Critical Analysis and Evaluation
Many assignments ask you to critique and evaluate a source. Sources might include journal articles, books, websites, government documents, portfolios, podcasts, or presentations.
When you critique, you offer both negative and positive analysis of the content, writing, and structure of a source.
When you evaluate , you assess how successful a source is at presenting information, measured against a standard or certain criteria.
Elements of a critical analysis:
opinion + evidence from the article + justification
Your opinion is your thoughtful reaction to the piece.
Evidence from the article offers some proof to back up your opinion.
The justification is an explanation of how you arrived at your opinion or why you think it’s true.
How do you critique and evaluate?
When critiquing and evaluating someone else’s writing/research, your purpose is to reach an informed opinion about a source. In order to do that, try these three steps:
- Read and react to the piece. As you read, take notes. Record what the article means AND how you feel about it. Identify the parts that are worth talking about by asking
- How do you feel?
- What surprised you?
- What left you confused?
- What pleased or annoyed you?
- What was interesting?
- Ask deeper questions based on your reactions above.
- What is the purpose of this text?
- Who is the intended audience?
- What kind of bias is there?
- What was missing?
TIP: See our resource on analysis and synthesis ( Move From Research to Writing: How to Think ) for other examples of questions to ask. 3. Form an assessment. The questions you asked in the last step should lead you to form an assessment. Here are some assessment/opinion words that might help you build your critique and evaluation:
illogical helpful sophisticated simplistic concise clear interesting undocumented insightful confusing disorganized creative deep superficial powerful not cited unconventional inappropriate interpretation of evidence unsound or discredited methodology traditional unsubstantiated unsupported well-researched easy to understand 4. Write your critique or evaluation using the opinion+ evidence from the text + jusitification model. Here is a sample:
Opinion : This article’s assessment of the power balance in cities is confusing.
Evidence: It first says that the power to shape policy is evenly distributed among citizens, local government, and business (Rajal, 232)
Justification : but then it goes on to focus almost exclusively on business. Next, in a much shorter section, it combines the idea of citizens and local government into a single point of evidence. This leaves the reader with the impression that the citizens have no voice at all. It is not helpful in trying to determine the role of the common voter in shaping public policy.
Sample criteria for critical analysis
Sometimes the assignment will specify what criteria to use when critiquing and evaluating a source. If not, consider the following prompts to approach your analysis. Choose the questions that are most suitable for your source.
- What do you think about the quality of the research? Is it significant?
- Did the author answer the question they set out to? Did the author prove their thesis?
- Did you find contradictions to other things you know?
- What new insight or connections did the author make?
- How does this piece fit within the context of your course, or the larger body of research in the field?
- The structure of an article or book is often dictated by standards of the discipline or a theoretical model. Did the piece meet those standards?
- Did the piece meet the needs of the intended audience?
- Was the material presented in an organized and logical fashion?
- Is the argument cohesive and convincing? Is the reasoning sound? Is there enough evidence?
- Is it easy to read? Is it clear and easy to understand, even if the concepts are sophisticated?
Home » Critical Analysis – Types, Examples and Writing Guide
Critical Analysis – Types, Examples and Writing Guide
Table of Contents
Critical analysis is a process of examining a piece of work or an idea in a systematic, objective, and analytical way. It involves breaking down complex ideas, concepts, or arguments into smaller, more manageable parts to understand them better.
Types of Critical Analysis
Types of Critical Analysis are as follows:
This type of analysis focuses on analyzing and interpreting works of literature , such as novels, poetry, plays, etc. The analysis involves examining the literary devices used in the work, such as symbolism, imagery, and metaphor, and how they contribute to the overall meaning of the work.
This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting films, including their themes, cinematography, editing, and sound. Film analysis can also include evaluating the director’s style and how it contributes to the overall message of the film.
This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting works of art , such as paintings, sculptures, and installations. The analysis involves examining the elements of the artwork, such as color, composition, and technique, and how they contribute to the overall meaning of the work.
This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting cultural artifacts , such as advertisements, popular music, and social media posts. The analysis involves examining the cultural context of the artifact and how it reflects and shapes cultural values, beliefs, and norms.
This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting historical documents , such as diaries, letters, and government records. The analysis involves examining the historical context of the document and how it reflects the social, political, and cultural attitudes of the time.
This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting philosophical texts and ideas, such as the works of philosophers and their arguments. The analysis involves evaluating the logical consistency of the arguments and assessing the validity and soundness of the conclusions.
This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting scientific research studies and their findings. The analysis involves evaluating the methods used in the study, the data collected, and the conclusions drawn, and assessing their reliability and validity.
Critical Discourse Analysis
This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting language use in social and political contexts. The analysis involves evaluating the power dynamics and social relationships conveyed through language use and how they shape discourse and social reality.
This type of analysis involves examining and interpreting multiple texts or works of art and comparing them to each other. The analysis involves evaluating the similarities and differences between the texts and how they contribute to understanding the themes and meanings conveyed.
