Critical review template: what is it and how to write it
A critical review refers to the evaluation of an academic text (for example a book, report, article or essay). A critical review requires you to make judgments (using various criteria), about a book, a chapter, or a journal article. The criteria required to evaluate the information and knowledge contained in a text varies according to discipline. This implies that information technology, management, literature or sociology may require different criteria. However, irrespective of this variance, critical reviews irrespective of discipline involves two principal requirements: summary and evaluation. To understand what proportion is required for each (or whether they should be presented in a combined form or as separate sections), you would need to carefully read the instructions contained in your assignment.
Writing a critical review demands in-depth study of the selected text (as well as similar texts) so as to make a reasonable and fair assessment of the selected text. It is important to state that “critical” does not imply negative evaluation. Rather, you are required to question the opinion of the author as well as the information presented in a text, and make an evaluation. To make pass a good judgment and make a fair evaluation, you would need to understand the selected topic from different perspectives. This broad understanding comes through an extensive study of related texts and similar materials. A broad perspective on the selected topic in relation to the frameworks, approaches, and theories in your course enables you to make a well-informed evaluation.
Aside from gaining an in-depth understanding of the selected text, you would need to understand the purpose of the text, the target audience and the reason why it is structured the way it is, to make a critical review of the text. In evaluating the text, you are required to portray its strengths and weaknesses according to a set of criteria. In analyzing the text, you are also expected to separate its content and concepts into their main components as well as an explanation of how they are interrelated, connected or how they influence each other.
A critical literature review template aids in short-circuiting the process required to critically review a text. This is because the template of a critical review provides a framework upon which a review can be wrought faster and efficiently.
Components of a Critical Review
A critical review is made of two principal elements:
- Description of the text: The description should contain the topic of the text, the principal question it seeks to answer and its central theme. The description also states the importance of the topic, arguments made, the structure of the text, evidence supporting arguments, the conclusion reached and further questions raised (though not answered in the text).
- Evaluation / Judgement / Critique of the text: Your evaluation of the text should portray your assessment of the text as well as your judgment on its value and quality. This assessment is usually for practitioners in the field, other researchers, and students who study the topic. Your evaluation should also align with the specific criteria appropriate for your discipline.
Questions you should seek to answer when evaluating a text include:
- How relevant, useful and valid is the main question the text seeks to answer?
- What are the demographic groups likely to find the text useful? Why?
- Does it provide new answers or presents an interpretation to old questions?
- Is it detailed or brief? Complex or Simple?
- How strong, relevant, persuasive or contradictory is the evidence provided to support the arguments in the text?
- Is the conclusion reached in the text final? Qualified? Limited? Or Preliminary?
The Process of Writing a Critical Review:
- Skim read the text: You should start by identifying the principal question or questions that the text seeks to answer as well as its main arguments.
- Consider the evaluation criteria
- Re-read the text: Re-read the text and take note of vital points such as the arguments, questions, evidence, and conclusions made.
- Read similar text: Read the similar texts, take note of the similarities and differences, and provide an explanation.
- Start writing your review.
The Structure of a critical review
Title: Your title should look like an entry in a bibliography.
Introduction: Your introduction should contain an overview of the topic or main questions of the text as well as the significance of the topic of question. You should also include your assessment of the merits of the text with a few reasons. Your introduction should also provide an explanation as to how your review will be organized.
Body: The body of your review should contain a summary or description of the original text followed by your evaluation of the text. You may sometimes find that you are unable to judge the appropriateness of a text. In such cases, you should explain how the answers provided in the text are similar to or differ from answers provided in other texts on the same topic. If you find that they are different, then provide an explanation of the arguments you find more persuasive, stating your reasons.
Conclusion: Mostly, critical reviews do not need a conclusion. Whether you include a conclusion or not is at your discretion. If you prefer to include a conclusion, then you should conclude by summarizing your arguments of your general views on the topic.
at material using appropriate criteria.