • Draw inferences based on your own experiences and knowledge.
  • To really improve understanding and recall, take notes as you read.

What is meant by critical and evaluation?

  • To be critical does not mean to criticise in an exclusively negative manner.   To be critical of a text means you question the information and opinions in the text, in an attempt to evaluate or judge its worth overall.
  • An evaluation is an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a text.   This should relate to specific criteria, in the case of a research article.   You have to understand the purpose of each section, and be aware of the type of information and evidence that are needed to make it convincing, before you can judge its overall value to the research article as a whole.

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Critical Analysis Diagram (text only to the right of the image)

Elements of the critical analysis, useful link: reading & writing critically.

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A. Introduction - The introduction moves from general to specific. This is where you are:

open with a short orientation (introduce the topic area(s) with a general, broad opening sentence (or two);

answer the question with a thesis statement; and 

provide a summary or 'road map' of your essay (keep it brief, but mention all the main ideas).

B. Body - The body of the essay consists of paragraphs. Each is a building block in the construction of your argument. The body is where you:

  • answer the question by developing a discussion.
  • show your knowledge and grasp of material you have read.
  • offer exposition and evidence to develop your argument.
  • use relevant examples and authoritative quotes.

If your question has more than one part, structure the body into section that deal with each part of the question.

3. Conclusion - The conclusion moves from specific to general. It should:

  • restate your answer to the question;
  • re-summarize the main points and;
  • include a final, broad statement (about possible implication, future directions for research, to qualify the conclusion, etc.)

However, NEVER introduce new information or idea in the conclusion - its purpose is to round off your essay by summing up.

Because each section of a critical analysis builds on the section before it and supports the section to follow, the structure of this genre is usually fairly standard.  The introduction and summary set the stage and the analysis communicates the critic's views which are then summarized and restated in the conclusion. 

-- Text taken from The University of New South Wales. "Essay Writing: the Basics." Retrieved 17 August, 2012 from http://www.lc.unsw.edu.au/onlib/essay3.html.

Writing critically requires an author to engage on an analytical level with a written work, whether it is an article, a book, or a portion of a book.  In other words, to write critically is to present and explain an idea that one has had about someone else’s written work.  A critical analysis may  include supportive references like you would find in a research paper, but will generally have a much stronger emphasis on its author’s interpretation than you would find in an objective research paper. 

Introduction – will include general information about the work being analyzed and a statement of the critical writer’s viewpoint or evaluation of the larger work. 

Summarization – the thematic/background information that a reader will need to understand the critic’s analysis and the key point from the original work that is being addressed. 

Critical Analysis – a review of the original author’s argument within the critical context of the analysis, with supporting evidence from the original text.

Conclusion – a restatement of the critic’s thesis and the key points of the analysis.

Although the page linked below focuses on writing critically, it also features information on reading critically, an invaluable skill in identfying different types of academic writing. 

  • Writing a Critical Analysis (Critique) A guide to reading and writing critically. Document prepared by the Academic Skills Center of the Shoreline Community College.
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Critically Analyzing Information Sources: Critical Appraisal and Analysis

  • Critical Appraisal and Analysis

Initial Appraisal : Reviewing the source

  • What are the author's credentials--institutional affiliation (where he or she works), educational background, past writings, or experience? Is the book or article written on a topic in the author's area of expertise? You can use the various Who's Who publications for the U.S. and other countries and for specific subjects and the biographical information located in the publication itself to help determine the author's affiliation and credentials.
  • Has your instructor mentioned this author? Have you seen the author's name cited in other sources or bibliographies? Respected authors are cited frequently by other scholars. For this reason, always note those names that appear in many different sources.
  • Is the author associated with a reputable institution or organization? What are the basic values or goals of the organization or institution?

B. Date of Publication

  • When was the source published? This date is often located on the face of the title page below the name of the publisher. If it is not there, look for the copyright date on the reverse of the title page. On Web pages, the date of the last revision is usually at the bottom of the home page, sometimes every page.
  • Is the source current or out-of-date for your topic? Topic areas of continuing and rapid development, such as the sciences, demand more current information. On the other hand, topics in the humanities often require material that was written many years ago. At the other extreme, some news sources on the Web now note the hour and minute that articles are posted on their site.

C. Edition or Revision

Is this a first edition of this publication or not? Further editions indicate a source has been revised and updated to reflect changes in knowledge, include omissions, and harmonize with its intended reader's needs. Also, many printings or editions may indicate that the work has become a standard source in the area and is reliable. If you are using a Web source, do the pages indicate revision dates?

D. Publisher

Note the publisher. If the source is published by a university press, it is likely to be scholarly. Although the fact that the publisher is reputable does not necessarily guarantee quality, it does show that the publisher may have high regard for the source being published.

E. Title of Journal

Is this a scholarly or a popular journal? This distinction is important because it indicates different levels of complexity in conveying ideas. If you need help in determining the type of journal, see Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals . Or you may wish to check your journal title in the latest edition of Katz's Magazines for Libraries (Olin Reference Z 6941 .K21, shelved at the reference desk) for a brief evaluative description.

Critical Analysis of the Content

Having made an initial appraisal, you should now examine the body of the source. Read the preface to determine the author's intentions for the book. Scan the table of contents and the index to get a broad overview of the material it covers. Note whether bibliographies are included. Read the chapters that specifically address your topic. Reading the article abstract and scanning the table of contents of a journal or magazine issue is also useful. As with books, the presence and quality of a bibliography at the end of the article may reflect the care with which the authors have prepared their work.

A. Intended Audience

What type of audience is the author addressing? Is the publication aimed at a specialized or a general audience? Is this source too elementary, too technical, too advanced, or just right for your needs?

B. Objective Reasoning

  • Is the information covered fact, opinion, or propaganda? It is not always easy to separate fact from opinion. Facts can usually be verified; opinions, though they may be based on factual information, evolve from the interpretation of facts. Skilled writers can make you think their interpretations are facts.
  • Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched, or is it questionable and unsupported by evidence? Assumptions should be reasonable. Note errors or omissions.
  • Are the ideas and arguments advanced more or less in line with other works you have read on the same topic? The more radically an author departs from the views of others in the same field, the more carefully and critically you should scrutinize his or her ideas.
  • Is the author's point of view objective and impartial? Is the language free of emotion-arousing words and bias?

C. Coverage

  • Does the work update other sources, substantiate other materials you have read, or add new information? Does it extensively or marginally cover your topic? You should explore enough sources to obtain a variety of viewpoints.
  • Is the material primary or secondary in nature? Primary sources are the raw material of the research process. Secondary sources are based on primary sources. For example, if you were researching Konrad Adenauer's role in rebuilding West Germany after World War II, Adenauer's own writings would be one of many primary sources available on this topic. Others might include relevant government documents and contemporary German newspaper articles. Scholars use this primary material to help generate historical interpretations--a secondary source. Books, encyclopedia articles, and scholarly journal articles about Adenauer's role are considered secondary sources. In the sciences, journal articles and conference proceedings written by experimenters reporting the results of their research are primary documents. Choose both primary and secondary sources when you have the opportunity.

D. Writing Style

Is the publication organized logically? Are the main points clearly presented? Do you find the text easy to read, or is it stilted or choppy? Is the author's argument repetitive?

E. Evaluative Reviews

  • Locate critical reviews of books in a reviewing source , such as the Articles & Full Text , Book Review Index , Book Review Digest, and ProQuest Research Library . Is the review positive? Is the book under review considered a valuable contribution to the field? Does the reviewer mention other books that might be better? If so, locate these sources for more information on your topic.
  • Do the various reviewers agree on the value or attributes of the book or has it aroused controversy among the critics?
  • For Web sites, consider consulting this evaluation source from UC Berkeley .

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33 Critical Analysis Examples

critical analysis examples and definition, explained below

Critical analysis refers to the ability to examine something in detail in preparation to make an evaluation or judgment.

It will involve exploring underlying assumptions, theories, arguments, evidence, logic, biases, contextual factors, and so forth, that could help shed more light on the topic.

