How to Write a Critical Review of a Journal Article

What is a Critical Review of a Journal Article?

A critical review of a journal article evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of an article’s ideas and content. It provides description, analysis and interpretation that allow readers to assess the article’s value.



A Critical Review

Before You Read the Article

Before reading the article

Reading the Article: Points to Consider

Read the article carefully. Record your impressions and note sections suitable for quoting.

Reading the article

Prepare an Outline

Read over your notes.
Choose a statement that expresses the central purpose or thesis of your review. When thinking of a thesis, consider the author’s intentions and whether or not you think those intentions were successfully realized.

Eliminate all notes that do not relate to your thesis. Organize your remaining points into separate groups such as points about structure, style, or argument. Devise a logical sequence for presenting these ideas.
Remember that all of your ideas must support your central thesis.

Prepare the outline

1) Read over your notes.

2) Choose a statement that expresses your central purpose or thesis of your review.
Consider the author’s intentions and whether or not you think those intentions were successfully realized.

3) Eliminate all notes not related to the thesis.

4) Organize remaining points into separate groups; i.e. about structure, style or argument. Logically present these ideas.

All of your ideas must support the central thesis.

Write the First Draft

The review should begin with a complete citation of the article. For example:

Platt, Kevin M. F. “History and Despotism, or: Hayden White vs. Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great.” Rethinking History 3:3 (1999) : 247-269.

The first paragraph may contain:

The body of the review should:

The concluding paragraph may:

Revise the First Draft

Ideally, you should leave your first draft for a day or two before revising. This allows you to gain a more objective perspective on your ideas. Check for the following when revising:

You may make major revisions in the organization or content of your review during the revision process.
Revising can even lead to a radical change in your central thesis.

And revise this first draft.

Writing an analytical paper


Analytical Paper

A key point to remember, then, is that very few assignment titles at university level will require pure description, and most will test your skills of analysis in some capacity. So try to look for the critical point in the essay title.

Unfortunately, it is not very easy to explain exactly what ‘being analytical’ means. Many tutors say that students need to be more analytical, but saying precisely how to be more analytical (and by implication, more critical) is tricky! The following list is a starting point in helping to build up a picture of what is required in ‘analysis’.

3000 word essay in One Day

Considerations for scientific writing

Source: Academic Skills Development, Uni. of Exeter

Accuracy and Objectivity

Both content, e.g. statistics or procedures followed in an experiment, and language use, i.e. choice of words, is what scientific writing aims for in conveying information and ideas.



Be concise

Support your ideas and arguments with appropriate evidence or reasoning.

Cited source
Smyth, T.R. 2004. The Principles of Writing in Psychology. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Ch2.