Critical Analysis Format
Critical Analysis Format is as follows:
- Provide a brief overview of the text, object, or event being analyzed
- Explain the purpose of the analysis and its significance
- Provide background information on the context and relevant historical or cultural factors
- Provide a detailed description of the text, object, or event being analyzed
- Identify key themes, ideas, and arguments presented
- Describe the author or creator’s style, tone, and use of language or visual elements
- Analyze the text, object, or event using critical thinking skills
- Identify the main strengths and weaknesses of the argument or presentation
- Evaluate the reliability and validity of the evidence presented
- Assess any assumptions or biases that may be present in the text, object, or event
- Consider the implications of the argument or presentation for different audiences and contexts
- Provide an overall evaluation of the text, object, or event based on the analysis
- Assess the effectiveness of the argument or presentation in achieving its intended purpose
- Identify any limitations or gaps in the argument or presentation
- Consider any alternative viewpoints or interpretations that could be presented
- Summarize the main points of the analysis and evaluation
- Reiterate the significance of the text, object, or event and its relevance to broader issues or debates
- Provide any recommendations for further research or future developments in the field.
- Provide an example or two to support your analysis and evaluation
- Use quotes or specific details from the text, object, or event to support your claims
- Analyze the example(s) using critical thinking skills and explain how they relate to your overall argument
- Reiterate your thesis statement and summarize your main points
- Provide a final evaluation of the text, object, or event based on your analysis
- Offer recommendations for future research or further developments in the field
- End with a thought-provoking statement or question that encourages the reader to think more deeply about the topic
How to Write Critical Analysis
Writing a critical analysis involves evaluating and interpreting a text, such as a book, article, or film, and expressing your opinion about its quality and significance. Here are some steps you can follow to write a critical analysis:
- Read and re-read the text: Before you begin writing, make sure you have a good understanding of the text. Read it several times and take notes on the key points, themes, and arguments.
- Identify the author’s purpose and audience: Consider why the author wrote the text and who the intended audience is. This can help you evaluate whether the author achieved their goals and whether the text is effective in reaching its audience.
- Analyze the structure and style: Look at the organization of the text and the author’s writing style. Consider how these elements contribute to the overall meaning of the text.
- Evaluate the content : Analyze the author’s arguments, evidence, and conclusions. Consider whether they are logical, convincing, and supported by the evidence presented in the text.
- Consider the context: Think about the historical, cultural, and social context in which the text was written. This can help you understand the author’s perspective and the significance of the text.
- Develop your thesis statement : Based on your analysis, develop a clear and concise thesis statement that summarizes your overall evaluation of the text.
- Support your thesis: Use evidence from the text to support your thesis statement. This can include direct quotes, paraphrases, and examples from the text.
- Write the introduction, body, and conclusion : Organize your analysis into an introduction that provides context and presents your thesis, a body that presents your evidence and analysis, and a conclusion that summarizes your main points and restates your thesis.
- Revise and edit: After you have written your analysis, revise and edit it to ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and well-organized. Check for spelling and grammar errors, and make sure that your analysis is logically sound and supported by evidence.
When to Write Critical Analysis
You may want to write a critical analysis in the following situations:
- Academic Assignments: If you are a student, you may be assigned to write a critical analysis as a part of your coursework. This could include analyzing a piece of literature, a historical event, or a scientific paper.
- Journalism and Media: As a journalist or media person, you may need to write a critical analysis of current events, political speeches, or media coverage.
- Personal Interest: If you are interested in a particular topic, you may want to write a critical analysis to gain a deeper understanding of it. For example, you may want to analyze the themes and motifs in a novel or film that you enjoyed.
- Professional Development : Professionals such as writers, scholars, and researchers often write critical analyses to gain insights into their field of study or work.
Critical Analysis Example
An Example of Critical Analysis Could be as follow:
The Impact of Online Learning on Student Performance
The introduction of the research topic is clear and provides an overview of the issue. However, it could benefit from providing more background information on the prevalence of online learning and its potential impact on student performance.
The literature review is comprehensive and well-structured. It covers a broad range of studies that have examined the relationship between online learning and student performance. However, it could benefit from including more recent studies and providing a more critical analysis of the existing literature.
The research methods are clearly described and appropriate for the research question. The study uses a quasi-experimental design to compare the performance of students who took an online course with those who took the same course in a traditional classroom setting. However, the study may benefit from using a randomized controlled trial design to reduce potential confounding factors.
The results are presented in a clear and concise manner. The study finds that students who took the online course performed similarly to those who took the traditional course. However, the study only measures performance on one course and may not be generalizable to other courses or contexts.
The discussion section provides a thorough analysis of the study’s findings. The authors acknowledge the limitations of the study and provide suggestions for future research. However, they could benefit from discussing potential mechanisms underlying the relationship between online learning and student performance.
The conclusion summarizes the main findings of the study and provides some implications for future research and practice. However, it could benefit from providing more specific recommendations for implementing online learning programs in educational settings.
Purpose of Critical Analysis
There are several purposes of critical analysis, including:
- To identify and evaluate arguments : Critical analysis helps to identify the main arguments in a piece of writing or speech and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. This enables the reader to form their own opinion and make informed decisions.
- To assess evidence : Critical analysis involves examining the evidence presented in a text or speech and evaluating its quality and relevance to the argument. This helps to determine the credibility of the claims being made.
- To recognize biases and assumptions : Critical analysis helps to identify any biases or assumptions that may be present in the argument, and evaluate how these affect the credibility of the argument.
- To develop critical thinking skills: Critical analysis helps to develop the ability to think critically, evaluate information objectively, and make reasoned judgments based on evidence.
- To improve communication skills: Critical analysis involves carefully reading and listening to information, evaluating it, and expressing one’s own opinion in a clear and concise manner. This helps to improve communication skills and the ability to express ideas effectively.