In essay writing, a critical analysis essay will involve using a range of analytical skills to explore a topic, such as:

  • Evaluating sources
  • Exploring strengths and weaknesses
  • Exploring pros and cons
  • Questioning and challenging ideas
  • Comparing and contrasting ideas

If you’re writing an essay, you could also watch my guide on how to write a critical analysis essay below, and don’t forget to grab your worksheets and critical analysis essay plan to save yourself a ton of time:

Grab your Critical Analysis Worksheets and Essay Plan Here

chris

Critical Analysis Examples

1. exploring strengths and weaknesses.

Perhaps the first and most straightforward method of critical analysis is to create a simple strengths-vs-weaknesses comparison.

Most things have both strengths and weaknesses – you could even do this for yourself! What are your strengths? Maybe you’re kind or good at sports or good with children. What are your weaknesses? Maybe you struggle with essay writing or concentration.

If you can analyze your own strengths and weaknesses, then you understand the concept. What might be the strengths and weaknesses of the idea you’re hoping to critically analyze?

Strengths and weaknesses could include:

  • Does it seem highly ethical (strength) or could it be more ethical (weakness)?
  • Is it clearly explained (strength) or complex and lacking logical structure (weakness)?
  • Does it seem balanced (strength) or biased (weakness)?

You may consider using a SWOT analysis for this step. I’ve provided a SWOT analysis guide here .

2. Evaluating Sources

Evaluation of sources refers to looking at whether a source is reliable or unreliable.

This is a fundamental media literacy skill .

Steps involved in evaluating sources include asking questions like:

  • Who is the author and are they trustworthy?
  • Is this written by an expert?
  • Is this sufficiently reviewed by an expert?
  • Is this published in a trustworthy publication?
  • Are the arguments sound or common sense?

For more on this topic, I’d recommend my detailed guide on digital literacy .

3. Identifying Similarities

Identifying similarities encompasses the act of drawing parallels between elements, concepts, or issues.

In critical analysis, it’s common to compare a given article, idea, or theory to another one. In this way, you can identify areas in which they are alike.

Determining similarities can be a challenge, but it’s an intellectual exercise that fosters a greater understanding of the aspects you’re studying. This step often calls for a careful reading and note-taking to highlight matching information, points of view, arguments or even suggested solutions.

Similarities might be found in:

  • The key themes or topics discussed
  • The theories or principles used
  • The demographic the work is written for or about
  • The solutions or recommendations proposed

Remember, the intention of identifying similarities is not to prove one right or wrong. Rather, it sets the foundation for understanding the larger context of your analysis, anchoring your arguments in a broader spectrum of ideas.

Your critical analysis strengthens when you can see the patterns and connections across different works or topics. It fosters a more comprehensive, insightful perspective. And importantly, it is a stepping stone in your analysis journey towards evaluating differences, which is equally imperative and insightful in any analysis.

4. Identifying Differences

Identifying differences involves pinpointing the unique aspects, viewpoints or solutions introduced by the text you’re analyzing. How does it stand out as different from other texts?

To do this, you’ll need to compare this text to another text.

Differences can be revealed in:

  • The potential applications of each idea
  • The time, context, or place in which the elements were conceived or implemented
  • The available evidence each element uses to support its ideas
  • The perspectives of authors
  • The conclusions reached

Identifying differences helps to reveal the multiplicity of perspectives and approaches on a given topic. Doing so provides a more in-depth, nuanced understanding of the field or issue you’re exploring.

This deeper understanding can greatly enhance your overall critique of the text you’re looking at. As such, learning to identify both similarities and differences is an essential skill for effective critical analysis.

My favorite tool for identifying similarities and differences is a Venn Diagram:

venn diagram

To use a venn diagram, title each circle for two different texts. Then, place similarities in the overlapping area of the circles, while unique characteristics (differences) of each text in the non-overlapping parts.

6. Identifying Oversights

Identifying oversights entails pointing out what the author missed, overlooked, or neglected in their work.

Almost every written work, no matter the expertise or meticulousness of the author, contains oversights. These omissions can be absent-minded mistakes or gaps in the argument, stemming from a lack of knowledge, foresight, or attentiveness.

Such gaps can be found in:

  • Missed opportunities to counter or address opposing views
  • Failure to consider certain relevant aspects or perspectives
  • Incomplete or insufficient data that leaves the argument weak
  • Failing to address potential criticism or counter-arguments

By shining a light on these weaknesses, you increase the depth and breadth of your critical analysis. It helps you to estimate the full worth of the text, understand its limitations, and contextualize it within the broader landscape of related work. Ultimately, noticing these oversights helps to make your analysis more balanced and considerate of the full complexity of the topic at hand.

You may notice here that identifying oversights requires you to already have a broad understanding and knowledge of the topic in the first place – so, study up!

7. Fact Checking

Fact-checking refers to the process of meticulously verifying the truth and accuracy of the data, statements, or claims put forward in a text.

Fact-checking serves as the bulwark against misinformation, bias, and unsubstantiated claims. It demands thorough research, resourcefulness, and a keen eye for detail.

Fact-checking goes beyond surface-level assertions:

  • Examining the validity of the data given
  • Cross-referencing information with other reliable sources
  • Scrutinizing references, citations, and sources utilized in the article
  • Distinguishing between opinion and objectively verifiable truths
  • Checking for outdated, biased, or unbalanced information

If you identify factual errors, it’s vital to highlight them when critically analyzing the text. But remember, you could also (after careful scrutiny) also highlight that the text appears to be factually correct – that, too, is critical analysis.

8. Exploring Counterexamples

Exploring counterexamples involves searching and presenting instances or cases which contradict the arguments or conclusions presented in a text.

Counterexamples are an effective way to challenge the generalizations, assumptions or conclusions made in an article or theory. They can reveal weaknesses or oversights in the logic or validity of the author’s perspective.

Considerations in counterexample analysis are:

  • Identifying generalizations made in the text
  • Seeking examples in academic literature or real-world instances that contradict these generalizations
  • Assessing the impact of these counterexamples on the validity of the text’s argument or conclusion

Exploring counterexamples enriches your critical analysis by injecting an extra layer of scrutiny, and even doubt, in the text.

By presenting counterexamples, you not only test the resilience and validity of the text but also open up new avenues of discussion and investigation that can further your understanding of the topic.

See Also: Counterargument Examples

9. Assessing Methodologies

Assessing methodologies entails examining the techniques, tools, or procedures employed by the author to collect, analyze and present their information.

The accuracy and validity of a text’s conclusions often depend on the credibility and appropriateness of the methodologies used.

Aspects to inspect include:

  • The appropriateness of the research method for the research question
  • The adequacy of the sample size
  • The validity and reliability of data collection instruments
  • The application of statistical tests and evaluations
  • The implementation of controls to prevent bias or mitigate its impact

One strategy you could implement here is to consider a range of other methodologies the author could have used. If the author conducted interviews, consider questioning why they didn’t use broad surveys that could have presented more quantitative findings. If they only interviewed people with one perspective, consider questioning why they didn’t interview a wider variety of people, etc.

See Also: A List of Research Methodologies

10. Exploring Alternative Explanations

Exploring alternative explanations refers to the practice of proposing differing or opposing ideas to those put forward in the text.

An underlying assumption in any analysis is that there may be multiple valid perspectives on a single topic. The text you’re analyzing might provide one perspective, but your job is to bring into the light other reasonable explanations or interpretations.

Cultivating alternative explanations often involves:

  • Formulating hypotheses or theories that differ from those presented in the text
  • Referring to other established ideas or models that offer a differing viewpoint
  • Suggesting a new or unique angle to interpret the data or phenomenon discussed in the text

Searching for alternative explanations challenges the authority of a singular narrative or perspective, fostering an environment ripe for intellectual discourse and critical thinking . It nudges you to examine the topic from multiple angles, enhancing your understanding and appreciation of the complexity inherent in the field.

