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how-to-write-an-article-review January 25, 2019

How to write an article review? The presence of a qualitative critical review is a prerequisite for the publication of a scientific article or the text of a report in authoritative publications. What are the functions of a review?

  • It is the main source of information about scientific research in domestic and foreign periodicals, information systems, and databases.
  • It is used in information systems (including automated) to search for information.
  • The critical analysis allows potential readers to familiarize themselves with the main content of a scientific article or report, determine its relevance (i.e., the degree of “usefulness” for the audience), and decide whether to read the full text of the work.

What Are the Characteristics of a Good Critical Review?

  1. It represents a complete, clear, coherent and logical paragraph, which can be perceived as a self-sufficient and self-valuable block of information.
  2. This work is informative; that is, it reflects the main content of the article and the results of the research and does not contain information that is not found in the article or report.
  3. Such a review is structured; that is, it follows the logic of describing the study and presenting its results and contains all the main components of the full article (report): introduction, goals and objectives, methods, results, and conclusions.
  4. It is original; that is, it forms an idea of your research and your contribution to the development of this topic.
  5. Such a text conforms to the norms of scientific style. The work should be written in simple English language, understandable not only to the target audience of your article (report) but also to a wider readership.

How to Review an Article

Are you inclined to learn how to review an article properly? Although the analysis is rather a brief document, it often takes almost as much time as a full article to make sure that it contains all the necessary components (in accordance with the selected type of critical review), has the necessary volume, and meets all the requirements established by the specific journal. It is easier to write a critical review in such a way that each structural component is a single sentence (although the components of the critical review can be combined or, conversely, extended to several sentences). Traditionally, in English-speaking academic culture, there are three types of annotations:

  • descriptive (short)
  • informative (medium size),
  • expanded (detailed).

These types of reviews differ from each other not only in length (since there are no uniquely mandatory requirements for volume) but also in structure and content. However, the experience of publications in scientific journals shows that, at present, humanitarian science journals require the research methods and results (components that are theoretically optional for descriptive annotations) necessarily be included in the critical review.

How to Do an Article Review

How to do an article review properly? On average, a descriptive, critical review is about 100 words. Such abstracts describe the content of the study and list the main provisions of the article or report, in order to reveal the topic, so that the reader can understand whether this article is of his or her interest or not. Descriptive theses can be compared with the table of contents. The reader forms an opinion on what the work is about, but there is no detailed information about the content of the individual sections. The descriptive thesis contains the following components:

  • justification of the relevance of the study; its causes and prerequisites (background);
  • subject, goals, and objectives of the study (purpose and aim);
  • the main essence of the research (the particular focus of the paper).

Descriptive theses usually do not include the results of the research, conclusions, and the possibilities of applying the results of the work.

Informative Analysis

It is the most common type of critical review (about 300 words). An informative analysis of the article forms a fairly complete picture of the content and results of the study and therefore should contain the following sections:

  • justification of the relevance of the study; its causes and prerequisites, posing the problem (background);
  • subject, goals, and objectives of the study (purpose and aim);
  • research techniques and materials (methods);
  • results obtained and their significance (findings);
  • the most significant conclusions.

An informative analysis of the article should contain a review of the available literature or describe other studies in a particular area since the task of any critical review is to form an idea of the author’s contribution to the development of this topic.

Detailed Analysis

This type of a critical review is a more detailed presentation of the main content of the article, supported by examples and other illustrations. The volume of such a critical review is about 4-5 pages. In addition to all the above-mentioned components of the informative critical review, a detailed analysis of the article also includes examples, graphs, charts, tables, a description of the advantages of this study over other works, and a detailed justification of the main conclusions and references to important works.

The Relevance of the Study

This part of the critical review should answer the question: “Why do we think about the problem posed and the results of the research?” If the problem does not seem “obviously interesting,” it will be better if you first indicate your understanding of its importance. Nonetheless, if your work is about a problem the importance of which is widely recognized, it is better to explain what part of the big problem you are working on first. In this paragraph, you must justify the importance of your work in one or two sentences.