Importance of Critical Analysis
Here are some specific reasons why critical analysis is important:
- Helps to identify biases: Critical analysis helps individuals to recognize their own biases and assumptions, as well as the biases of others. By being aware of biases, individuals can better evaluate the credibility and reliability of information.
- Enhances problem-solving skills : Critical analysis encourages individuals to question assumptions and consider multiple perspectives, which can lead to creative problem-solving and innovation.
- Promotes better decision-making: By carefully evaluating evidence and arguments, critical analysis can help individuals make more informed and effective decisions.
- Facilitates understanding: Critical analysis helps individuals to understand complex issues and ideas by breaking them down into smaller parts and evaluating them separately.
- Fosters intellectual growth : Engaging in critical analysis challenges individuals to think deeply and critically, which can lead to intellectual growth and development.
Advantages of Critical Analysis
Some advantages of critical analysis include:
- Improved decision-making: Critical analysis helps individuals make informed decisions by evaluating all available information and considering various perspectives.
- Enhanced problem-solving skills : Critical analysis requires individuals to identify and analyze the root cause of a problem, which can help develop effective solutions.
- Increased creativity : Critical analysis encourages individuals to think outside the box and consider alternative solutions to problems, which can lead to more creative and innovative ideas.
- Improved communication : Critical analysis helps individuals communicate their ideas and opinions more effectively by providing logical and coherent arguments.
- Reduced bias: Critical analysis requires individuals to evaluate information objectively, which can help reduce personal biases and subjective opinions.
- Better understanding of complex issues : Critical analysis helps individuals to understand complex issues by breaking them down into smaller parts, examining each part and understanding how they fit together.
- Greater self-awareness: Critical analysis helps individuals to recognize their own biases, assumptions, and limitations, which can lead to personal growth and development.
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Lau F, Kuziemsky C, editors. Handbook of eHealth Evaluation: An Evidence-based Approach [Internet]. Victoria (BC): University of Victoria; 2017 Feb 27.
Handbook of eHealth Evaluation: An Evidence-based Approach [Internet].
Chapter 9 methods for literature reviews.
Guy Paré and Spyros Kitsiou .
Literature reviews play a critical role in scholarship because science remains, first and foremost, a cumulative endeavour ( vom Brocke et al., 2009 ). As in any academic discipline, rigorous knowledge syntheses are becoming indispensable in keeping up with an exponentially growing eHealth literature, assisting practitioners, academics, and graduate students in finding, evaluating, and synthesizing the contents of many empirical and conceptual papers. Among other methods, literature reviews are essential for: (a) identifying what has been written on a subject or topic; (b) determining the extent to which a specific research area reveals any interpretable trends or patterns; (c) aggregating empirical findings related to a narrow research question to support evidence-based practice; (d) generating new frameworks and theories; and (e) identifying topics or questions requiring more investigation ( Paré, Trudel, Jaana, & Kitsiou, 2015 ).
Literature reviews can take two major forms. The most prevalent one is the “literature review” or “background” section within a journal paper or a chapter in a graduate thesis. This section synthesizes the extant literature and usually identifies the gaps in knowledge that the empirical study addresses ( Sylvester, Tate, & Johnstone, 2013 ). It may also provide a theoretical foundation for the proposed study, substantiate the presence of the research problem, justify the research as one that contributes something new to the cumulated knowledge, or validate the methods and approaches for the proposed study ( Hart, 1998 ; Levy & Ellis, 2006 ).
The second form of literature review, which is the focus of this chapter, constitutes an original and valuable work of research in and of itself ( Paré et al., 2015 ). Rather than providing a base for a researcher’s own work, it creates a solid starting point for all members of the community interested in a particular area or topic ( Mulrow, 1987 ). The so-called “review article” is a journal-length paper which has an overarching purpose to synthesize the literature in a field, without collecting or analyzing any primary data ( Green, Johnson, & Adams, 2006 ).
When appropriately conducted, review articles represent powerful information sources for practitioners looking for state-of-the art evidence to guide their decision-making and work practices ( Paré et al., 2015 ). Further, high-quality reviews become frequently cited pieces of work which researchers seek out as a first clear outline of the literature when undertaking empirical studies ( Cooper, 1988 ; Rowe, 2014 ). Scholars who track and gauge the impact of articles have found that review papers are cited and downloaded more often than any other type of published article ( Cronin, Ryan, & Coughlan, 2008 ; Montori, Wilczynski, Morgan, Haynes, & Hedges, 2003 ; Patsopoulos, Analatos, & Ioannidis, 2005 ). The reason for their popularity may be the fact that reading the review enables one to have an overview, if not a detailed knowledge of the area in question, as well as references to the most useful primary sources ( Cronin et al., 2008 ). Although they are not easy to conduct, the commitment to complete a review article provides a tremendous service to one’s academic community ( Paré et al., 2015 ; Petticrew & Roberts, 2006 ). Most, if not all, peer-reviewed journals in the fields of medical informatics publish review articles of some type.
The main objectives of this chapter are fourfold: (a) to provide an overview of the major steps and activities involved in conducting a stand-alone literature review; (b) to describe and contrast the different types of review articles that can contribute to the eHealth knowledge base; (c) to illustrate each review type with one or two examples from the eHealth literature; and (d) to provide a series of recommendations for prospective authors of review articles in this domain.