A Full List of Critical Analysis Skills

  • Exploring Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Identifying Similarities
  • Identifying Differences
  • Identifying Biases
  • Hypothesis Testing
  • Fact-Checking
  • Exploring Counterexamples
  • Assessing Methodologies
  • Exploring Alternative Explanations
  • Pointing Out Contradictions
  • Challenging the Significance
  • Cause-And-Effect Analysis
  • Assessing Generalizability
  • Highlighting Inconsistencies
  • Reductio ad Absurdum
  • Comparing to Expert Testimony
  • Comparing to Precedent
  • Reframing the Argument
  • Pointing Out Fallacies
  • Questioning the Ethics
  • Clarifying Definitions
  • Challenging Assumptions
  • Exposing Oversimplifications
  • Highlighting Missing Information
  • Demonstrating Irrelevance
  • Assessing Effectiveness
  • Assessing Trustworthiness
  • Recognizing Patterns
  • Differentiating Facts from Opinions
  • Analyzing Perspectives
  • Prioritization
  • Making Predictions
  • Conducting a SWOT Analysis
  • PESTLE Analysis
  • Asking the Five Whys
  • Correlating Data Points
  • Finding Anomalies Or Outliers
  • Comparing to Expert Literature
  • Drawing Inferences
  • Assessing Validity & Reliability

Analysis and Bloom’s Taxonomy

Benjamin Bloom placed analysis as the third-highest form of thinking on his ladder of cognitive skills called Bloom’s Taxonomy .

This taxonomy starts with the lowest levels of thinking – remembering and understanding. The further we go up the ladder, the more we reach higher-order thinking skills that demonstrate depth of understanding and knowledge, as outlined below:

blooms taxonomy, explained below

Here’s a full outline of the taxonomy in a table format:

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critical analysis of a research paper

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1 Important points to consider when critically evaluating published research papers

Simple review articles (also referred to as ‘narrative’ or ‘selective’ reviews), systematic reviews and meta-analyses provide rapid overviews and ‘snapshots’ of progress made within a field, summarising a given topic or research area. They can serve as useful guides, or as current and comprehensive ‘sources’ of information, and can act as a point of reference to relevant primary research studies within a given scientific area. Narrative or systematic reviews are often used as a first step towards a more detailed investigation of a topic or a specific enquiry (a hypothesis or research question), or to establish critical awareness of a rapidly-moving field (you will be required to demonstrate this as part of an assignment, an essay or a dissertation at postgraduate level).

The majority of primary ‘empirical’ research papers essentially follow the same structure (abbreviated here as IMRAD). There is a section on Introduction, followed by the Methods, then the Results, which includes figures and tables showing data described in the paper, and a Discussion. The paper typically ends with a Conclusion, and References and Acknowledgements sections.

The Title of the paper provides a concise first impression. The Abstract follows the basic structure of the extended article. It provides an ‘accessible’ and concise summary of the aims, methods, results and conclusions. The Introduction provides useful background information and context, and typically outlines the aims and objectives of the study. The Abstract can serve as a useful summary of the paper, presenting the purpose, scope and major findings. However, simply reading the abstract alone is not a substitute for critically reading the whole article. To really get a good understanding and to be able to critically evaluate a research study, it is necessary to read on.

While most research papers follow the above format, variations do exist. For example, the results and discussion sections may be combined. In some journals the materials and methods may follow the discussion, and in two of the most widely read journals, Science and Nature, the format does vary from the above due to restrictions on the length of articles. In addition, there may be supporting documents that accompany a paper, including supplementary materials such as supporting data, tables, figures, videos and so on. There may also be commentaries or editorials associated with a topical research paper, which provide an overview or critique of the study being presented.

Box 1 Key questions to ask when appraising a research paper

  • Is the study’s research question relevant?
  • Does the study add anything new to current knowledge and understanding?
  • Does the study test a stated hypothesis?
  • Is the design of the study appropriate to the research question?
  • Do the study methods address key potential sources of bias?
  • Were suitable ‘controls’ included in the study?
  • Were the statistical analyses appropriate and applied correctly?
  • Is there a clear statement of findings?
  • Does the data support the authors’ conclusions?
  • Are there any conflicts of interest or ethical concerns?

There are various strategies used in reading a scientific research paper, and one of these is to start with the title and the abstract, then look at the figures and tables, and move on to the introduction, before turning to the results and discussion, and finally, interrogating the methods.

Another strategy (outlined below) is to begin with the abstract and then the discussion, take a look at the methods, and then the results section (including any relevant tables and figures), before moving on to look more closely at the discussion and, finally, the conclusion. You should choose a strategy that works best for you. However, asking the ‘right’ questions is a central feature of critical appraisal, as with any enquiry, so where should you begin? Here are some critical questions to consider when evaluating a research paper.

Look at the Abstract and then the Discussion : Are these accessible and of general relevance or are they detailed, with far-reaching conclusions? Is it clear why the study was undertaken? Why are the conclusions important? Does the study add anything new to current knowledge and understanding? The reasons why a particular study design or statistical method were chosen should also be clear from reading a research paper. What is the research question being asked? Does the study test a stated hypothesis? Is the design of the study appropriate to the research question? Have the authors considered the limitations of their study and have they discussed these in context?

Take a look at the Methods : Were there any practical difficulties that could have compromised the study or its implementation? Were these considered in the protocol? Were there any missing values and, if so, was the number of missing values too large to permit meaningful analysis? Was the number of samples (cases or participants) too small to establish meaningful significance? Do the study methods address key potential sources of bias? Were suitable ‘controls’ included in the study? If controls are missing or not appropriate to the study design, we cannot be confident that the results really show what is happening in an experiment. Were the statistical analyses appropriate and applied correctly? Do the authors point out the limitations of methods or tests used? Were the methods referenced and described in sufficient detail for others to repeat or extend the study?

Take a look at the Results section and relevant tables and figures : Is there a clear statement of findings? Were the results expected? Do they make sense? What data supports them? Do the tables and figures clearly describe the data (highlighting trends etc.)? Try to distinguish between what the data show and what the authors say they show (i.e. their interpretation).

Moving on to look in greater depth at the Discussion and Conclusion : Are the results discussed in relation to similar (previous) studies? Do the authors indulge in excessive speculation? Are limitations of the study adequately addressed? Were the objectives of the study met and the hypothesis supported or refuted (and is a clear explanation provided)? Does the data support the authors’ conclusions? Maybe there is only one experiment to support a point. More often, several different experiments or approaches combine to support a particular conclusion. A rule of thumb here is that if multiple approaches and multiple lines of evidence from different directions are presented, and all point to the same conclusion, then the conclusions are more credible. But do question all assumptions. Identify any implicit or hidden assumptions that the authors may have used when interpreting their data. Be wary of data that is mixed up with interpretation and speculation! Remember, just because it is published, does not mean that it is right.

O ther points you should consider when evaluating a research paper : Are there any financial, ethical or other conflicts of interest associated with the study, its authors and sponsors? Are there ethical concerns with the study itself? Looking at the references, consider if the authors have preferentially cited their own previous publications (i.e. needlessly), and whether the list of references are recent (ensuring that the analysis is up-to-date). Finally, from a practical perspective, you should move beyond the text of a research paper, talk to your peers about it, consult available commentaries, online links to references and other external sources to help clarify any aspects you don’t understand.

The above can be taken as a general guide to help you begin to critically evaluate a scientific research paper, but only in the broadest sense. Do bear in mind that the way that research evidence is critiqued will also differ slightly according to the type of study being appraised, whether observational or experimental, and each study will have additional aspects that would need to be evaluated separately. For criteria recommended for the evaluation of qualitative research papers, see the article by Mildred Blaxter (1996), available online. Details are in the References.

Activity 1 Critical appraisal of a scientific research paper

A critical appraisal checklist, which you can download via the link below, can act as a useful tool to help you to interrogate research papers. The checklist is divided into four sections, broadly covering:

  • some general aspects
  • research design and methodology
  • the results
  • discussion, conclusion and references.

Science perspective – critical appraisal checklist [ Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. ( Hide tip ) ]

  • Identify and obtain a research article based on a topic of your own choosing, using a search engine such as Google Scholar or PubMed (for example).
  • The selection criteria for your target paper are as follows: the article must be an open access primary research paper (not a review) containing empirical data, published in the last 2–3 years, and preferably no more than 5–6 pages in length.
  • Critically evaluate the research paper using the checklist provided, making notes on the key points and your overall impression.

