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What is a critical review and how to write it?

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Using desktop computer for writing a critical review

The critical review paper is a type of evaluation paper, which includes a thorough analysis of a certain textual piece. The word “critical” in this context does not have any negative meaning, but rather applies to an objective assessment. This implies that you need to highlight both positive and negative sides of the chosen text and try to express the professional opinion rather than the personal one.

Critical review outline

How do you start a critical review? Do not jump to writing an intro right away, as you need to create an outline first. And, depending on the purpose of your paper, the outline might differ rather significantly.

When a review is a part of another work, it consists of approximately two paragraphs. There, you simply mention what kind of text was analyzed, who is the author, what kind of problem or question was the work written on, and how this problem/question was approached.

When this assignment is given in the essay format, there is a determined structure:

  • Introduction - gives necessary background information, points out the reasons for assessing the work, and defines a thesis.
  • Body - provides main data on a topic or a problem, includes supporting facts for the thesis, and gives an appraisal to the work.
  • Conclusion - finalizes the paper, shows the importance of the critique.

However, this outline may not work for some of the assignments of such kind. When it comes to writing a critical review paper on scientific research or an article, the body paragraphs will be broader and include different evaluation criteria.

There are only two parts that must be presented in a paper and do not depend on the purpose: the summary of the author’s viewpoint and your own evaluation. Other paragraphs are just helping to make each part clearer and understandable for the intended audience.

The purpose of writing a critical review paper

The preparation of such kind of paper is a common assignment in schools and colleges around the world. This is not just a summary - it is the analysis of the book or the article. You need to understand the material and use certain criteria for analyzing it.

This is a preparation for writing larger works like research papers or dissertations. Critical reviews help to assess the information a person reads in a professional and unbiased way. Therefore, a reader gets a better understanding of a certain subject and can develop a personal approach to examining data.

Such analysis prepares students for choosing relevant literature for their research later in their studies. Millions of books and critical review papers are published every year, and it is impossible to know which one is suitable from the first glance. Therefore, students are asked to analyze the material they have chosen as a source. It helps to identify the most credible works and facilitates further research.

Tips from experts

Meet our advisors

A critical review/appraisal is the review of someone’s work. It could be text, film, or art.

There are a few things you need to cover:

  • Thesis statement – upon reviewing the text, film, or art materials, decide on your position. State your position in 2-3 sentences.
  • Support – find sources to support your position and justify your statement. Don’t be “obvious” (i.e., I like this text) – state facts about your position.
  • Argument – Line up your sources in a logic persuasive manner. Take a stand. Prove your point. Use quotes. Stay on track – be focused.
  • Defense of your thesis statement. Be thorough with your sources. Don’t let anyone challenge your position. Be confident.

Bottom line: Don’t make an argument you can not defend.

Penny J. Larsen

College professor with 30 years of teaching experience

What can be reviewed?

There are numerous kinds of textual information that can be evaluated. Usually, schoolers receive a task to assess fictional literature. Writing a critical book review implies choosing a book first, and picking an interesting topic to get the paper started. Afterward, a student has to come up with criteria to appraise the source and form his or her own unique opinion about it.

In universities, the task gets harder as students have to review the books on their specialty. People studying liberal arts have to analyze a lot of fictional literature, but more thoroughly. However, they still have plenty of intricate pieces to examine.

When it comes to exact sciences, it gets even worse, as most of the technical books, articles, and journals abound with specific information and professional terms. In addition, the data in the world of evolving technologies tends to change quickly. Thus, learning how to write a critical review of such works become a serious challenge. Still, in the long run, it helps students to find credible sources and differentiate between reliable and unreliable data.

What can be used for writing a critical review?

Your choice of what to review mostly depends on your professor’s requirements. However, if you are free to critique anything, here are some options you may consider:

  • Books. It can be either a classic literature heritage or a modern bestseller.
  • Journal articles. If you are interested in a specific subject or topic, this is your best choice as journal articles are very focused.
  • Movies. As exciting as it may sound, choosing your favorite movie to critique might not be the best option, as you cannot leave out the negative comments.
  • Some phenomena or issues. The topics in this case are numerous. You can easily find the best ideas on the Web.

Critical review format

The aspect of formatting is always very important because it affects the overall score for the review. There are many academic styles of formatting, but the most widespread ones are APA, MLA, and Harvard. Their usage depends on school, college, or university that you study at. So if you do not know what style you have to stick to, ask your professor or visit writing center of your educational institution.

If you are a school student, then you’ll probably write MLA critical review. If you are a student of a college or university, then you need to consider APA critical review. Finally, if you are a student of business school or economics major, then your option is a Harvard critical review.

How to write a critical review?

  • Make sure that you present all the ideas accurately. It is important to avoid ambiguity not to confuse the reader.
  • All the evidence you use should be strong and convincing.
  • Read all the sources for your paper critically as well.
  • Your thesis should be based on your overall evaluation.
  • In your conclusion, mention how the thesis was addressed in the paper.
  • Remember you are not writing a summary. While you may paraphrase some parts of work you are analyzing to show what information you focused on, it is important to present your findings and conclusions.
  • If you do not understand some points you encounter in some materials, asking your teacher or professor for assistance will help you receive a better grade at the end.

We hope that our tips were useful and you will now craft the best critical review paper!

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