9.2. Overview of the Literature Review Process and Steps
As explained in Templier and Paré (2015) , there are six generic steps involved in conducting a review article:
- formulating the research question(s) and objective(s),
- searching the extant literature,
- screening for inclusion,
- assessing the quality of primary studies,
- extracting data, and
- analyzing data.
Although these steps are presented here in sequential order, one must keep in mind that the review process can be iterative and that many activities can be initiated during the planning stage and later refined during subsequent phases ( Finfgeld-Connett & Johnson, 2013 ; Kitchenham & Charters, 2007 ).
Formulating the research question(s) and objective(s): As a first step, members of the review team must appropriately justify the need for the review itself ( Petticrew & Roberts, 2006 ), identify the review’s main objective(s) ( Okoli & Schabram, 2010 ), and define the concepts or variables at the heart of their synthesis ( Cooper & Hedges, 2009 ; Webster & Watson, 2002 ). Importantly, they also need to articulate the research question(s) they propose to investigate ( Kitchenham & Charters, 2007 ). In this regard, we concur with Jesson, Matheson, and Lacey (2011) that clearly articulated research questions are key ingredients that guide the entire review methodology; they underscore the type of information that is needed, inform the search for and selection of relevant literature, and guide or orient the subsequent analysis. Searching the extant literature: The next step consists of searching the literature and making decisions about the suitability of material to be considered in the review ( Cooper, 1988 ). There exist three main coverage strategies. First, exhaustive coverage means an effort is made to be as comprehensive as possible in order to ensure that all relevant studies, published and unpublished, are included in the review and, thus, conclusions are based on this all-inclusive knowledge base. The second type of coverage consists of presenting materials that are representative of most other works in a given field or area. Often authors who adopt this strategy will search for relevant articles in a small number of top-tier journals in a field ( Paré et al., 2015 ). In the third strategy, the review team concentrates on prior works that have been central or pivotal to a particular topic. This may include empirical studies or conceptual papers that initiated a line of investigation, changed how problems or questions were framed, introduced new methods or concepts, or engendered important debate ( Cooper, 1988 ). Screening for inclusion: The following step consists of evaluating the applicability of the material identified in the preceding step ( Levy & Ellis, 2006 ; vom Brocke et al., 2009 ). Once a group of potential studies has been identified, members of the review team must screen them to determine their relevance ( Petticrew & Roberts, 2006 ). A set of predetermined rules provides a basis for including or excluding certain studies. This exercise requires a significant investment on the part of researchers, who must ensure enhanced objectivity and avoid biases or mistakes. As discussed later in this chapter, for certain types of reviews there must be at least two independent reviewers involved in the screening process and a procedure to resolve disagreements must also be in place ( Liberati et al., 2009 ; Shea et al., 2009 ). Assessing the quality of primary studies: In addition to screening material for inclusion, members of the review team may need to assess the scientific quality of the selected studies, that is, appraise the rigour of the research design and methods. Such formal assessment, which is usually conducted independently by at least two coders, helps members of the review team refine which studies to include in the final sample, determine whether or not the differences in quality may affect their conclusions, or guide how they analyze the data and interpret the findings ( Petticrew & Roberts, 2006 ). Ascribing quality scores to each primary study or considering through domain-based evaluations which study components have or have not been designed and executed appropriately makes it possible to reflect on the extent to which the selected study addresses possible biases and maximizes validity ( Shea et al., 2009 ). Extracting data: The following step involves gathering or extracting applicable information from each primary study included in the sample and deciding what is relevant to the problem of interest ( Cooper & Hedges, 2009 ). Indeed, the type of data that should be recorded mainly depends on the initial research questions ( Okoli & Schabram, 2010 ). However, important information may also be gathered about how, when, where and by whom the primary study was conducted, the research design and methods, or qualitative/quantitative results ( Cooper & Hedges, 2009 ). Analyzing and synthesizing data : As a final step, members of the review team must collate, summarize, aggregate, organize, and compare the evidence extracted from the included studies. The extracted data must be presented in a meaningful way that suggests a new contribution to the extant literature ( Jesson et al., 2011 ). Webster and Watson (2002) warn researchers that literature reviews should be much more than lists of papers and should provide a coherent lens to make sense of extant knowledge on a given topic. There exist several methods and techniques for synthesizing quantitative (e.g., frequency analysis, meta-analysis) and qualitative (e.g., grounded theory, narrative analysis, meta-ethnography) evidence ( Dixon-Woods, Agarwal, Jones, Young, & Sutton, 2005 ; Thomas & Harden, 2008 ).
9.3. Types of Review Articles and Brief Illustrations
EHealth researchers have at their disposal a number of approaches and methods for making sense out of existing literature, all with the purpose of casting current research findings into historical contexts or explaining contradictions that might exist among a set of primary research studies conducted on a particular topic. Our classification scheme is largely inspired from Paré and colleagues’ (2015) typology. Below we present and illustrate those review types that we feel are central to the growth and development of the eHealth domain.
9.3.1. Narrative Reviews
The narrative review is the “traditional” way of reviewing the extant literature and is skewed towards a qualitative interpretation of prior knowledge ( Sylvester et al., 2013 ). Put simply, a narrative review attempts to summarize or synthesize what has been written on a particular topic but does not seek generalization or cumulative knowledge from what is reviewed ( Davies, 2000 ; Green et al., 2006 ). Instead, the review team often undertakes the task of accumulating and synthesizing the literature to demonstrate the value of a particular point of view ( Baumeister & Leary, 1997 ). As such, reviewers may selectively ignore or limit the attention paid to certain studies in order to make a point. In this rather unsystematic approach, the selection of information from primary articles is subjective, lacks explicit criteria for inclusion and can lead to biased interpretations or inferences ( Green et al., 2006 ). There are several narrative reviews in the particular eHealth domain, as in all fields, which follow such an unstructured approach ( Silva et al., 2015 ; Paul et al., 2015 ).
