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:
- 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?
- 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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- J Indian Prosthodont Soc
- v.21(1); Jan-Mar 2021
Critical evaluation of publications
N. gopi chander.
Editor, The Journal of Indian Prosthodontic Society, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Critical evaluation is the process of examining the research for the strength or weakness of the findings, validity, relevance, and usefulness of the research findings.[ 1 ] The availability of extensive information and the difficulty in differentiating the relevant information obligate the primary need of critical appraisal. In addition, it establishes superior evidence and increases the application to clinical practice.[ 2 ] More importantly, it differentiates between significant and/or insignificant data in the literature and aids in providing the updated information. The purpose of critical appraisal shall help in informed decision and improve the quality of healthcare provided to patients.[ 1 , 2 , 3 ]
The research data have three possible outcomes – true findings, random variation that occurs due to chance, and biased results due to systematic error.[ 4 ] The true findings can be of positive or negative results, but it shall be highly recognized. The random error or actual result deviation occurs due to the uncontrollable factors such as smaller sample size and confounding factors. The random error does not alter the measured value, but it is an imperfect error caused due to study design inconsistencies. These errors are unpredictable and cannot be repeated again by repeating the analysis. The biased results are deliberate deviation in the study design, methodology, or investigations. The deviations in the result can be due to poor designing, to the methodology, or in the analysis. It will be difficult to differentiate these findings without critical analysis of the literature.[ 5 , 6 ]
There are various guidelines and tools proposed to critically evaluate the literature.[ 7 , 8 , 9 ] Since the scientific literature is in constant evolution, no one guidelines or checklist is considered to be gold standard. Moreover, the appraisal varies with the type of research. The checklist provided by various organizations for designing or structuring manuscripts - case report, reviews, and original research - cannot be combined or generalized for use. Similarly, it varies with the types of study design - randomized clinical trials and observational studies –case–control, cohort, and cross-sectional studies. The methodological guidelines such as consort statements, CARE guidelines, PROSPERO, or Cochrane checklists can significantly aid in the evaluation of different types of research data.[ 10 ] The structured approach and checklists provided by the organizations can be a valuable aid to conduct research as well as critically evaluate the manuscripts. In addition to the guidelines, the simplified checklists proposed by Young and Solomon can be of adjuvant tool in critical assessment of the literature.[ 1 ] It consists of 10 simple rules. That includes relevance of study question, new information to existing literature, type of research question, appropriateness of study design, bias appraisal, adherence of study protocol, hypothesis testing, check or estimation of statistical analysis, validation of conclusion, and identification of conflicts of interest. These checklists along with updated methodological guidelines for different types of study designs can be a valuable tool for critical appraisal of the literature.[ 1 , 10 ]
Most of the tools assess the validity, reliability, bias, and clinical application of the research data. The validity aids in determining the accuracy of the results, and the reliability establishes the consistency of the results. The bias is systemic deviation of results. The bias is of many types: it can be of from the initiation of the study to manuscript publication. Various assessment tools have been proposed to determine the bias. More commonly employed are the GRADE, Grade pro, Newcastle Ottawa, jaded, ROB 2, and ARRIVE 2.[ 11 ] The bias tools vary with the type of study design, and it is significant to use the appropriate tool. The tools assess and grade the quality of bias in the manuscript. These tools are majorly used for evaluating randomized control trial employed for systematic review and meta-analysis but can be suitably employed to different study designs. These tools provide the grading of bias and provide useful data that are essential for clinical application.[ 11 , 12 ]
Rapid appraisal can be done with merit trials/rapid critical appraisal tool.[ 6 ] It is a compressed tool that basically assesses on the validity, reliability, and clinical use of the study. This is a simplified checklist for quicker assessment; however, for more accurate assessment, it is essential to appraise the entire manuscript from introduction till the conclusion. This mandates a detailed check for every component of the literature in accordance to the standard guidelines. In addition, the journal indexing and metrics can play a significant role in estimation. Higher metric journal shall possess more rigorous peer-review process that reduces the significant errors in the manuscript.[ 3 , 4 ]
The major contents to be generally assessed in the introduction of the manuscript are type and contents of research question, justification of purpose/background of the study with articles published in the last 5 years, or older articles that possess significant influences, citations of peer-reviewed journal, defined objective, and hypothesis statement. In methodology, the parameter of appraisal parameters should be on study design, inclusion and exclusion criteria, care in reduction of bias, following the acceptable procedures, control on confounding variables, and valid outcome measures. The result section should be checked for the subject and baseline - demographic, relevant statistical tests, and statistical significance. The discussion should possess adequate literature substantiation for results, study limitations, and declarations on conflicts of interest.[ 6 ]
In the prosthodontic literature, extensive reports of similar nature exist; critical analysis of the literature is a necessary skill to be mastered by researchers and clinicians.[ 10 ] It helps clinicians to make quality evidenced healthcare decisions by extensive evaluation of the literature.
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.