Critical appraisal checklists are useful tools to help assess the quality of a study. Assessment of various factors, including the importance of the research question, the design and methodology of a study, the validity of the results and their usefulness (application or relevance), the legitimacy of the conclusions, and any potential conflicts of interest, are an important part of the critical appraisal process. Limitations and further improvements can then be considered.

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  • v.11(5); 2017 May

Critical Appraisal of Clinical Research

Azzam al-jundi.

1 Professor, Department of Orthodontics, King Saud bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences-College of Dentistry, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Salah Sakka

2 Associate Professor, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Al Farabi Dental College, Riyadh, KSA.

Evidence-based practice is the integration of individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research and patient’s values and expectations into the decision making process for patient care. It is a fundamental skill to be able to identify and appraise the best available evidence in order to integrate it with your own clinical experience and patients values. The aim of this article is to provide a robust and simple process for assessing the credibility of articles and their value to your clinical practice.

Introduction

Decisions related to patient value and care is carefully made following an essential process of integration of the best existing evidence, clinical experience and patient preference. Critical appraisal is the course of action for watchfully and systematically examining research to assess its reliability, value and relevance in order to direct professionals in their vital clinical decision making [ 1 ].

Critical appraisal is essential to:

  • Combat information overload;
  • Identify papers that are clinically relevant;
  • Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Carrying out Critical Appraisal:

Assessing the research methods used in the study is a prime step in its critical appraisal. This is done using checklists which are specific to the study design.

Standard Common Questions:

  • What is the research question?
  • What is the study type (design)?
  • Selection issues.
  • What are the outcome factors and how are they measured?
  • What are the study factors and how are they measured?
  • What important potential confounders are considered?
  • What is the statistical method used in the study?
  • Statistical results.
  • What conclusions did the authors reach about the research question?
  • Are ethical issues considered?

The Critical Appraisal starts by double checking the following main sections:

I. Overview of the paper:

  • The publishing journal and the year
  • The article title: Does it state key trial objectives?
  • The author (s) and their institution (s)

The presence of a peer review process in journal acceptance protocols also adds robustness to the assessment criteria for research papers and hence would indicate a reduced likelihood of publication of poor quality research. Other areas to consider may include authors’ declarations of interest and potential market bias. Attention should be paid to any declared funding or the issue of a research grant, in order to check for a conflict of interest [ 2 ].

II. ABSTRACT: Reading the abstract is a quick way of getting to know the article and its purpose, major procedures and methods, main findings, and conclusions.

  • Aim of the study: It should be well and clearly written.
  • Materials and Methods: The study design and type of groups, type of randomization process, sample size, gender, age, and procedure rendered to each group and measuring tool(s) should be evidently mentioned.
  • Results: The measured variables with their statistical analysis and significance.
  • Conclusion: It must clearly answer the question of interest.

III. Introduction/Background section:

An excellent introduction will thoroughly include references to earlier work related to the area under discussion and express the importance and limitations of what is previously acknowledged [ 2 ].

-Why this study is considered necessary? What is the purpose of this study? Was the purpose identified before the study or a chance result revealed as part of ‘data searching?’

-What has been already achieved and how does this study be at variance?

-Does the scientific approach outline the advantages along with possible drawbacks associated with the intervention or observations?

IV. Methods and Materials section : Full details on how the study was actually carried out should be mentioned. Precise information is given on the study design, the population, the sample size and the interventions presented. All measurements approaches should be clearly stated [ 3 ].

V. Results section : This section should clearly reveal what actually occur to the subjects. The results might contain raw data and explain the statistical analysis. These can be shown in related tables, diagrams and graphs.

VI. Discussion section : This section should include an absolute comparison of what is already identified in the topic of interest and the clinical relevance of what has been newly established. A discussion on a possible related limitations and necessitation for further studies should also be indicated.

Does it summarize the main findings of the study and relate them to any deficiencies in the study design or problems in the conduct of the study? (This is called intention to treat analysis).

  • Does it address any source of potential bias?
  • Are interpretations consistent with the results?
  • How are null findings interpreted?
  • Does it mention how do the findings of this study relate to previous work in the area?
  • Can they be generalized (external validity)?
  • Does it mention their clinical implications/applicability?
  • What are the results/outcomes/findings applicable to and will they affect a clinical practice?
  • Does the conclusion answer the study question?
  • -Is the conclusion convincing?
  • -Does the paper indicate ethics approval?
  • -Can you identify potential ethical issues?
  • -Do the results apply to the population in which you are interested?
  • -Will you use the results of the study?

Once you have answered the preliminary and key questions and identified the research method used, you can incorporate specific questions related to each method into your appraisal process or checklist.

1-What is the research question?

For a study to gain value, it should address a significant problem within the healthcare and provide new or meaningful results. Useful structure for assessing the problem addressed in the article is the Problem Intervention Comparison Outcome (PICO) method [ 3 ].

P = Patient or problem: Patient/Problem/Population:

It involves identifying if the research has a focused question. What is the chief complaint?

E.g.,: Disease status, previous ailments, current medications etc.,

I = Intervention: Appropriately and clearly stated management strategy e.g.,: new diagnostic test, treatment, adjunctive therapy etc.,

C= Comparison: A suitable control or alternative

E.g.,: specific and limited to one alternative choice.

O= Outcomes: The desired results or patient related consequences have to be identified. e.g.,: eliminating symptoms, improving function, esthetics etc.,

The clinical question determines which study designs are appropriate. There are five broad categories of clinical questions, as shown in [ Table/Fig-1 ].

[Table/Fig-1]:

Categories of clinical questions and the related study designs.

2- What is the study type (design)?

The study design of the research is fundamental to the usefulness of the study.

In a clinical paper the methodology employed to generate the results is fully explained. In general, all questions about the related clinical query, the study design, the subjects and the correlated measures to reduce bias and confounding should be adequately and thoroughly explored and answered.

Participants/Sample Population:

Researchers identify the target population they are interested in. A sample population is therefore taken and results from this sample are then generalized to the target population.

The sample should be representative of the target population from which it came. Knowing the baseline characteristics of the sample population is important because this allows researchers to see how closely the subjects match their own patients [ 4 ].

Sample size calculation (Power calculation): A trial should be large enough to have a high chance of detecting a worthwhile effect if it exists. Statisticians can work out before the trial begins how large the sample size should be in order to have a good chance of detecting a true difference between the intervention and control groups [ 5 ].

  • Is the sample defined? Human, Animals (type); what population does it represent?
  • Does it mention eligibility criteria with reasons?
  • Does it mention where and how the sample were recruited, selected and assessed?
  • Does it mention where was the study carried out?
  • Is the sample size justified? Rightly calculated? Is it adequate to detect statistical and clinical significant results?
  • Does it mention a suitable study design/type?
  • Is the study type appropriate to the research question?
  • Is the study adequately controlled? Does it mention type of randomization process? Does it mention the presence of control group or explain lack of it?
  • Are the samples similar at baseline? Is sample attrition mentioned?
  • All studies report the number of participants/specimens at the start of a study, together with details of how many of them completed the study and reasons for incomplete follow up if there is any.
  • Does it mention who was blinded? Are the assessors and participants blind to the interventions received?
  • Is it mentioned how was the data analysed?
  • Are any measurements taken likely to be valid?

Researchers use measuring techniques and instruments that have been shown to be valid and reliable.

Validity refers to the extent to which a test measures what it is supposed to measure.

(the extent to which the value obtained represents the object of interest.)

  • -Soundness, effectiveness of the measuring instrument;
  • -What does the test measure?
  • -Does it measure, what it is supposed to be measured?
  • -How well, how accurately does it measure?

Reliability: In research, the term reliability means “repeatability” or “consistency”

Reliability refers to how consistent a test is on repeated measurements. It is important especially if assessments are made on different occasions and or by different examiners. Studies should state the method for assessing the reliability of any measurements taken and what the intra –examiner reliability was [ 6 ].