Despite these criticisms, this type of review can be very useful in gathering together a volume of literature in a specific subject area and synthesizing it. As mentioned above, its primary purpose is to provide the reader with a comprehensive background for understanding current knowledge and highlighting the significance of new research ( Cronin et al., 2008 ). Faculty like to use narrative reviews in the classroom because they are often more up to date than textbooks, provide a single source for students to reference, and expose students to peer-reviewed literature ( Green et al., 2006 ). For researchers, narrative reviews can inspire research ideas by identifying gaps or inconsistencies in a body of knowledge, thus helping researchers to determine research questions or formulate hypotheses. Importantly, narrative reviews can also be used as educational articles to bring practitioners up to date with certain topics of issues ( Green et al., 2006 ).
Recently, there have been several efforts to introduce more rigour in narrative reviews that will elucidate common pitfalls and bring changes into their publication standards. Information systems researchers, among others, have contributed to advancing knowledge on how to structure a “traditional” review. For instance, Levy and Ellis (2006) proposed a generic framework for conducting such reviews. Their model follows the systematic data processing approach comprised of three steps, namely: (a) literature search and screening; (b) data extraction and analysis; and (c) writing the literature review. They provide detailed and very helpful instructions on how to conduct each step of the review process. As another methodological contribution, vom Brocke et al. (2009) offered a series of guidelines for conducting literature reviews, with a particular focus on how to search and extract the relevant body of knowledge. Last, Bandara, Miskon, and Fielt (2011) proposed a structured, predefined and tool-supported method to identify primary studies within a feasible scope, extract relevant content from identified articles, synthesize and analyze the findings, and effectively write and present the results of the literature review. We highly recommend that prospective authors of narrative reviews consult these useful sources before embarking on their work.
Darlow and Wen (2015) provide a good example of a highly structured narrative review in the eHealth field. These authors synthesized published articles that describe the development process of mobile health ( m-health ) interventions for patients’ cancer care self-management. As in most narrative reviews, the scope of the research questions being investigated is broad: (a) how development of these systems are carried out; (b) which methods are used to investigate these systems; and (c) what conclusions can be drawn as a result of the development of these systems. To provide clear answers to these questions, a literature search was conducted on six electronic databases and Google Scholar . The search was performed using several terms and free text words, combining them in an appropriate manner. Four inclusion and three exclusion criteria were utilized during the screening process. Both authors independently reviewed each of the identified articles to determine eligibility and extract study information. A flow diagram shows the number of studies identified, screened, and included or excluded at each stage of study selection. In terms of contributions, this review provides a series of practical recommendations for m-health intervention development.
9.3.2. Descriptive or Mapping Reviews
The primary goal of a descriptive review is to determine the extent to which a body of knowledge in a particular research topic reveals any interpretable pattern or trend with respect to pre-existing propositions, theories, methodologies or findings ( King & He, 2005 ; Paré et al., 2015 ). In contrast with narrative reviews, descriptive reviews follow a systematic and transparent procedure, including searching, screening and classifying studies ( Petersen, Vakkalanka, & Kuzniarz, 2015 ). Indeed, structured search methods are used to form a representative sample of a larger group of published works ( Paré et al., 2015 ). Further, authors of descriptive reviews extract from each study certain characteristics of interest, such as publication year, research methods, data collection techniques, and direction or strength of research outcomes (e.g., positive, negative, or non-significant) in the form of frequency analysis to produce quantitative results ( Sylvester et al., 2013 ). In essence, each study included in a descriptive review is treated as the unit of analysis and the published literature as a whole provides a database from which the authors attempt to identify any interpretable trends or draw overall conclusions about the merits of existing conceptualizations, propositions, methods or findings ( Paré et al., 2015 ). In doing so, a descriptive review may claim that its findings represent the state of the art in a particular domain ( King & He, 2005 ).
In the fields of health sciences and medical informatics, reviews that focus on examining the range, nature and evolution of a topic area are described by Anderson, Allen, Peckham, and Goodwin (2008) as mapping reviews . Like descriptive reviews, the research questions are generic and usually relate to publication patterns and trends. There is no preconceived plan to systematically review all of the literature although this can be done. Instead, researchers often present studies that are representative of most works published in a particular area and they consider a specific time frame to be mapped.
An example of this approach in the eHealth domain is offered by DeShazo, Lavallie, and Wolf (2009). The purpose of this descriptive or mapping review was to characterize publication trends in the medical informatics literature over a 20-year period (1987 to 2006). To achieve this ambitious objective, the authors performed a bibliometric analysis of medical informatics citations indexed in medline using publication trends, journal frequencies, impact factors, Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) term frequencies, and characteristics of citations. Findings revealed that there were over 77,000 medical informatics articles published during the covered period in numerous journals and that the average annual growth rate was 12%. The MeSH term analysis also suggested a strong interdisciplinary trend. Finally, average impact scores increased over time with two notable growth periods. Overall, patterns in research outputs that seem to characterize the historic trends and current components of the field of medical informatics suggest it may be a maturing discipline (DeShazo et al., 2009).