Purpose and Aims

This part of the article review should clearly explain what problem you are trying to solve and how broad or specific it is (i.e., whether you are describing a general problem or a particular situation). In rare cases, you can formulate goals and objectives before justifying the relevance of the study, but usually, it is advisable only when you can be sure that the importance of the problem is obvious to most readers.

Approach and Methods

In order to formulate this part of the critical review correctly, it is necessary to answer a number of important and specific questions for yourself. How exactly did you go to solve the problem? What methods did you use in your research (observation, survey, analysis, experiment, simulation, comparison, hypothetical method, etc.)? What important indicators did you monitor and evaluate, and which ones did not take into account? In addition, it is important to explain how appropriate and justified the choice of the research methods is.

Results

This part should show the readers what answers to those questions that you had set yourself at the beginning of the study you received. In particular, the authors often come to the conclusion that something is faster, cheaper, fewer, or better than something else, although this approach is a characteristic of research from the more exact sciences. If possible, provide the results in figures. In any case, use specific formulations or indicators and avoid vague and non-obvious results, i.e., do not use words such as “very,” “small,” “significant,” etc.

Conclusions

What is the value of your results? Did you succeed in making a breakthrough in your scientific field achieve significant success, or did you simply show that this research direction is “deadlock” and you need to pay attention to other ways? Can you summarize or reproduce your results, or could they be obtained only in your particular case (under specific circumstances)? Here you can also outline the prospects for the application of the results of your research, as well as their theoretical and practical significance.

Identify Your Target Audience

Do not forget that the main function of the critical review is to help the potential reader to find your article in a huge stream of scientific information and understand how this article meets its interests and needs. In addition, your critical hypotheses and arguments should be clear from a critical review to the reader. Therefore, in order to control the level of complexity of a future critical review, as well as select appropriate language and stylistic means, ask yourself who should understand your abstract (exclusively specialists in your field, or representatives of other scientific disciplines and areas or a wider readership (including students) too).

Determine the Type of Your Critical Review

All article reviews perform the same functions and have similar characteristics, but descriptive, informative, and detailed critical reviews differ from each other. The requirements established by a particular journal may specify the type of article required; otherwise, you should define it yourself. Do not forget that descriptive, critical reviews are usually used for articles in the humanities, and informative ones are applied to articles on natural and technical sciences.

Describe the Main Problem

It is a necessary step, which helps to justify the relevance of the research, explain its causes and prerequisites, as well as inform the reader of certain background knowledge. To formulate this part of the critical review clearly, the following questions can help you:

  1. What problem is the research trying to solve?
  2. What is the scope of the study? Are you studying a general problem or some particular situation?
  3. What is the main point or argument?

Highlight the Goals of the Study

Imagine that you are writing about the importance of developing cycling tourism or exploring the policies of the British government towards colonies at the beginning of the 20th century. The reader must understand why your research is important and what its purpose is. To write this part of the critical review properly, the following questions will help you:

  1. Why did the author decide to conduct this research?
  2. What is the study about? 
  3. What results did you get?
  4. Why are the study and the results important?
  5. Why might this article be interesting and helpful to someone?

Describe the Research Methods Used

In this part of the critical review, you must specify the chosen research methods and, if possible, explain your choice. In particular, you need to indicate whether you have conducted independent research or compiled a review of studies conducted by other people. To formulate this part of the critical review correctly, follow these steps:

  1. Describe what you specifically did during the study and what indicators were used to evaluate the results obtained.
  2. Show what evidence for supporting your hypothesis you have received.
  3. List the main materials (sources) that you applied during the study.

Do not forget that the choice of research methods depends mainly on the field of science and the type of research (empirical, experimental-theoretical, or theoretical).

Present Your Findings

Theoretically, this step is required only when writing an informative critical review; however, in practice, the results, as well as the methods, are included in almost any annotation to a scientific article. The following questions will help you:

  1. What answers were received during your research?
  2. Has your hypothesis or argument been confirmed?
  3. What are your overall results?

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