3-Selection issues:

The following questions should be raised:

  • - How were subjects chosen or recruited? If not random, are they representative of the population?
  • - Types of Blinding (Masking) Single, Double, Triple?
  • - Is there a control group? How was it chosen?
  • - How are patients followed up? Who are the dropouts? Why and how many are there?
  • - Are the independent (predictor) and dependent (outcome) variables in the study clearly identified, defined, and measured?
  • - Is there a statement about sample size issues or statistical power (especially important in negative studies)?
  • - If a multicenter study, what quality assurance measures were employed to obtain consistency across sites?
  • - Are there selection biases?
  • • In a case-control study, if exercise habits to be compared:
  • - Are the controls appropriate?
  • - Were records of cases and controls reviewed blindly?
  • - How were possible selection biases controlled (Prevalence bias, Admission Rate bias, Volunteer bias, Recall bias, Lead Time bias, Detection bias, etc.,)?
  • • Cross Sectional Studies:
  • - Was the sample selected in an appropriate manner (random, convenience, etc.,)?
  • - Were efforts made to ensure a good response rate or to minimize the occurrence of missing data?
  • - Were reliability (reproducibility) and validity reported?
  • • In an intervention study, how were subjects recruited and assigned to groups?
  • • In a cohort study, how many reached final follow-up?
  • - Are the subject’s representatives of the population to which the findings are applied?
  • - Is there evidence of volunteer bias? Was there adequate follow-up time?
  • - What was the drop-out rate?
  • - Any shortcoming in the methodology can lead to results that do not reflect the truth. If clinical practice is changed on the basis of these results, patients could be harmed.

Researchers employ a variety of techniques to make the methodology more robust, such as matching, restriction, randomization, and blinding [ 7 ].

Bias is the term used to describe an error at any stage of the study that was not due to chance. Bias leads to results in which there are a systematic deviation from the truth. As bias cannot be measured, researchers need to rely on good research design to minimize bias [ 8 ]. To minimize any bias within a study the sample population should be representative of the population. It is also imperative to consider the sample size in the study and identify if the study is adequately powered to produce statistically significant results, i.e., p-values quoted are <0.05 [ 9 ].

4-What are the outcome factors and how are they measured?

  • -Are all relevant outcomes assessed?
  • -Is measurement error an important source of bias?

5-What are the study factors and how are they measured?

  • -Are all the relevant study factors included in the study?
  • -Have the factors been measured using appropriate tools?

Data Analysis and Results:

- Were the tests appropriate for the data?

- Are confidence intervals or p-values given?

  • How strong is the association between intervention and outcome?
  • How precise is the estimate of the risk?
  • Does it clearly mention the main finding(s) and does the data support them?
  • Does it mention the clinical significance of the result?
  • Is adverse event or lack of it mentioned?
  • Are all relevant outcomes assessed?
  • Was the sample size adequate to detect a clinically/socially significant result?
  • Are the results presented in a way to help in health policy decisions?
  • Is there measurement error?
  • Is measurement error an important source of bias?

Confounding Factors:

A confounder has a triangular relationship with both the exposure and the outcome. However, it is not on the causal pathway. It makes it appear as if there is a direct relationship between the exposure and the outcome or it might even mask an association that would otherwise have been present [ 9 ].

6- What important potential confounders are considered?

  • -Are potential confounders examined and controlled for?
  • -Is confounding an important source of bias?

7- What is the statistical method in the study?

  • -Are the statistical methods described appropriate to compare participants for primary and secondary outcomes?
  • -Are statistical methods specified insufficient detail (If I had access to the raw data, could I reproduce the analysis)?
  • -Were the tests appropriate for the data?
  • -Are confidence intervals or p-values given?
  • -Are results presented as absolute risk reduction as well as relative risk reduction?

Interpretation of p-value:

The p-value refers to the probability that any particular outcome would have arisen by chance. A p-value of less than 1 in 20 (p<0.05) is statistically significant.

  • When p-value is less than significance level, which is usually 0.05, we often reject the null hypothesis and the result is considered to be statistically significant. Conversely, when p-value is greater than 0.05, we conclude that the result is not statistically significant and the null hypothesis is accepted.

Confidence interval:

Multiple repetition of the same trial would not yield the exact same results every time. However, on average the results would be within a certain range. A 95% confidence interval means that there is a 95% chance that the true size of effect will lie within this range.

8- Statistical results:

  • -Do statistical tests answer the research question?

Are statistical tests performed and comparisons made (data searching)?

Correct statistical analysis of results is crucial to the reliability of the conclusions drawn from the research paper. Depending on the study design and sample selection method employed, observational or inferential statistical analysis may be carried out on the results of the study.

It is important to identify if this is appropriate for the study [ 9 ].

  • -Was the sample size adequate to detect a clinically/socially significant result?
  • -Are the results presented in a way to help in health policy decisions?

Clinical significance:

Statistical significance as shown by p-value is not the same as clinical significance. Statistical significance judges whether treatment effects are explicable as chance findings, whereas clinical significance assesses whether treatment effects are worthwhile in real life. Small improvements that are statistically significant might not result in any meaningful improvement clinically. The following questions should always be on mind:

  • -If the results are statistically significant, do they also have clinical significance?
  • -If the results are not statistically significant, was the sample size sufficiently large to detect a meaningful difference or effect?

9- What conclusions did the authors reach about the study question?

Conclusions should ensure that recommendations stated are suitable for the results attained within the capacity of the study. The authors should also concentrate on the limitations in the study and their effects on the outcomes and the proposed suggestions for future studies [ 10 ].

  • -Are the questions posed in the study adequately addressed?
  • -Are the conclusions justified by the data?
  • -Do the authors extrapolate beyond the data?
  • -Are shortcomings of the study addressed and constructive suggestions given for future research?
  • -Bibliography/References:

Do the citations follow one of the Council of Biological Editors’ (CBE) standard formats?

10- Are ethical issues considered?

If a study involves human subjects, human tissues, or animals, was approval from appropriate institutional or governmental entities obtained? [ 10 , 11 ].

Critical appraisal of RCTs: Factors to look for:

  • Allocation (randomization, stratification, confounders).
  • Follow up of participants (intention to treat).
  • Data collection (bias).
  • Sample size (power calculation).
  • Presentation of results (clear, precise).
  • Applicability to local population.

[ Table/Fig-2 ] summarizes the guidelines for Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials CONSORT [ 12 ].

[Table/Fig-2]:

Summary of the CONSORT guidelines.

Critical appraisal of systematic reviews: provide an overview of all primary studies on a topic and try to obtain an overall picture of the results.

In a systematic review, all the primary studies identified are critically appraised and only the best ones are selected. A meta-analysis (i.e., a statistical analysis) of the results from selected studies may be included. Factors to look for:

  • Literature search (did it include published and unpublished materials as well as non-English language studies? Was personal contact with experts sought?).
  • Quality-control of studies included (type of study; scoring system used to rate studies; analysis performed by at least two experts).
  • Homogeneity of studies.

[ Table/Fig-3 ] summarizes the guidelines for Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses PRISMA [ 13 ].

[Table/Fig-3]:

Summary of PRISMA guidelines.

Critical appraisal is a fundamental skill in modern practice for assessing the value of clinical researches and providing an indication of their relevance to the profession. It is a skills-set developed throughout a professional career that facilitates this and, through integration with clinical experience and patient preference, permits the practice of evidence based medicine and dentistry. By following a systematic approach, such evidence can be considered and applied to clinical practice.

Financial or other Competing Interests

How to Critically Analyse an Article

Critical analysis refers to the skill required to evaluate an author’s work. Students are frequently asked to critically analyse a particular journal. The analysis is designed to enhance the reader’s understanding of the thesis and content of the article, and crucially is subjective, because a piece of critical analysis writing is a way for the writer to express their opinions, analysis, and evaluation of the article in question. In essence, the article needs to be broken down into parts, each one analysed separately and then brought together as one piece of critical analysis of the whole.