9.3.3. Scoping Reviews
Scoping reviews attempt to provide an initial indication of the potential size and nature of the extant literature on an emergent topic (Arksey & O’Malley, 2005; Daudt, van Mossel, & Scott, 2013 ; Levac, Colquhoun, & O’Brien, 2010). A scoping review may be conducted to examine the extent, range and nature of research activities in a particular area, determine the value of undertaking a full systematic review (discussed next), or identify research gaps in the extant literature ( Paré et al., 2015 ). In line with their main objective, scoping reviews usually conclude with the presentation of a detailed research agenda for future works along with potential implications for both practice and research.
Unlike narrative and descriptive reviews, the whole point of scoping the field is to be as comprehensive as possible, including grey literature (Arksey & O’Malley, 2005). Inclusion and exclusion criteria must be established to help researchers eliminate studies that are not aligned with the research questions. It is also recommended that at least two independent coders review abstracts yielded from the search strategy and then the full articles for study selection ( Daudt et al., 2013 ). The synthesized evidence from content or thematic analysis is relatively easy to present in tabular form (Arksey & O’Malley, 2005; Thomas & Harden, 2008 ).
One of the most highly cited scoping reviews in the eHealth domain was published by Archer, Fevrier-Thomas, Lokker, McKibbon, and Straus (2011) . These authors reviewed the existing literature on personal health record ( phr ) systems including design, functionality, implementation, applications, outcomes, and benefits. Seven databases were searched from 1985 to March 2010. Several search terms relating to phr s were used during this process. Two authors independently screened titles and abstracts to determine inclusion status. A second screen of full-text articles, again by two independent members of the research team, ensured that the studies described phr s. All in all, 130 articles met the criteria and their data were extracted manually into a database. The authors concluded that although there is a large amount of survey, observational, cohort/panel, and anecdotal evidence of phr benefits and satisfaction for patients, more research is needed to evaluate the results of phr implementations. Their in-depth analysis of the literature signalled that there is little solid evidence from randomized controlled trials or other studies through the use of phr s. Hence, they suggested that more research is needed that addresses the current lack of understanding of optimal functionality and usability of these systems, and how they can play a beneficial role in supporting patient self-management ( Archer et al., 2011 ).
9.3.4. Forms of Aggregative Reviews
Healthcare providers, practitioners, and policy-makers are nowadays overwhelmed with large volumes of information, including research-based evidence from numerous clinical trials and evaluation studies, assessing the effectiveness of health information technologies and interventions ( Ammenwerth & de Keizer, 2004 ; Deshazo et al., 2009 ). It is unrealistic to expect that all these disparate actors will have the time, skills, and necessary resources to identify the available evidence in the area of their expertise and consider it when making decisions. Systematic reviews that involve the rigorous application of scientific strategies aimed at limiting subjectivity and bias (i.e., systematic and random errors) can respond to this challenge.
Systematic reviews attempt to aggregate, appraise, and synthesize in a single source all empirical evidence that meet a set of previously specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a clearly formulated and often narrow research question on a particular topic of interest to support evidence-based practice ( Liberati et al., 2009 ). They adhere closely to explicit scientific principles ( Liberati et al., 2009 ) and rigorous methodological guidelines (Higgins & Green, 2008) aimed at reducing random and systematic errors that can lead to deviations from the truth in results or inferences. The use of explicit methods allows systematic reviews to aggregate a large body of research evidence, assess whether effects or relationships are in the same direction and of the same general magnitude, explain possible inconsistencies between study results, and determine the strength of the overall evidence for every outcome of interest based on the quality of included studies and the general consistency among them ( Cook, Mulrow, & Haynes, 1997 ). The main procedures of a systematic review involve:
- Formulating a review question and developing a search strategy based on explicit inclusion criteria for the identification of eligible studies (usually described in the context of a detailed review protocol).
- Searching for eligible studies using multiple databases and information sources, including grey literature sources, without any language restrictions.
- Selecting studies, extracting data, and assessing risk of bias in a duplicate manner using two independent reviewers to avoid random or systematic errors in the process.
- Analyzing data using quantitative or qualitative methods.
- Presenting results in summary of findings tables.
- Interpreting results and drawing conclusions.
Many systematic reviews, but not all, use statistical methods to combine the results of independent studies into a single quantitative estimate or summary effect size. Known as meta-analyses , these reviews use specific data extraction and statistical techniques (e.g., network, frequentist, or Bayesian meta-analyses) to calculate from each study by outcome of interest an effect size along with a confidence interval that reflects the degree of uncertainty behind the point estimate of effect ( Borenstein, Hedges, Higgins, & Rothstein, 2009 ; Deeks, Higgins, & Altman, 2008 ). Subsequently, they use fixed or random-effects analysis models to combine the results of the included studies, assess statistical heterogeneity, and calculate a weighted average of the effect estimates from the different studies, taking into account their sample sizes. The summary effect size is a value that reflects the average magnitude of the intervention effect for a particular outcome of interest or, more generally, the strength of a relationship between two variables across all studies included in the systematic review. By statistically combining data from multiple studies, meta-analyses can create more precise and reliable estimates of intervention effects than those derived from individual studies alone, when these are examined independently as discrete sources of information.