- How to read a scientific paper
- How to conduct a critical review
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How To Write A Critical Analysis Of A Research Paper
By Laura Brown on 29th May 2023
Conducting a critical analysis of a research paper includes the evaluation of its methodology, data sources, and findings. Alongside, it is necessary to assess the paper’s strengths and weaknesses, identify any biases or limitations, and examine its contribution to the respective field. Additionally, considering alternative interpretations and potential implications is key to providing a comprehensive analysis.
The art of critical analysis is a crucial skill for researchers and scholars alike. It allows us to delve deeper, question assumptions, and uncover the strengths and weaknesses of a research paper. This blog covers the essential steps to master the art of conducting a critical evaluation along with the examples.
Research papers serve as a foundation for advancing knowledge and shaping academic discourse. By critically analysing these papers, we can assess their validity, identify their contributions, and even influence the direction of future research. Throughout this post, we will guide you through the process of understanding a research paper, evaluating its strengths and weaknesses, assessing its contribution, formulating your analysis, considering alternative perspectives, and providing recommendations.
Whether you’re a student, a researcher, or an avid reader of scholarly work, developing the ability to critically analyse a research paper will enhance your understanding and engagement with academic literature and scientific articles. Let’s dive into the world of critical analysis and unlock the secret insights as you buy research paper from us or read this handy guide.
1. Understand The Research Paper
To effectively analyse a research paper, it is crucial to gain a comprehensive understanding of its content. You may begin by thoroughly reading the paper and paying attention to every detail. Further, you should identify the main research question or objective that the study aims to address. This will provide you with a focal point for your analysis.
Now, familiarise yourself with the methodology used and the data collected for the research. Moreover, evaluate the appropriateness and reliability of the chosen methodology, and assess the quality of the data collection and analysis. Understanding these aspects will help you gauge the validity and firmness of the research.
Additionally, take note of the key findings and conclusions presented in the paper and Analyse the supporting evidence along with evaluating the conclusions align with the research objectives. You should also consider any limitations or potential biases that might affect the interpretation of the results. By thoroughly understanding the scientific paper, you will lay a solid foundation for your critical analysis. In case you face any difficulty understanding the paper, you can always contact research paper service anytime, we will definitely help you.
2. Identify The Strengths And Weaknesses
In order to conduct a comprehensive critical analysis on research paper, it is essential to identify its strengths and weaknesses . Here are key aspects to consider during this evaluation process.
a. Evaluate The Research Paper’s Structure
First, assess whether it follows a logical flow and if the sections are well-developed and interconnected. Remember, a well-structured paper enhances readability and comprehension.
b. Assess The Clarity Of The Arguments
Next, look for concise statements and a logical progression of ideas. Moreover, analyse how well the author supports their arguments with relevant evidence and whether the reasoning is sound.
c. Analyse The Authenticity Of The Facts & Figures
Further, analyse the relevance of the data and sources used. You should examine the quality and appropriateness of the cited sources . Also, look at the facts presented if they adequately supports the claims made by the author and whether there is a robust foundation for the conclusions drawn.
d. Identifying Potential Limitations
Now, this is the time to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the research methods used. At this moment, you should also consider any limitations that may impact the validity or generalizability of the findings.
e. Determine Biases Or Conflicts Of Interest
Finally, consider the author’s affiliations, funding sources, or personal beliefs that could influence the research outcomes.
3. Evaluate The Research Paper’s Contribution
It is crucial to have a deeper look into the contribution while critically analysing a research paper. You may go through the following steps for critical evaluation.
a. Assess The Significance Of The Research
Firstly, determine whether the paper presents new ideas, approaches, or insights that contribute to the field. Additonally, assess its potential to advance knowledge and fill gaps in existing research.
b. Consider The Research Paper’s Contribution
Secondly, evaluate how the paper builds upon or challenges existing theories, concepts, or methodologies along with assessing its potential to expand understanding or provide novelty.
c. Find Potential Impact Of The Findings
Finally, analyse how the research paper’s findings may influence practice, policy, or future research directions. Also, consider the broader implications and relevance of the research within the context of the field or society.
4. Formulate Your Analysis
Formulating a strong and insightful analysis is a crucial aspect of research paper critical analysis. To effectively present your analysis, follow the below-mentioned steps:
- Begin by developing a clear thesis statement that reflects your overall analysis of the research paper. This statement should encapsulate the main point or argument you wish to convey.
- Next, support your analysis with specific examples from the research paper. Referencing specific sections, findings, or arguments helps substantiate your points and provides evidence for your analysis.
- Ensure that you present your analysis in a logical and organised manner. Structure your analysis in a way that flows coherently, with each point building upon the previous one. To achieve this, use clear and concise language that conveys your thoughts effectively.
Let’s see a critical analysis research paper example for initiating your analysis with a thesis statement.
The research paper’s findings on the impact of deforestation are valuable, but its failure to address socio-economic factors limits its comprehensive understanding of the issue.
5. Consider Alternative Perspectives
In a critical analysis of a scientific article or research paper it is essential to consider alternative perspectives to present a well-rounded evaluation. Follow these steps to effectively engage with different viewpoints.
- Start by acknowledging and discussing alternative interpretations or viewpoints that exist regarding the research paper. This demonstrates your openness to diverse perspectives and fosters a comprehensive analysis.