Key point: you need to be aware that when you are analysing an article your goal is to ensure that your readers understand the main points of the paper with ease. This means demonstrating critical thinking skills, judgement, and evaluation to illustrate how you came to your conclusions and opinions on the work. This might sound simple, and it can be, if you follow our guide to critically analyse an article:

  • Before you start your essay, you should read through the paper at least three times.
  • The first time ensures you understand, the second allows you to examine the structure of the work and the third enables you to pick out the key points and focus of the thesis statement given by the author (if there is one of course!). During these reads and re-reads you can set down bullet points which will eventually frame your outline and draft for the final work.
  • Look for the purpose of the article – is the writer trying to inform through facts and research, are they trying to persuade through logical argument, or are they simply trying to entertain and create an emotional response. Examine your own responses to the article and this will guide to the purpose.
  • When you start writing your analysis, avoid phrases such as “I think/believe”, “In my opinion”. The analysis is of the paper, not your views and perspectives.
  • Ensure you have clearly indicated the subject of the article so that is evident to the reader.
  • Look for both strengths and weaknesses in the work – and always support your assertions with credible, viable sources that are clearly referenced at the end of your work.
  • Be open-minded and objective, rely on facts and evidence as you pull your work together.

Structure for Critical Analysis of an Article

Remember, your essay should be in three mains sections: the introduction, the main body, and a conclusion.

Introduction

Your introduction should commence by indicating the title of the work being analysed, including author and date of publication. This should be followed by an indication of the main themes in the thesis statement. Once you have provided the information about the author’s paper, you should then develop your thesis statement which sets out what you intend to achieve or prove with your critical analysis of the article.

Key point: your introduction should be short, succinct and draw your readers in. Keep it simple and concise but interesting enough to encourage further reading.

Overview of the paper

This is an important section to include when writing a critical analysis of an article because it answers the four “w’s”, of what, why, who, when and also the how. This section should include a brief overview of the key ideas in the article, along with the structure, style and dominant point of view expressed. For example,

“The focus of this article is… based on work undertaken…  The main thrust of the thesis is that… which is the foundation for an argument which suggests. The conclusion from the authors is that…. However, it can be argued that…

Once you have given the overview and outline, you can then move onto the more detailed analysis.

For each point you make about the article, you should contain this in a separate paragraph. Introduce the point you wish to make, regarding what you see as a strength or weakness of the work, provide evidence for your perspective from reliable and credible sources, and indicate how the authors have achieved, or not their goal in relation to the points made. For each point, you should identify whether the paper is objective, informative, persuasive, and sufficiently unbiased. In addition, identify whether the target audience for the work has been correctly addressed, the survey instruments used are appropriate and the results are presented in a clear and concise way.

If the authors have used tables, figures or graphs do they back up the conclusions made? If not, why not? Again, back up your statements with reliable hard evidence and credible sources, fully referenced at the end of your work.

In the same way that an introduction opens up the analysis to readers, the conclusion should close it. Clearly, concisely and without the addition of any new information not included in the body paragraph.

Key points for a strong conclusion include restating your thesis statement, paraphrased, with a summary of the evidence for the accuracy of your views, combined with identification of how the article could have been improved – in other words, asking the reader to take action.

Key phrases for Critical Analysis of an article

  • This article has value because it…
  • There is a clear bias within this article based on the focus on…
  • It appears that the assumptions made do not correlate with the information presented…
  • Aspects of the work suggest that…
  • The proposal is therefore that…
  • The evidence presented supports the view that…
  • The evidence presented however overlooks…
  • Whilst the author’s view is generally accurate, it can also be indicated that…
  • Closer examination suggests there is an omission in relation to

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  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Analyzing a Scholarly Journal Article
  • Group Presentations
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • Types of Structured Group Activities
  • Group Project Survival Skills
  • Leading a Class Discussion
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Works
  • Writing a Case Analysis Paper
  • Writing a Case Study
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Reflective Paper
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

Definition and Introduction

Journal article analysis assignments require you to summarize and critically assess the quality of an empirical research study published in a scholarly [a.k.a., academic, peer-reviewed] journal. The article may be assigned by the professor, chosen from course readings listed in the syllabus, or you must locate an article on your own, usually with the requirement that you search using a reputable library database, such as, JSTOR or ProQuest . The article chosen is expected to relate to the overall discipline of the course, specific course content, or key concepts discussed in class. In some cases, the purpose of the assignment is to analyze an article that is part of the literature review for a future research project.

Analysis of an article can be assigned to students individually or as part of a small group project. The final product is usually in the form of a short paper [typically 1- 6 double-spaced pages] that addresses key questions the professor uses to guide your analysis or that assesses specific parts of a scholarly research study [e.g., the research problem, methodology, discussion, conclusions or findings]. The analysis paper may be shared on a digital course management platform and/or presented to the class for the purpose of promoting a wider discussion about the topic of the study. Although assigned in any level of undergraduate and graduate coursework in the social and behavioral sciences, professors frequently include this assignment in upper division courses to help students learn how to effectively identify, read, and analyze empirical research within their major.

Franco, Josue. “Introducing the Analysis of Journal Articles.” Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association’s 2020 Teaching and Learning Conference, February 7-9, 2020, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sego, Sandra A. and Anne E. Stuart. "Learning to Read Empirical Articles in General Psychology." Teaching of Psychology 43 (2016): 38-42; Kershaw, Trina C., Jordan P. Lippman, and Jennifer Fugate. "Practice Makes Proficient: Teaching Undergraduate Students to Understand Published Research." Instructional Science 46 (2018): 921-946; Woodward-Kron, Robyn. "Critical Analysis and the Journal Article Review Assignment." Prospect 18 (August 2003): 20-36; MacMillan, Margy and Allison MacKenzie. "Strategies for Integrating Information Literacy and Academic Literacy: Helping Undergraduate Students make the most of Scholarly Articles." Library Management 33 (2012): 525-535.

Benefits of Journal Article Analysis Assignments

Analyzing and synthesizing a scholarly journal article is intended to help students obtain the reading and critical thinking skills needed to develop and write their own research papers. This assignment also supports workplace skills where you could be asked to summarize a report or other type of document and report it, for example, during a staff meeting or for a presentation.

There are two broadly defined ways that analyzing a scholarly journal article supports student learning:

Improve Reading Skills

Conducting research requires an ability to review, evaluate, and synthesize prior research studies. Reading prior research requires an understanding of the academic writing style , the type of epistemological beliefs or practices underpinning the research design, and the specific vocabulary and technical terminology [i.e., jargon] used within a discipline. Reading scholarly articles is important because academic writing is unfamiliar to most students; they have had limited exposure to using peer-reviewed journal articles prior to entering college or students have yet to gain exposure to the specific academic writing style of their disciplinary major. Learning how to read scholarly articles also requires careful and deliberate concentration on how authors use specific language and phrasing to convey their research, the problem it addresses, its relationship to prior research, its significance, its limitations, and how authors connect methods of data gathering to the results so as to develop recommended solutions derived from the overall research process.

Improve Comprehension Skills

In addition to knowing how to read scholarly journals articles, students must learn how to effectively interpret what the scholar(s) are trying to convey. Academic writing can be dense, multi-layered, and non-linear in how information is presented. In addition, scholarly articles contain footnotes or endnotes, references to sources, multiple appendices, and, in some cases, non-textual elements [e.g., graphs, charts] that can break-up the reader’s experience with the narrative flow of the study. Analyzing articles helps students practice comprehending these elements of writing, critiquing the arguments being made, reflecting upon the significance of the research, and how it relates to building new knowledge and understanding or applying new approaches to practice. Comprehending scholarly writing also involves thinking critically about where you fit within the overall dialogue among scholars concerning the research problem, finding possible gaps in the research that require further analysis, or identifying where the author(s) has failed to examine fully any specific elements of the study.

In addition, journal article analysis assignments are used by professors to strengthen discipline-specific information literacy skills, either alone or in relation to other tasks, such as, giving a class presentation or participating in a group project. These benefits can include the ability to:

  • Effectively paraphrase text, which leads to a more thorough understanding of the overall study;
  • Identify and describe strengths and weaknesses of the study and their implications;
  • Relate the article to other course readings and in relation to particular research concepts or ideas discussed during class;
  • Think critically about the research and summarize complex ideas contained within;
  • Plan, organize, and write an effective inquiry-based paper that investigates a research study, evaluates evidence, expounds on the author’s main ideas, and presents an argument concerning the significance and impact of the research in a clear and concise manner;
  • Model the type of source summary and critique you should do for any college-level research paper; and,
  • Increase interest and engagement with the research problem of the study as well as with the discipline.

