Writing a Critical Review

A critical review is not to be mistaken for the literature review. A ‘critical review’ is a accomplish type of text, discussing one particular article or book in detail. The ‘literature review’, which also needs to be ‘critical’, is a part of a larger type of text e.g. a chapter of your dissertation.

Most importantly: Read your article / book as many times as possible, as this will make the critical review much lighter.


Read and Take Notes

To improve your reading confidence and efficiency, visit our pages on reading.

After you are familiar with the text, make notes on some of the following questions. Choose the questions which seem suitable:

  1. What kind of article is it (for example does it present data or does it present purely theoretical arguments)?
  2. What is the main area under discussion?
  3. What are the main findings?
  4. What are the stated limitations?
  5. Where does the author’s data and evidence come from? Are they suitable / sufficient?
  6. What are the main issues raised by the author?
  7. What questions are raised?
  8. How well are these questions addressed?
  9. What are the major points/interpretations made by the author in terms of the issues raised?
  10. Is the text balanced? Is it fair / biased?
  11. Does the author contradict herself?
  12. How does all this relate to other literature on this topic?
  13. How does all this relate to your own practice, ideas and views?
  14. What else has this author written? Do these build / complement this text?
  15. (Optional) Has anyone else reviewed this article? What did they say? Do I agree with them?

Organising your writing


You very first need to summarise the text that you have read. One reason to summarise the text is that the reader may not have read the text.
In your summary, you will

  • concentrate on points within the article that you think are interesting
  • summarise the author(s) main ideas or argument
  • explain how these ideas / argument have been constructed. (For example, is the author basing her arguments on data that they have collected? Are the main ideas / argument purely theoretical?)

In your summary you might response the following questions:

Why is this topic significant?
Where can this text be located? For example, does it address policy studies?
What other prominent authors also write about this?


Evaluation is the most significant part in a critical review.

Use the literature to support your views. You may also use your skill of conducting research, and your own practice. Evaluation can be explicit or implicit.

Explicit evaluation

Explicit evaluation involves stating directly (explicitly) how you intend to evaluate the text.

e.g. “I will review this article by focusing on the following questions. Very first, I will examine the extent to which the authors contribute to current thought on 2nd Language Acquisition (SLA) pedagogy. After that, I will analyse whether the authors’ propositions are feasible within overseas SLA classrooms.”

Implicit evaluation

Implicit evaluation is less direct. The following section on Linguistic Features of Writing a Critical Review contains language that evaluates the text.

A difficult part of evaluation of a published text (and a professional author) is how to do this as a student. There is nothing wrong with making your position as a student explicit and incorporating it into your evaluation. Examples of how you might do this can be found in the section on Linguistic Features of Writing a Critical Review.

You need to reminisce to locate and analyse the author’s argument when you are writing your critical review. For example, you need to locate the authors’ view of classroom pedagogy as introduced in the book / article and not present a critique of views of classroom pedagogy in general.

Linguistic features of a critical review

The following examples come from published critical reviews. Some of them have been adapted for student use.

Summary language

  • This article / book is divided into two / three parts. Very first.
  • While the title might suggest.
  • The tone shows up to be.
  • Title is the very first / 2nd volume in the series Title, edited by. The books / articles in this series address.
  • The 2nd / third claim is based on.
  • The author challenges the notion that.
  • The author attempts to find a more middle ground / make more modest claims.
  • The article / book starts with a brief historical overview of.
  • Numerous authors have recently suggested that. (see Author, Year; Author, Year). Author would also be once such author. With his / her argument that.
  • To refer to title as a. is not to say that it is.
  • This book / article is aimed at. This intended readership.
  • The author’s book / article examines the. To do this, the author very first.
  • The author develops / suggests a theoretical / pedagogical model to…
  • This book / article positions itself tightly within the field of.
  • The author in a series of subtle arguments, indicates that he / she.
  • The argument is therefore.
  • The author asks “. “
  • With a purely critical / postmodern take on.
  • Topic, as the author points out, can be viewed as.
  • In this latest contribution to the field of. this British author.
  • As a leading author in the field of.
  • This book / article nicely contributes to the field of. and complements other work by this author.
  • The 2nd / third part of. provides / questions / asks the reader.
  • Title is intended to encourage students / researchers to.
  • The treatment taken by the author provides the chance to examine. in a qualitative / quantitative research framework that nicely complements.
  • The author notes / claims that state support / a concentrate on pedagogy / the adoption of. remains vital if.
  • According to Author (Year) instructing towards examinations is not as effective as it is in other areas of the curriculum. This is because, as Author (Year) claims that examinations have undue status within the curriculum.
  • According to Author (Year)…is not as effective in some areas of the curriculum / syllabus as others. Therefore the author believes that this is a reason for some school’s…
  • Evaluation language