- Next, compare and contrast these different perspectives with your own analysis. Identify areas of agreement or disagreement and highlight any significant differences in the interpretation of the research findings or methodology.
- Provide reasoning and evidence to support your stance in the critical analysis. Present logical arguments and use relevant evidence to justify your perspective. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of alternative viewpoints and explain why you find your analysis to be more compelling.
Certainly! Here’s a critical evaluation of a research paper example for considering alternative perspectives in the context of a research paper on climate change:
It becomes evident that the paper’s findings on the impact of deforestation are valuable. The research provides insights into the ecological consequences and loss of biodiversity resulting from deforestation. However, a crucial limitation of the paper lies in its failure to address socio-economic factors. By neglecting the socio-economic aspects, such as the role of industries, government policies, and societal behaviours, the research paper lacks a comprehensive understanding of the issue. To gain a holistic understanding, it is recommended to consult the following additional resources.
Here you can present various resources as you need.
6. Provide Recommendations Or Suggestions
Considering critical analysis in a research paper, it is important to go beyond evaluating the strengths and weaknesses and offer constructive recommendations for improvement. Here’s a research paper example of how this section could be written.
Based on the critical analysis of the research paper on renewable energy sources, several recommendations emerge. Firstly, the paper could benefit from a more comprehensive discussion of the economic viability of renewable technologies. Incorporating an analysis of cost-effectiveness and potential financing models would strengthen the paper’s practical implications. Secondly, the authors should consider addressing potential limitations and uncertainties associated with the data sources used. Providing transparency and acknowledging any gaps would enhance the overall credibility of the research. Lastly, there is a need for further investigation into the social acceptance and adoption of renewable energy technologies, as understanding the human dimension is crucial for successful implementation. By offering these recommendations, the research paper can be enhanced and contribute more effectively to the field.
7. Writing The Conclusion
Students often ask how to write the conclusion of a report and critical analysis; here is how it is done. The conclusion of a critical analysis of scientific literature or research paper should succinctly summarise the key points and analysis, emphasising the significance of critical thinking. It should reinforce the importance of addressing any limitations or gaps in the research and encourage further exploration. The conclusion should leave readers with a clear understanding of the paper’s strengths and weaknesses, and inspire them to apply critical analysis principles in their own research endeavours. Here is an example of critical analysis of a research paper in regards to conclusion.
The critical analysis of the research paper on climate change brings to light the importance of addressing socio-economic factors for a comprehensive understanding of the issue. While the paper’s findings on the impact of deforestation are valuable, the omission of socio-economic considerations limits its applicability in developing effective solutions. It is crucial for future research to incorporate the interplay between environmental and socio-economic factors to devise holistic strategies. By recognising and rectifying these gaps, researchers can contribute to a more nuanced understanding of climate change and inform policies that foster sustainable development and resilience.
8. Additional Resources Or References
For readers seeking further exploration and a deeper understanding of the research paper, you can also put up some additional resources . However, this is not the part of the critical analysis, but still you can include it.
Summing Up The Tips For You
Here are 10 points for you as a summary of this blog. You may also consider it as a critical analysis of a research paper checklist while you prepare to conduct it.
- Thoroughly read the research paper to gain a deep understanding of its content.
- Evaluate the research question/objective and assess its relevance and significance.
- Assess the methodology and data used, considering their validity and reliability.
- Analyse the clarity and coherence of the arguments presented in the paper.
- Give a keen look at the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and sources used.
- Critique the limitations and potential biases of the research.
- Consider alternative perspectives and compare them with your analysis.
- Assess the originality and contribution of the research to the existing knowledge.
- Examine the implications and potential impact of the research findings.
- Provide constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement, including areas for further research or investigation.
Follow this research paper checklist for critically analysing a research paper, and you will definitely rock it.
Laura Brown, a senior content writer who writes actionable blogs at Crowd Writer.
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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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- 1. Identify the Question
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Critically analyze and evaluate
Tip: read and annotate pdfs.
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Ask yourself questions like these about each book or article you include:
- What is the research question?
- What is the primary methodology used?
- How was the data gathered?
- How is the data presented?
- What are the main conclusions?
- Are these conclusions reasonable?
- What theories are used to support the researcher's conclusions?
Take notes on the articles as you read them and identify any themes or concepts that may apply to your research question.
This sample template (below) may also be useful for critically reading and organizing your articles. Or you can use this online form and email yourself a copy .
- Sample Template for Critical Analysis of the Literature
Opening an article in PDF format in Acrobat Reader will allow you to use "sticky notes" and "highlighting" to make notes on the article without printing it out. Make sure to save the edited file so you don't lose your notes!
Some Citation Managers like Mendeley also have highlighting and annotation features.Here's a screen capture of a pdf in Mendeley with highlighting, notes, and various colors:
Screen capture from a UO Librarian's Mendeley Desktop app
- Learn more about citation management software in the previous step: 4. Manage Your References
- << Previous: 4. Manage Your References
- Next: 6. Synthesize >>
- Last Updated: Jul 17, 2023 2:33 PM
- URL: https://researchguides.uoregon.edu/litreview
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