Critique papers require students to conduct a critical analysis of another piece of writing, often a book, journal article, or essay. No matter what your major is, you will probably be expected to write a critique paper at some point. For psychology students, critiquing a professional paper is a great way to learn more about psychology articles, writing, and the research process itself. Students can analyze how researchers conduct experiments, interpret results and discuss the impact of the results.
While these tips are designed to help students writing a psychology critique paper, many of the same principles apply to writing critiques in other subject areas as well.
Start By Reading the Material You Are Going to Critique
The first step should always be to do a thorough read-through of the material you will be analyzing and critiquing. More than just a casual skim, however, your reading needs to be in-depth with an eye toward certain elements.
Following these steps can help you make better sense of the material as you assess what you are reading.
1. Read the introduction section of the article.
Is the hypothesis clearly stated? Is necessary background information and previous research described in the introduction? In addition to answering these basic questions, you should take note of information provided in the introduction and any questions that you may have.
2. Read the methods section of the article.
Is the study procedure clearly outlined? Can you determine which variables the researchers are measuring? Remember to jot down questions and thoughts that come to mind as you are reading. Once you have finished reading the paper, you can then refer back to your initial questions and see which once remain unanswered.
3. Read the results section of the article.
Are all tables and graphs clearly labeled? Do researchers provide enough statistical information? Did the researchers collect all of the data needed to measure the variables in question? Again, make note of any questions you have or any information that does not seem to make sense. You can refer back to these questions later as you are writing your final critique.
4. Read the discussion section of the article.
How do the researchers interpret the results of the study? Did the results support their hypothesis? Do the conclusions drawn by the researchers seem reasonable? The discussion section offers students a good opportunity to take a position. If you agree with the researchers conclusions, explain why. If you feel that the researchers are incorrect or off-base, point out problems with the conclusions and suggest alternative explanations. Another alternative is to point out questions that the researchers failed to answer in the discussion section.
Begin Writing Your Own Critique of the Paper
Once you have read the article, compile your notes and develop an outline that you can follow as you write your psychology critique paper. Use the following guide to help structure your critique paper:
Begin your paper by describing the journal article and authors you are critiquing. Provide the main hypothesis or thesis of the paper and explain why you think the information is relevant.
2. Thesis Statement
The final part of your introduction should include your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the main idea of your critique. Your thesis should briefly sum up the main points of your critique.
3. Article Summary
Provide a brief summary of the article, outlining the main points, results and discussion. Be careful not to get too bogged down by your summary. Remember, this section of your paper should highlight the main points of the article you are critiquing.
Don't feel obligated to summarize each little detail of the main paper. Focus instead on giving the reader an overall idea of the content of the article.
3. Your Analysis
In this section, you should provide your critique of the article. Describe any problems you had with the authors premise, methods, or conclusions. Your critique might focus on problems with the authors argument, presentation or on information, and alternatives that have been overlooked. Organize your paper carefully and be careful not to jump around from one argument to the next. Argue one point at a time. Doing this will ensure that your paper flow's well and is easy to read.
Your critique paper should end with an overview of the articles argument, your conclusions and your reactions.
More Tips When Writing a Psychology Critique Paper
- As you are editing your paper, utilize a style guide published by the American Psychological Association, such as the official Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
- Reading scientific articles can be difficult. Learn more about how to read (and understand) psychology journal articles.
- Take a rough draft of your paper to your school's writing lab for additional assistance.
Critical reviews, both short (one page) and long (four pages), usually have a similar structure. Check your assignment instructions for formatting and structural specifications. Headings are usually optional for longer reviews and can be helpful for the reader.
Summarising and paraphrasing are essential skills for academic writing and in particular, the critical review. To summarise means to reduce a text to its main points and its most important ideas. The length of your summary for a critical review should only be about one quarter to one third of the whole critical review.
The best way to summarise is to:
- Scan the text. Look for information that can be deduced from the introduction, conclusion and the title and headings. What do these tell you about the main points of the article?
- Locate the topic sentences and highlight the main points as you read.
- Reread the text and make separate notes of the main points. Examples and evidence do not need to be included at this stage. Usually they are used selectively in your critique.
Paraphrasing means putting it into your own words. Paraphrasing offers an alternative to using direct quotations in your summary (and the critique) and can be an efficient way to integrate your summary notes.
The best way to paraphrase is to:
- Review your summary notes
- Rewrite them in your own words and in complete sentences
- Use reporting verbs and phrases (eg; The author describes…, Smith argues that …).
- If you include unique or specialist phrases from the text, use quotation marks.