Kershaw, Trina C., Jennifer Fugate, and Aminda J. O'Hare. "Teaching Undergraduates to Understand Published Research through Structured Practice in Identifying Key Research Concepts." Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology . Advance online publication, 2020; Franco, Josue. “Introducing the Analysis of Journal Articles.” Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association’s 2020 Teaching and Learning Conference, February 7-9, 2020, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sego, Sandra A. and Anne E. Stuart. "Learning to Read Empirical Articles in General Psychology." Teaching of Psychology 43 (2016): 38-42; Woodward-Kron, Robyn. "Critical Analysis and the Journal Article Review Assignment." Prospect 18 (August 2003): 20-36; MacMillan, Margy and Allison MacKenzie. "Strategies for Integrating Information Literacy and Academic Literacy: Helping Undergraduate Students make the most of Scholarly Articles." Library Management 33 (2012): 525-535; Kershaw, Trina C., Jordan P. Lippman, and Jennifer Fugate. "Practice Makes Proficient: Teaching Undergraduate Students to Understand Published Research." Instructional Science 46 (2018): 921-946.

Structure and Organization

A journal article analysis paper should be written in paragraph format and include an instruction to the study, your analysis of the research, and a conclusion that provides an overall assessment of the author's work, along with an explanation of what you believe is the study's overall impact and significance. Unless the purpose of the assignment is to examine foundational studies published many years ago, you should select articles that have been published relatively recently [e.g., within the past few years].

Since the research has been completed, reference to the study in your paper should be written in the past tense, with your analysis stated in the present tense [e.g., “The author portrayed access to health care services in rural areas as primarily a problem of having reliable transportation. However, I believe the author is overgeneralizing this issue because...”].

Introduction Section

The first section of a journal analysis paper should describe the topic of the article and highlight the author’s main points. This includes describing the research problem and theoretical framework, the rationale for the research, the methods of data gathering and analysis, the key findings, and the author’s final conclusions and recommendations. The narrative should focus on the act of describing rather than analyzing. Think of the introduction as a more comprehensive and detailed descriptive abstract of the study.

Possible questions to help guide your writing of the introduction section may include:

  • Who are the authors and what credentials do they hold that contributes to the validity of the study?
  • What was the research problem being investigated?
  • What type of research design was used to investigate the research problem?
  • What theoretical idea(s) and/or research questions were used to address the problem?
  • What was the source of the data or information used as evidence for analysis?
  • What methods were applied to investigate this evidence?
  • What were the author's overall conclusions and key findings?

Critical Analysis Section

The second section of a journal analysis paper should describe the strengths and weaknesses of the study and analyze its significance and impact. This section is where you shift the narrative from describing to analyzing. Think critically about the research in relation to other course readings, what has been discussed in class, or based on your own life experiences. If you are struggling to identify any weaknesses, explain why you believe this to be true. However, no study is perfect, regardless of how laudable its design may be. Given this, think about the repercussions of the choices made by the author(s) and how you might have conducted the study differently. Examples can include contemplating the choice of what sources were included or excluded in support of examining the research problem, the choice of the method used to analyze the data, or the choice to highlight specific recommended courses of action and/or implications for practice over others. Another strategy is to place yourself within the research study itself by thinking reflectively about what may be missing if you had been a participant in the study or if the recommended courses of action specifically targeted you or your community.

Possible questions to help guide your writing of the analysis section may include:

Introduction

  • Did the author clearly state the problem being investigated?
  • What was your reaction to and perspective on the research problem?
  • Was the study’s objective clearly stated? Did the author clearly explain why the study was necessary?
  • How well did the introduction frame the scope of the study?
  • Did the introduction conclude with a clear purpose statement?

Literature Review

  • Did the literature review lay a foundation for understanding the significance of the research problem?
  • Did the literature review provide enough background information to understand the problem in relation to relevant contexts [e.g., historical, economic, social, cultural, etc.].
  • Did literature review effectively place the study within the domain of prior research? Is anything missing?
  • Was the literature review organized by conceptual categories or did the author simply list and describe sources?
  • Did the author accurately explain how the data or information were collected?
  • Was the data used sufficient in supporting the study of the research problem?
  • Was there another methodological approach that could have been more illuminating?
  • Give your overall evaluation of the methods used in this article. How much trust would you put in generating relevant findings?

Results and Discussion

  • Were the results clearly presented?
  • Did you feel that the results support the theoretical and interpretive claims of the author? Why?
  • What did the author(s) do especially well in describing or analyzing their results?
  • Was the author's evaluation of the findings clearly stated?
  • How well did the discussion of the results relate to what is already known about the research problem?
  • Was the discussion of the results free of repetition and redundancies?
  • What interpretations did the authors make that you think are in incomplete, unwarranted, or overstated?
  • Did the conclusion effectively capture the main points of study?
  • Did the conclusion address the research questions posed? Do they seem reasonable?
  • Were the author’s conclusions consistent with the evidence and arguments presented?
  • Has the author explained how the research added new knowledge or understanding?

Overall Writing Style

  • If the article included tables, figures, or other non-textual elements, did they contribute to understanding the study?
  • Were ideas developed and related in a logical sequence?
  • Were transitions between sections of the article smooth and easy to follow?

Overall Evaluation Section

The final section of a journal analysis paper should bring your thoughts together into a coherent assessment of the value of the research study . This section is where the narrative flow transitions from analyzing specific elements of the article to critically evaluating the overall study. Explain what you view as the significance of the research in relation to the overall course content and any relevant discussions that occurred during class. Think about how the article contributes to understanding the overall research problem, how it fits within existing literature on the topic, how it relates to the course, and what it means to you as a student researcher. In some cases, your professor will also ask you to describe your experiences writing the journal article analysis paper as part of a reflective learning exercise.

Possible questions to help guide your writing of the conclusion and evaluation section may include:

  • Was the structure of the article clear and well organized?
  • Was the topic of current or enduring interest to you?
  • What were the main weaknesses of the article? [this does not refer to limitations stated by the author, but what you believe are potential flaws]
  • Was any of the information in the article unclear or ambiguous?
  • What did you learn from the research? If nothing stood out to you, explain why.
  • Assess the originality of the research. Did you believe it contributed new understanding of the research problem?
  • Were you persuaded by the author’s arguments?
  • If the author made any final recommendations, will they be impactful if applied to practice?
  • In what ways could future research build off of this study?
  • What implications does the study have for daily life?
  • Was the use of non-textual elements, footnotes or endnotes, and/or appendices helpful in understanding the research?
  • What lingering questions do you have after analyzing the article?

NOTE: Avoid using quotes. One of the main purposes of writing an article analysis paper is to learn how to effectively paraphrase and use your own words to summarize a scholarly research study and to explain what the research means to you. Using and citing a direct quote from the article should only be done to help emphasize a key point or to underscore an important concept or idea.

Business: The Article Analysis . Fred Meijer Center for Writing, Grand Valley State University; Bachiochi, Peter et al. "Using Empirical Article Analysis to Assess Research Methods Courses." Teaching of Psychology 38 (2011): 5-9; Brosowsky, Nicholaus P. et al. “Teaching Undergraduate Students to Read Empirical Articles: An Evaluation and Revision of the QALMRI Method.” PsyArXi Preprints , 2020; Holster, Kristin. “Article Evaluation Assignment”. TRAILS: Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology . Washington DC: American Sociological Association, 2016; Kershaw, Trina C., Jennifer Fugate, and Aminda J. O'Hare. "Teaching Undergraduates to Understand Published Research through Structured Practice in Identifying Key Research Concepts." Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology . Advance online publication, 2020; Franco, Josue. “Introducing the Analysis of Journal Articles.” Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association’s 2020 Teaching and Learning Conference, February 7-9, 2020, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Reviewer's Guide . SAGE Reviewer Gateway, SAGE Journals; Sego, Sandra A. and Anne E. Stuart. "Learning to Read Empirical Articles in General Psychology." Teaching of Psychology 43 (2016): 38-42; Kershaw, Trina C., Jordan P. Lippman, and Jennifer Fugate. "Practice Makes Proficient: Teaching Undergraduate Students to Understand Published Research." Instructional Science 46 (2018): 921-946; Gyuris, Emma, and Laura Castell. "To Tell Them or Show Them? How to Improve Science Students’ Skills of Critical Reading." International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education 21 (2013): 70-80; Woodward-Kron, Robyn. "Critical Analysis and the Journal Article Review Assignment." Prospect 18 (August 2003): 20-36; MacMillan, Margy and Allison MacKenzie. "Strategies for Integrating Information Literacy and Academic Literacy: Helping Undergraduate Students Make the Most of Scholarly Articles." Library Management 33 (2012): 525-535.

