critically is an explicit
goal of all of my courses. You should always think critically about
read - even good pieces of research and writing: leave gaps, have
have questionable assumptions, and even include errors.
Suggestion: Print this form and use it to help you
critically appraise papers/chapters
you read in all courses. This form may help you to organize your
thoughts when reading critically; it is a tool to assist
critical appraisal. Nevertheless, single paper appraisals should be
viewed as building blocks to larger literature reviews. The emphasis in
this form is on logic, conceptualization, methodology,
evidence, and contributions. It is important to focus less on retelling
what is IN the paper and focus more on critical commentary.
Critical commentary like the following is generally considered
minimally useful: "The paper was well written with no grammatical
errors"; "The authors write in a very interesting way and use graphs
and tables to good effect"; "I liked this paper because the topic is
What is the purpose or research problem addressed
paper? Does the author even state it? Is it a problem worthy of study?
(e.g., "The purpose of this paper is to understand why people with a
blood-sugar level are diagnosed with diabetes while others with the
blood-sugar levels are not. Thus, the problem is socially constructed
medical diagnosis and the potential for wide ranging interventions for
the same set of symptoms. This is a worthy problem for a
number of reasons not the least of which is, as the authors state, the
prevention of iatrogensis.")
- What is the logic of the
author's main argument?
(e.g., "The author attempts to show that the diagnosis of diabetes is
a social construction. The author interviews doctors about their
diagnostic techniques. Quotations from the doctors are meant to show
that diagnosis is based on professional norms rather than scientific
- How are phenomena conceptualized
(empirical papers mainly)? What (better) alternatives are there (cite
related studies if possible)?
(e.g., "Doctors are narrowly defined as physicians, and do not consider
the host of other medical professionals who are invovled in the
diagnosis and treatment of high blood sugar and diabetes.
For example, Atwood (2001) studies nurse practitioners, and traditional
What research method(s) and analytical
procedures are used
? Is the methodological approach appropriate for
the research question(s)?
Are there alternatives that may have been more
(e.g.s, of Methods: face-to-face interviews, survey, secondary data -
collected by others)
(e.g.s of analytical procedures: geographic information systems,
statistics, descriptive statistics, mathematical/statistical models,
analysis of interview data)
(i.e., Consider the fact that all methodologies provide limited
data/information. What might a different approach - e.g., critical
theory - informed discourse analysis; post-postivist regression
analysis of a large population - produce as possible explanations.
Depth versus breadth is one consideration. Rapport and
difficult-to-reach populations might is another.)
What is the main evidence in support of the main
(e.g., "The following 6 quotations from 3 different doctors seems to be
the only direct evidence in support of the argument that diabetes
are socially constructed:..."
Are you convinced of the validity of the author's
(i.e., Is there enough evidence for the author to makes the claim(s)
s/he does? Did they find what they claimed to find or are there equally
plausible alternative explanations of the "evidence"?)
What gaps in the literature does this paper help
fill (if any)?
(e.g., "This paper is one of many recent
research papers concerning the social construction of diagnosis (e.g.,
Pitalbo, 2006; Mir et al, 2003; Rasputin and Lenin, 2006). Though the
methodology is somewhat novel because of the use of X, the overall
effect is to provide few new insights into the problem of socially
constructed medical diagnoses.)
- How would you rate this
paper out of 10 with 1 being very poor and
10 being excellent?
(i.e., Compared to other papers you have read how
good is this one? Even better, do some digging:
"Nevertheless, the Social Sciences Citation index shows that this paper
has been well received by the research community - with 20 citations
between the Oct. 2006 releaseas and Sept. 2007; none of which involves
negative commentary. This is an exceptional citation incidence in the
social sciences for such a short period.")