  • This argument is not entirely wooing, as. furthermore it commodifies / rationalises the.
  • Over the last five / ten years the view of. has increasingly been viewed as ‘complicated’ (see Author, Year; Author, Year).
  • However, through attempting to integrate. with. the author.
  • There are difficulties with such a position.
  • Inevitably, several crucial questions are left unanswered / glossed over by this insightful / timely / interesting / stimulating book / article. Why should.
  • It might have been more relevant for the author to have written this book / article as.
  • This article / book is not without frustration from those who would view. as.
  • This chosen framework enlightens / clouds.
  • This analysis intends to be. but falls a little brief as.
  • The authors rightly conclude that if.
  • A detailed, well-written and rigorous account of.
  • As a Korean student I feel that this article / book very clearly illustrates.
  • The beginning of. provides an informative overview into.
  • The tables / figures do little to help / greatly help the reader.
  • The reaction by scholars who take a. treatment might not be so favourable (e.g. Author, Year).
  • This explanation has a few weaknesses that other researchers have pointed out (see Author, Year; Author, Year). The very first is.
  • On the other forearm, the author wisely suggests / proposes that. By combining these two dimensions.
  • The author’s brief introduction to. may leave the intended reader confused as it fails to decently.
  • Despite my inability to. I was greatly interested in.
  • Even where this reader / I disagree(s), the author’s effort to.
  • The author thus combines. with. to argue. which seems fairly improbable for a number of reasons. Very first.
  • Perhaps this aversion to. would explain the author’s reluctance to.
  • As a 2nd language student from. I find it slightly ironic that such an anglo-centric view is.
  • The reader is rewarded with.
  • Less persuading is the broad-sweeping generalisation that.
  • There is no denying the author’s subject skill nor his / her.
  • The author’s prose is dense and littered with unnecessary jargon.
  • The author’s critique of. might seem harsh but is well supported within the literature (see Author, Year; Author, Year; Author, Year). Aligning herself with the author, Author (Year) states that.
  • As it stands, the central concentrate of Title is well / poorly supported by its empirical findings.
  • Given the hesitation to generalise to. the limitation of. does not seem problematic.
  • For example, the term. is never decently defined and the reader left to guess as to whether.
  • Furthermore, to label. as. inadvertently misguides.
  • In addition, this research proves to be timely / especially significant to. as latest government policy / proposals has / have been enacted to.
  • On this well researched / documented basis the author emphasises / proposes that.
  • Nonetheless, other research / scholarship / data tend to counter / contradict this possible trend / assumption. (see Author, Year; Author, Year).
  • Without coming in into detail of the. it should be stated that Title should be read by. others will see little value in.
  • As experimental conditions were not used in the investigate the word ‘significant’ misleads the reader.
  • The article / book becomes repetitious in its assertion that.
  • The thread of the author’s argument becomes lost in an overuse of empirical data.
  • Almost every argument introduced in the final section is largely derivative, providing little to say about.
  • She / he does not seem to take into consideration; however, that there are fundamental differences in the conditions of…
  • As Author (Year) points out, however, it seems to be necessary to look at…
  • This suggest that having low…does not necessarily indicate that…is ineffective.
  • Therefore, the suggestion made by Author (Year)…is difficult to support.
  • When considering all the data presented…it is not clear that the low scores of some students, indeed, reflects…
  • Conclusion language

  • Overall this article / book is an analytical look at. which within the field of. is often overlooked.
  • Despite its problems, Title offers valuable theoretical insights / interesting examples / a contribution to pedagogy and a commencing point for students / researchers of. with an interest in.
  • This detailed and rigorously argued.
  • This very first / 2nd volume / book / article by. with an interest in. is very informative.
  • Example extracts from a critical review

    Writing Critically

    Related video: The Veldt Analysis

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