Writing Tip

Not All Scholarly Journal Articles Can Be Critically Analyzed

There are a variety of articles published in scholarly journals that do not fit within the guidelines of an article analysis assignment. This is because the work cannot be empirically examined or it does not generate new knowledge in a way which can be critically analyzed.

If you are required to locate a research study on your own, avoid selecting these types of journal articles:

  • Theoretical essays which discuss concepts, assumptions, and propositions, but report no empirical research;
  • Statistical or methodological papers that may analyze data, but the bulk of the work is devoted to refining a new measurement, statistical technique, or modeling procedure;
  • Articles that review, analyze, critique, and synthesize prior research, but do not report any original research;
  • Brief essays devoted to research methods and findings;
  • Articles written by scholars in popular magazines or industry trade journals;
  • Pre-print articles that have been posted online, but may undergo further editing and revision by the journal's editorial staff before final publication; and
  • Academic commentary that discusses research trends or emerging concepts and ideas, but does not contain citations to sources.

Journal Analysis Assignment - Myers . Writing@CSU, Colorado State University; Franco, Josue. “Introducing the Analysis of Journal Articles.” Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association’s 2020 Teaching and Learning Conference, February 7-9, 2020, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Woodward-Kron, Robyn. "Critical Analysis and the Journal Article Review Assignment." Prospect 18 (August 2003): 20-36.

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Satellite photo showing a container ship entangled with the wreckage of a bridge.

Baltimore bridge collapse: a bridge engineer explains what happened, and what needs to change

critical analysis of a research paper

Associate Professor, Civil Engineering, Monash University

Disclosure statement

Colin Caprani receives funding from the Department of Transport (Victoria) and the Level Crossing Removal Project. He is also Chair of the Confidential Reporting Scheme for Safer Structures - Australasia, Chair of the Australian Regional Group of the Institution of Structural Engineers, and Australian National Delegate for the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering.

Monash University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation AU.

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When the container ship MV Dali, 300 metres long and massing around 100,000 tonnes, lost power and slammed into one of the support piers of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, the bridge collapsed in moments . Six people are presumed dead, several others injured, and the city and region are expecting a months-long logistical nightmare in the absence of a crucial transport link.

It was a shocking event, not only for the public but for bridge engineers like me. We work very hard to ensure bridges are safe, and overall the probability of being injured or worse in a bridge collapse remains even lower than the chance of being struck by lightning.

However, the images from Baltimore are a reminder that safety can’t be taken for granted. We need to remain vigilant.

So why did this bridge collapse? And, just as importantly, how might we make other bridges more safe against such collapse?

A 20th century bridge meets a 21st century ship

The Francis Scott Key Bridge was built through the mid 1970s and opened in 1977. The main structure over the navigation channel is a “continuous truss bridge” in three sections or spans.

The bridge rests on four supports, two of which sit each side of the navigable waterway. It is these two piers that are critical to protect against ship impacts.

And indeed, there were two layers of protection: a so-called “dolphin” structure made from concrete, and a fender. The dolphins are in the water about 100 metres upstream and downstream of the piers. They are intended to be sacrificed in the event of a wayward ship, absorbing its energy and being deformed in the process but keeping the ship from hitting the bridge itself.

Diagram of a bridge

The fender is the last layer of protection. It is a structure made of timber and reinforced concrete placed around the main piers. Again, it is intended to absorb the energy of any impact.

Fenders are not intended to absorb impacts from very large vessels . And so when the MV Dali, weighing more than 100,000 tonnes, made it past the protective dolphins, it was simply far too massive for the fender to withstand.

Read more: I've captained ships into tight ports like Baltimore, and this is how captains like me work with harbor pilots to avoid deadly collisions

Video recordings show a cloud of dust appearing just before the bridge collapsed, which may well have been the fender disintegrating as it was crushed by the ship.

Once the massive ship had made it past both the dolphin and the fender, the pier – one of the bridge’s four main supports – was simply incapable of resisting the impact. Given the size of the vessel and its likely speed of around 8 knots (15 kilometres per hour), the impact force would have been around 20,000 tonnes .

Bridges are getting safer

This was not the first time a ship hit the Francis Scott Bridge. There was another collision in 1980 , damaging a fender badly enough that it had to be replaced.

Around the world, 35 major bridge collapses resulting in fatalities were caused by collisions between 1960 and 2015, according to a 2018 report from the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure. Collisions between ships and bridges in the 1970s and early 1980s led to a significant improvement in the design rules for protecting bridges from impact.

A greenish book cover with the title Ship Collision With Bridges.

Further impacts in the 1970s and early 1980s instigated significant improvements in the design rules for impact.

The International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering’s Ship Collision with Bridges guide, published in 1993, and the American Association of State Highway and Transporation Officials’ Guide Specification and Commentary for Vessel Collision Design of Highway Bridges (1991) changed how bridges were designed.

In Australia, the Australian Standard for Bridge Design (published in 2017) requires designers to think about the biggest vessel likely to come along in the next 100 years, and what would happen if it were heading for any bridge pier at full speed. Designers need to consider the result of both head-on collisions and side-on, glancing blows. As a result, many newer bridges protect their piers with entire human-made islands.

Of course, these improvements came too late to influence the design of the Francis Scott Key Bridge itself.

Lessons from disaster

So what are the lessons apparent at this early stage?

First, it’s clear the protection measures in place for this bridge were not enough to handle this ship impact. Today’s cargo ships are much bigger than those of the 1970s, and it seems likely the Francis Scott Key Bridge was not designed with a collision like this in mind.

So one lesson is that we need to consider how the vessels near our bridges are changing. This means we cannot just accept the structure as it was built, but ensure the protection measures around our bridges are evolving alongside the ships around them.

Photo shows US Coast Guard boat sailing towards a container ship entangled in the wreckage of a large bridge.

Second, and more generally, we must remain vigilant in managing our bridges. I’ve written previously about the current level of safety of Australian bridges, but also about how we can do better.

This tragic event only emphasises the need to spend more on maintaining our ageing infrastructure. This is the only way to ensure it remains safe and functional for the demands we put on it today.

  • Engineering
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  • container ships
  • Baltimore bridge collapse

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  1. Critical Analysis

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  5. PDF Writing Critical Analysis Papers1

    A critical analysis paper asks the writer to make an argument about a particular book, essay, movie, etc. The goal is two fold: one, identify and explain the argument that the author is making, and two, provide your own argument about that argument. One of the key directions of these assignments is often to avoid/minimize summary - you are ...

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    A critical analysis may include supportive references like you would find in a research paper, but will generally have a much stronger emphasis on its author's interpretation than you would find in an objective research paper. ... Critical Analysis - a review of the original author's argument within the critical context of the analysis ...

  13. Critical Appraisal of Scientific Articles

    The aim of this paper is to present an accessible introduction into critical appraisal of scientific articles. ... a systematic review, or a meta-analysis. The references in review articles point the reader towards more detailed information on the topic concerned. ... How to write the methods section of a research paper. Respir Care. 2004; 49: ...

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    Focus on making your introduction engaging to attract your audience's attention and encourage them to continue listening or reading your critical analysis. 3. Write your body. Write body paragraphs that address the main points outlined in your introduction.

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    critiquing the literature, critical analysis, reviewing the literature, evaluation and appraisal of the literature which are in essence the same thing (Bassett and Bassett, 2003). Terminology in research can be confusing for the novice research reader where a term like 'random' refers to an organized manner of selecting items or participants ...

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  25. Baltimore bridge collapse: a bridge engineer explains what happened

    It is these two piers that are critical to protect against ship impacts. And indeed, there were two layers of protection: a so-called "dolphin" structure made from concrete, and a fender. The ...