How to Critique an Article
What Is an Article Critique?
An article critique is an assignment that requires a student to critically read a research article and reflect upon it. The key task is to identify the strong and weak sides of the piece and assess how well the author interprets its sources. Simply put, a critique reflects upon the validity and effectiveness of the arguments the article’s author used in his or her work.
The key to success in writing this paper is critical thinking. The task of every author of a research article is to convince readers of the correctness of his or her viewpoint, even if it is skewed. Thus, the only ways to distinguish solid arguments from weak ones are to be a good researcher, have the right tools to pick out facts from fiction, and possess solid critical thinking skills.
How to write a critique paper – In this guide, we are going to take you through the process of writing this type of work step by step. Before we move on, it is worth noting that the main purpose of a good article critique is to bring up points that determine whether a reviewed article is either correct or incorrect—much like you would do while writing a persuasive essay. Although the purpose is similar, the structure of the article critique that we are going to address in this guide is slightly different from the standard 5-paragraph essay; however, both formats are suitable for convincing readers about the validity of your point of view.
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How to Critique an Article: The Main Steps
This form of assignment is naturally challenging and rather confusing. It is no wonder why students may begin to feel overwhelmed with figuring out how to write an article critique.
To help you get your task done with ease, we have prepared a simple 3-step guide on how to summarize and critique an article:
Step 1: Reading the Article
First of all, to critique the article, you need to read it carefully. For a better outcome, it is recommended to read the piece several times—until you fully understand the information presented in it. Next, you need to address the following questions:
- Why is the article’s author considered an expert in their field?
What makes a particular author’s opinion sound valid? Is the author knowledgeable about the topic? What do other field experts say about the author? Is the article’s author covered in academic praise or not taken seriously?
- What is the author’s thesis/hypothesis?
What is the main message the author is trying to convey? Is this message clear? Or are there just plenty of general phrases without any specific details?
- Who is the article’s target audience?
Is the article geared towards a general audience? Or does it appeal to a specific group of people and use language that is only understandable to that audience?
- Are the arguments presented valid?
Are the sources used by the author from all over the place? Does it seem like some sources are taken from places that share a cult-like vocabulary?
- What are the logical fallacies in the author’s viewpoint?
Are there any logical blindspots? How much do they affect the outcome?
- Is the conclusion clear and logical?
Step 2: Collecting Proof
The first step will help you read and understand the piece, look at it from a critical point of view, and reflect upon it. Now, when you have an idea about which way you should be heading in your critique paper, it is the time to start gathering evidence. Here are the main steps you should undertake:
- Define Whether the Author Is Following Formal Logic
One of the key things to look for when writing an article critique is the presence of any logical fallacies. Establishing that the author’s general idea follows logic is not easy, but it is an essential step to coping with the task.
Often, undereducated people have some common logical fallacies. An example of this is to accept certain information based on the feelings and/or emotions it evokes, rather than focusing on the supporting arguments.
Here is a list of some common examples of logical fallacies with brief explanations of each:
- Ad hominem – when the author attacks someone who is expressing an opinion with the goal to discredit the other’s point of view.
- Slippery Slope – when the author claims that an action will always end up to be the worst possible scenario.
- Correlation vs. Causation – when the author concludes that since actions 1 and 2 occurred one after the other, then action 2 must be the effect of action 1. The problem with such a statement is mostly because the author draws conclusions about the correlation between the two actions without looking deeper to see the real causes and effects.
- Wishful Thinking – when the author believes something that is not backed up by any proof. This issue typically occurs when someone believes the given information is true because it makes them feel good.
- Search for Any Biased Opinions in the Article
Another step is to evaluate the piece based on the presence of biased opinions. The thing is that people often pick sides of an argument based on the outcomes rather than the evidence. If the outcome makes them feel bad in any way, they can search for any proof that would discredit it and, thus, make them feel better.
- Pay Attention to the Way the Author Interprets Others’ Texts. Does He or She Look at Others’ Viewpoints through Inappropriate Political Lenses?
It takes a lot of experience and many years of research practice to learn to recognize the fingerprints of all of the political slants that are out there. To grasp the concept, let’s look at the subject of animal studies. To begin with, it’s worth noting that some people become involved in certain industries due to their emotional involvement in their related topics. For example, people who write a lot about animals are very likely those who genuinely love them. This can put their work at risk of being biased towards portraying animals in a way that gives their topic more importance than it deserves. This is a clear example of what you should be looking for.
When reading and re-reading the article, find and highlight cases in which the author overstates the importance of some things due to his or her own beliefs. To polish your mental research instruments, go back to point 1 of this list to review the list of logical fallacies you can look out for.
- Check Cited Sources
Another big step to writing a perfect critique paper is to identify whether the author of the article cited untrustworthy sources of information. Doing this is not easy and requires certain experience.
For example, let’s look at the Breitbart news. How would you define whether it is an untrustworthy source or not? To rate trustworthiness, one should know about its long history of distorting facts to suit a far-right agenda. Learning this requires paying a lot of attention to local and international news.
- Evaluate the Language Used in the Article
Language plays a vital role in every article, regardless of the field and topic. Therefore, while working on your critique, you should pay close attention to the language the article’s author uses.
Just to give you a clear example of what you should be looking for: some words have cultural meanings attached to them which can create a sort of confrontation in the article. Such words can place people, objects, or ideas into the “them” side in the “us vs. them” scenario.