Not sure how to summarize and critique an article? Writing an article critique essay can seem intimidating if you have never done it before. The main purpose is to provide objective analysis of a scientific research paper or literary piece, focusing on whether the author was successful in carrying out their work. When looking at a research essay, it is important to use evidence from the paper in order to determine whether the author's research is sound and logical. While it might seem tempting to simply summarize a qualitative research article, it is important that as the critic, you read through the paper carefully and thoughtfully, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the article, and write it out in a well-structured way.

How to Critique an Article Step by Step

There are plenty of students that do not know how to critique an article. But do not worry, this blog as you covered. When undertaking a scholarly article critique, here is the first step:

Reading Actively

As you look through the piece - whether it is a full book, short story, qualitative or quantitative research article - make sure you are careful and deliberate. Grasp the main idea and familiarize yourself with the main points that the author is arguing. To do this, identify the author's thesis statement. You can either highlight the document as a Word file or you can print it out and do it the old fashion way with a red pen, whatever is more comfortable for you. After you read through the work a second time, answer these questions:

  1. What is the thesis statement or argument?
  2. What explanations does the author give when discussing what motivated them to make this argument?
  3. Who are the target readers for the article? Does the author do an effective job in reaching them?
  4. Are the arguments backed up with solid and reliable evidence?
  5. Are you able to identify any weaknesses in the author's arguments?
  6. Does the author exhibit any biases or misinterpret the evidence?
  7. What are the concluding points of the paper?

Create an organized system that allows you to identify anything that you find inconsistent, confusing, or even important. For instance, you could highlight confusing statements in yellow and inconsistent ones in light blue. As you proceed to read the article a few more times, expand upon your ideas and thoughts, especially as you read other sources that might either strengthen or weaken the validity of the author's points. No matter how good of a memory you might have, it is still important to write down your observations about the article.  Finally, determine whether you plan to defend the piece or argue that it is flawed. You will then take the next step and search for evidence to support your opinions.

How to Critique a Research Article

Now that you have a better idea about how to critique a research article, let us take a look at the next step:

Gathering Evidence

At this point, you will have determined whether or not you consider the author's broader message to be strong and logical. In order to test your hypothesis, look for other articles on similar topics to determine what those authors say. Even if you find that the author uses reputable sources, it is important to determine whether those sources were properly represented and if the points the author is making can be applied in real world situations. It is also important to look again at the introduction and conclusion of the article you are critiquing in order to make sure they are cohesive and convincing. Writers who know how to critique a scientific article understand that even when an author's intentions are good, they might nonetheless be biased in a certain direction. You should also think about the author's motivations. Do they have a certain agenda? Based on the results or conclusions of their study, is it possible that they will personally gain something? 

There are certain signs to look out for when detecting bias. For instance, if the author is ignoring or otherwise fails to address evidence that runs counter to their position, it is likely biased. Furthermore, they might deliberately mislead by cherry-picking certain data while leaving other data out. Of course, if the article does not include reputable scholarly sources, you should be very skeptical.

As you look at other sources, make notes whenever you find that your interpretation of a text differs from that of the author's. Any conflict in understanding can be beneficial as you proceed to critique the author's piece. Look to see what other scholars think about the text. If there seems to be a certain consensus - especially among a diverse set of scholars - this will help lend credence to your critique.

Is the author using evidence from studies that took place 30 years ago or are they recent? Are they citing authors who do not attempt to hide their persuasions or are the authors verified experts in their field? The choice of sources goes a long way towards determining whether or not the author's article is credible.

Pay attention to stylistic elements as well, especially if it is not a scientific research article. Those who know how to do an article critique of literature understand that the word choices are important. Think about the author's tone and discuss the appropriateness of their terminology. For instance, if the author is clearly angry or is using bombastic words, it is evident that they are not interested in objective analysis.

How to Write an Article Critique in APA Format

As you finish your paper, do not forget to think about how to write an article critique in APA format or MLA since the formatting style matters. Here are a few more final pointers:

If you know how to critique a journal article, you are aware that the word "critique" does not imply that the purpose of your paper is to criticize the work. Indeed, you might even find that the arguments are strong, in which case the paper would focus on the evidence that explains why the article is so solid. In the end, this is an exercise about being able to evaluate text and identifying the good, the bad or even both.