The review by Gurol-Urganci, de Jongh, Vodopivec-Jamsek, Atun, and Car (2013) on the effects of mobile phone messaging reminders for attendance at healthcare appointments is an illustrative example of a high-quality systematic review with meta-analysis. Missed appointments are a major cause of inefficiency in healthcare delivery with substantial monetary costs to health systems. These authors sought to assess whether mobile phone-based appointment reminders delivered through Short Message Service ( sms ) or Multimedia Messaging Service ( mms ) are effective in improving rates of patient attendance and reducing overall costs. To this end, they conducted a comprehensive search on multiple databases using highly sensitive search strategies without language or publication-type restrictions to identify all rct s that are eligible for inclusion. In order to minimize the risk of omitting eligible studies not captured by the original search, they supplemented all electronic searches with manual screening of trial registers and references contained in the included studies. Study selection, data extraction, and risk of bias assessments were performed independently by two coders using standardized methods to ensure consistency and to eliminate potential errors. Findings from eight rct s involving 6,615 participants were pooled into meta-analyses to calculate the magnitude of effects that mobile text message reminders have on the rate of attendance at healthcare appointments compared to no reminders and phone call reminders.
Meta-analyses are regarded as powerful tools for deriving meaningful conclusions. However, there are situations in which it is neither reasonable nor appropriate to pool studies together using meta-analytic methods simply because there is extensive clinical heterogeneity between the included studies or variation in measurement tools, comparisons, or outcomes of interest. In these cases, systematic reviews can use qualitative synthesis methods such as vote counting, content analysis, classification schemes and tabulations, as an alternative approach to narratively synthesize the results of the independent studies included in the review. This form of review is known as qualitative systematic review.
A rigorous example of one such review in the eHealth domain is presented by Mickan, Atherton, Roberts, Heneghan, and Tilson (2014) on the use of handheld computers by healthcare professionals and their impact on access to information and clinical decision-making. In line with the methodological guidelines for systematic reviews, these authors: (a) developed and registered with prospero ( www.crd.york.ac.uk/ prospero / ) an a priori review protocol; (b) conducted comprehensive searches for eligible studies using multiple databases and other supplementary strategies (e.g., forward searches); and (c) subsequently carried out study selection, data extraction, and risk of bias assessments in a duplicate manner to eliminate potential errors in the review process. Heterogeneity between the included studies in terms of reported outcomes and measures precluded the use of meta-analytic methods. To this end, the authors resorted to using narrative analysis and synthesis to describe the effectiveness of handheld computers on accessing information for clinical knowledge, adherence to safety and clinical quality guidelines, and diagnostic decision-making.
In recent years, the number of systematic reviews in the field of health informatics has increased considerably. Systematic reviews with discordant findings can cause great confusion and make it difficult for decision-makers to interpret the review-level evidence ( Moher, 2013 ). Therefore, there is a growing need for appraisal and synthesis of prior systematic reviews to ensure that decision-making is constantly informed by the best available accumulated evidence. Umbrella reviews , also known as overviews of systematic reviews, are tertiary types of evidence synthesis that aim to accomplish this; that is, they aim to compare and contrast findings from multiple systematic reviews and meta-analyses ( Becker & Oxman, 2008 ). Umbrella reviews generally adhere to the same principles and rigorous methodological guidelines used in systematic reviews. However, the unit of analysis in umbrella reviews is the systematic review rather than the primary study ( Becker & Oxman, 2008 ). Unlike systematic reviews that have a narrow focus of inquiry, umbrella reviews focus on broader research topics for which there are several potential interventions ( Smith, Devane, Begley, & Clarke, 2011 ). A recent umbrella review on the effects of home telemonitoring interventions for patients with heart failure critically appraised, compared, and synthesized evidence from 15 systematic reviews to investigate which types of home telemonitoring technologies and forms of interventions are more effective in reducing mortality and hospital admissions ( Kitsiou, Paré, & Jaana, 2015 ).
9.3.5. Realist Reviews
Realist reviews are theory-driven interpretative reviews developed to inform, enhance, or supplement conventional systematic reviews by making sense of heterogeneous evidence about complex interventions applied in diverse contexts in a way that informs policy decision-making ( Greenhalgh, Wong, Westhorp, & Pawson, 2011 ). They originated from criticisms of positivist systematic reviews which centre on their “simplistic” underlying assumptions ( Oates, 2011 ). As explained above, systematic reviews seek to identify causation. Such logic is appropriate for fields like medicine and education where findings of randomized controlled trials can be aggregated to see whether a new treatment or intervention does improve outcomes. However, many argue that it is not possible to establish such direct causal links between interventions and outcomes in fields such as social policy, management, and information systems where for any intervention there is unlikely to be a regular or consistent outcome ( Oates, 2011 ; Pawson, 2006 ; Rousseau, Manning, & Denyer, 2008 ).
To circumvent these limitations, Pawson, Greenhalgh, Harvey, and Walshe (2005) have proposed a new approach for synthesizing knowledge that seeks to unpack the mechanism of how “complex interventions” work in particular contexts. The basic research question — what works? — which is usually associated with systematic reviews changes to: what is it about this intervention that works, for whom, in what circumstances, in what respects and why? Realist reviews have no particular preference for either quantitative or qualitative evidence. As a theory-building approach, a realist review usually starts by articulating likely underlying mechanisms and then scrutinizes available evidence to find out whether and where these mechanisms are applicable ( Shepperd et al., 2009 ). Primary studies found in the extant literature are viewed as case studies which can test and modify the initial theories ( Rousseau et al., 2008 ).
