Critiquing literature

Hello, I said I’d post this a while ago but only just got round to doing it now – apologies! Here are some tips I’ve found for critiquing literature which will help when reading articles for journal club. They are probably more related to more qualitative methods than quantitative but I’m sure there is some overlap:

Using the funnel method for a literature review

When producing an assignment it is expected that references of key authors are used to underpin your own thoughts. What does this mean? This means that information which has been published by academics is important in giving an informed analysis of the topic in question. The academic authors will have researched a subject area and spoken about their findings in depth. You, as a student, must read their work asking questions along the way whilst you are reviewing it. Questions to be asked may include:

  • What is significant about the academic’s findings?
  • What is relevant (or not) about the publication?
  • Do you believe what the academic wrote is accurate?
  • Do you believe what the academic wrote is relevant?
  • Are there any limitations or disadvantages associated with the publication?
  • Is the academic’s publication current or is it out of date?
  • Do you agree with what the academic is saying or do you disagree?

By reviewing the literature in this way and by asking such questions you will start to ‘critique’ the literature rather than to describe it. You will weigh up the pros and cons of the publication and be able to comment upon its currency and relevancy. If, however, you simply describe what the academic has published and agree with everything they have wrote without questioning their methodology or their findings or their conclusion, you will produce a bland literature review. Consequently, it is essential to appraise and to evaluate other people’s research work rather than to take it for granted what they have said or not said.

Taken from the University of Essex distance learning online blog. More can be found here


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