How to Critique a Research Article
Published on the 06 October 2016
Published on the 06 October 2016
Let’s briefly examine some basic pointers on how to perform a literature review.
If you’ve managed to get your hands on peer-reviewed articles, then you may wonder why it is necessary for you to perform your own article critique. Surely the article will be of good quality if it has made it through the peer review process?
Unfortunately this is not always the case.
Publication bias can occur when editors only accept manuscripts that have a bearing on the direction of their own research, or reject manuscripts with negative findings. Additionally, not all peer reviewers have expert knowledge of the subject matter, which can introduce bias and sometimes a conflict of interest.
Performing your own critical analysis of an article allows you to consider its value to you and to your workplace.
Critical evaluation is defined as a systematic way of considering the truthfulness of a piece of research, the results and how relevant and applicable they are.
It can be a little overwhelming trying to critique an article when you’re not sure where to start, however considering the article under the following headings may be of some use:
You may be a better judge of this after reading the article, but the title should succinctly reflect the content of the work, stimulating reader’s interest.
Three to six keywords that encapsulate the main topics of the research will have been drawn from the body of the article.
This should include:
Similar to a recipe, the description of materials and methods will allow others to replicate the study elsewhere if needed. It should both contain and justify the exact specifications of selection criteria, sample size, response rate and any statistics used. This will demonstrate how the study is capable of achieving its aims. Things to consider in this section are:
At other times the barrier is harder, or even impossible to cross. Communication difficulties arise even when a translator is available, and non-verbal messages may be missed by the patient or even by the health professional.
Results should be statistically analysed and presented in a way that the average reader of the journal will understand. Graphs and tables should be clear and promote clarity of the text. Consider whether:
Negative results are just as relevant as research that produces positive results (but as mentioned previously may be omitted in publication due to editorial bias).
This should show insight into the meaning and significance of the research findings. It should not introduce any new material, but should address how the aims of the study have been met. The discussion should use previous research work and theoretical concepts as the context in which the new study can be interpreted. Any limitations of the study, including bias, should be clearly presented. You will need to evaluate whether the author has clearly interpreted the results of the study, or whether the results could be interpreted another way.
These should be clearly stated and will only be valid if the study was reliable, valid and used a representative sample size. There may also be recommendations for further research.
These should be relevant to the study, be up to date, and should provide a comprehensive list of citations within the text.
Undertaking a critique of a research article may seem challenging at first, but will help you to evaluate whether the article has relevance to your own practice and workplace. Reading a single article can act as a springboard into researching the topic more widely and aids in ensuring your nursing practice remains current and is supported by existing literature.
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Sarah Vogel specialises in producing well researched articles in the field of health and medicine. She has a BHlthSci (MRT), having studied and worked as a Radiation Therapist, as well as being trained as a telephone counsellor. She has written for a variety of online websites and blogs, but particularly enjoys focusing on health education and psychosocial issues.