Reading and critiquing scholarly research articles is a skill developed with time and practice. As you read more within your discipline you'll likely discover patterns in the structure of the journal articles. You'll also get more experienced at differentiating between good and bad articles.
Critique is a synonym for evaluation. A critique is a critical analysis or evaluation of a subject, situation, literary work, or other type of evaluand. It is critical in the sense of being characterized by careful analysis and judgment and analytic in the sense of a separating or breaking up of a whole into its parts, especially for examination of these parts to find their nature, proportion, function, interrelationship, and so on. A common fallacy is equating critique with critical or negative, neither of which is implied.
Source: Mathison, S. (2005). Encyclopedia of evaluation Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781412950558
Critical appraisal is a crucial part of evidence-based medicine, yet reading and critiquing a journal article can seem like a daunting and complex task. Breaking the process down into steps should enable you to build up the necessary skills, such as:
- Skimming the article in the first instance to look for the author's main points and conclusions
- Being familiar with the way that many journal articles are structured (abstract, method, results, discussion etc)
- Reflecting on and being critical of what you are reading
A checklist or toolkit such as those found in this research starter will guide you through this process in a structured way. This research starter will also direct you to articles, web pages, online guides and books to guide you toward effectively appraising scientific articles.
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The following questions may be helpful in determining whether you are reading a good scholarly article: