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.
How to Critique
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:
Title of Study/Research
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:
- Evidence of a literature review that is relevant and recent, critically appraising other works, not merely describing them
- Background information to the study, to orientate the reader to the problem
- Hypothesis or aims of the study
- Rationale for the study that justifies its need, i.e. to explore an un-investigated gap in the literature.
Materials and Methods
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:
- What sort of sampling technique and size was used?
- What proportion of the eligible sample participated? (e.g. “553 responded to a survey sent to 750 medical technologists”)
- Were all eligible groups sampled? (e.g. was the survey sent only in English?)
- What were the strengths and weaknesses of the study?
- Were there threats to the reliability and validity of the study and were these controlled for?
- Were there any obvious biases?
- If a trial was undertaken, was it randomised, case controlled, blinded or double-blinded?
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:
- There were any major omissions in the results, which could indicate bias
- Percentages have been used to disguise small sample sizes
- The data generated is consistent with the data collected
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.
- Marshall, G 2005, ‘Critiquing a Research Article’, Radiography, vol. 11, pp. 55-9.
Critique of a Research Article
The goal of this activity is to give you an opportunity to apply whatever you learned in this course in evaluating a research paper. Warning!!!!You might have done some article summaries or even critical evaluation of some resources. However, this activity is unique because you evaluate a research article from a methodology perspective.
For this assignment you briefly summarize and extensively evaluate the attached educational research article (If you cannot download the article please go to BeachBoard/Content/Articles to download the article).
This assignment should be done individually. In the summary section, you should write a brief (up to 500 words) summary of the article in your own words. Don’t use copy and paste try to rephrase. This will be a good practice for your final project’s literature review. In the critique section, you evaluate the article using the following grading criteria.
Grading criteria for research critique
In your summary, you should identify main elements of the research including
1. Research problem
2. Research goal
4. Research Questions
5. Research Method (briefly explain)
6. Sample (participants)
8. Tools (instruments, tests, surveys)
9. Main findings (brief summary of the results)
The critique part should be 2-3 pages (1000-2000 words) and include to the following sections. Your critique should be longer than your summary and you pay special attention to the design and procedure. Your grade on this assignment is based on your answer the following questions.
There is a long list of questions. You don’t have to address all questions. However, you should address highlighted questions. Some questions are relevant to this article some are not. I listed so many questions simply because I’d like you to learn what to look for in evaluating a research article.
The format of your paper should NOT be like a Q & A list. Instead, you should integrate your answers into an essay format similar to the given examples.
1. Is there a statement of the problem?
2. Is the problem “researchable”? That is, can it be investigated through the collection and analysis of data?
3. Is background information on the problem presented?
4. Is the educational significance of the problem discussed?
5. Does the problem statement indicate the variables of interest and the specific relationship between those variables which are investigated? When necessary, are variables directly or operationally defined?
Review of Related Literature
1. Is the review comprehensive?
2. Are all cited references relevant to the problem under investigation?
3. Are most of the sources primary, i.e., are there only a few or no secondary sources?
4. Have the references been critically analyzed and the results of various studies compared and contrasted, i.e., is the review more than a series of abstracts or annotations?
5. Does the review conclude with a brief summary of the literature and its implications for the problem investigated?
6. Do the implications discussed form an empirical or theoretical rationale for the hypotheses which follow?
1. Are specific questions to be answered listed or specific hypotheses to be tested stated?
2. Does each hypothesis state an expected relationship or difference?
3. If necessary, are variables directly or operationally defined?
4. Is each hypothesis testable?
1. Are the size and major characteristics of the population studied described?
2. If a sample was selected, is the method of selecting the sample clearly described?
3. Is the method of sample selection described one that is likely to result in a representative, unbiased sample?
4. Did the researcher avoid the use of volunteers?
5. Are the size and major characteristics of the sample described?
6. Does the sample size meet the suggested guideline for minimum sample size appropriate for the method of research represented?
1. Is the rationale given for the selection of the instruments (or measurements) used?
2. Is each instrument described in terms of purpose and content?
3. Are the instruments appropriate for measuring the intended variables?
4. Is evidence presented that indicates that each instrument is appropriate for the sample under study?
5. Is instrument validity discussed and coefficients given if appropriate?
6. Is reliability discussed in terms of type and size of reliability coefficients?
7. If appropriate, are subtest reliabilities given?
8. If an instrument was developed specifically for the study, are the procedures involved in its development and validation described?
9. If an instrument was developed specifically for the study, are administration, scoring or tabulating, and interpretation procedures fully described?
Design and Procedure
1. Is the design appropriate for answering the questions or testing the hypotheses of thestudy?
2. Are the procedures described in sufficient detail to permit them to be replicated by another researcher?
3. If a pilot study was conducted, are its execution and results described as well as its impact on the subsequent study?
4. Are the control procedures described?
5. Did the researcher discuss or account for any potentially confounding variables that he or she was unable to control for?
1. Are appropriate descriptive or inferential statistics presented?
2. Was the probability level, α, at which the results of the tests of significance were evaluated,
specified in advance of the data analyses?
3. If parametric tests were used, is there evidence that the researcher avoided violating the
required assumptions for parametric tests?
4. Are the tests of significance described appropriate, given the hypotheses and design of the
5. Was every hypothesis tested?
6. Are the tests of significance interpreted using the appropriate degrees of freedom?
7. Are the results clearly presented?
8. Are the tables and figures (if any) well organized and easy to understand?
9. Are the data in each table and figure described in the text?
Discussion (Conclusions and Recommendation)
1. Is each result discussed in terms of the original hypothesis to which it relates?
2. Is each result discussed in terms of its agreement or disagreement with previous results
obtained by other researchers in other studies?
3. Are generalizations consistent with the results?
4. Are the possible effects of uncontrolled variables on the results discussed?
5. Are theoretical and practical implications of the findings discussed?
6. Are recommendations for future action made?
7. Are the suggestions for future action based on practical significance or on statistical
significance only, i.e., has the author avoided confusing practical and statistical
8. Are recommendations for future research made?
Make sure that you cover the following questions in your critique even if you have already covered them in your crtique.
1. Is the research important? Why?
2. In your own words what methods and procedures were used? Evaluate the methods and procedures.
3. Evaluate the sampling method and the sample used in this study.
4. Describe the reliability and validity of all the instruments used.
5. What type of research is this? Explain.
6. How was the data analyzed?
7. What is (are) the major finding(s)? are these findings important?
8.What are your suggestions to improve this research?
Here is a hint on how to evaluate an article.
Use this resource for writing and APA style.
Examples (please note some examples are longer than what is expected for this article)
· Good example
· Poor example
· Original article
· Article critique