The main objective pursued in the realist review conducted by Otte-Trojel, de Bont, Rundall, and van de Klundert (2014) was to examine how patient portals contribute to health service delivery and patient outcomes. The specific goals were to investigate how outcomes are produced and, most importantly, how variations in outcomes can be explained. The research team started with an exploratory review of background documents and research studies to identify ways in which patient portals may contribute to health service delivery and patient outcomes. The authors identified six main ways which represent “educated guesses” to be tested against the data in the evaluation studies. These studies were identified through a formal and systematic search in four databases between 2003 and 2013. Two members of the research team selected the articles using a pre-established list of inclusion and exclusion criteria and following a two-step procedure. The authors then extracted data from the selected articles and created several tables, one for each outcome category. They organized information to bring forward those mechanisms where patient portals contribute to outcomes and the variation in outcomes across different contexts.
9.3.6. Critical Reviews
Lastly, critical reviews aim to provide a critical evaluation and interpretive analysis of existing literature on a particular topic of interest to reveal strengths, weaknesses, contradictions, controversies, inconsistencies, and/or other important issues with respect to theories, hypotheses, research methods or results ( Baumeister & Leary, 1997 ; Kirkevold, 1997 ). Unlike other review types, critical reviews attempt to take a reflective account of the research that has been done in a particular area of interest, and assess its credibility by using appraisal instruments or critical interpretive methods. In this way, critical reviews attempt to constructively inform other scholars about the weaknesses of prior research and strengthen knowledge development by giving focus and direction to studies for further improvement ( Kirkevold, 1997 ).
Kitsiou, Paré, and Jaana (2013) provide an example of a critical review that assessed the methodological quality of prior systematic reviews of home telemonitoring studies for chronic patients. The authors conducted a comprehensive search on multiple databases to identify eligible reviews and subsequently used a validated instrument to conduct an in-depth quality appraisal. Results indicate that the majority of systematic reviews in this particular area suffer from important methodological flaws and biases that impair their internal validity and limit their usefulness for clinical and decision-making purposes. To this end, they provide a number of recommendations to strengthen knowledge development towards improving the design and execution of future reviews on home telemonitoring.
Table 9.1 outlines the main types of literature reviews that were described in the previous sub-sections and summarizes the main characteristics that distinguish one review type from another. It also includes key references to methodological guidelines and useful sources that can be used by eHealth scholars and researchers for planning and developing reviews.
Typology of Literature Reviews (adapted from Paré et al., 2015).
As shown in Table 9.1 , each review type addresses different kinds of research questions or objectives, which subsequently define and dictate the methods and approaches that need to be used to achieve the overarching goal(s) of the review. For example, in the case of narrative reviews, there is greater flexibility in searching and synthesizing articles ( Green et al., 2006 ). Researchers are often relatively free to use a diversity of approaches to search, identify, and select relevant scientific articles, describe their operational characteristics, present how the individual studies fit together, and formulate conclusions. On the other hand, systematic reviews are characterized by their high level of systematicity, rigour, and use of explicit methods, based on an “a priori” review plan that aims to minimize bias in the analysis and synthesis process (Higgins & Green, 2008). Some reviews are exploratory in nature (e.g., scoping/mapping reviews), whereas others may be conducted to discover patterns (e.g., descriptive reviews) or involve a synthesis approach that may include the critical analysis of prior research ( Paré et al., 2015 ). Hence, in order to select the most appropriate type of review, it is critical to know before embarking on a review project, why the research synthesis is conducted and what type of methods are best aligned with the pursued goals.
9.5. Concluding Remarks
In light of the increased use of evidence-based practice and research generating stronger evidence ( Grady et al., 2011 ; Lyden et al., 2013 ), review articles have become essential tools for summarizing, synthesizing, integrating or critically appraising prior knowledge in the eHealth field. As mentioned earlier, when rigorously conducted review articles represent powerful information sources for eHealth scholars and practitioners looking for state-of-the-art evidence. The typology of literature reviews we used herein will allow eHealth researchers, graduate students and practitioners to gain a better understanding of the similarities and differences between review types.
We must stress that this classification scheme does not privilege any specific type of review as being of higher quality than another ( Paré et al., 2015 ). As explained above, each type of review has its own strengths and limitations. Having said that, we realize that the methodological rigour of any review — be it qualitative, quantitative or mixed — is a critical aspect that should be considered seriously by prospective authors. In the present context, the notion of rigour refers to the reliability and validity of the review process described in section 9.2. For one thing, reliability is related to the reproducibility of the review process and steps, which is facilitated by a comprehensive documentation of the literature search process, extraction, coding and analysis performed in the review. Whether the search is comprehensive or not, whether it involves a methodical approach for data extraction and synthesis or not, it is important that the review documents in an explicit and transparent manner the steps and approach that were used in the process of its development. Next, validity characterizes the degree to which the review process was conducted appropriately. It goes beyond documentation and reflects decisions related to the selection of the sources, the search terms used, the period of time covered, the articles selected in the search, and the application of backward and forward searches ( vom Brocke et al., 2009 ). In short, the rigour of any review article is reflected by the explicitness of its methods (i.e., transparency) and the soundness of the approach used. We refer those interested in the concepts of rigour and quality to the work of Templier and Paré (2015) which offers a detailed set of methodological guidelines for conducting and evaluating various types of review articles.
To conclude, our main objective in this chapter was to demystify the various types of literature reviews that are central to the continuous development of the eHealth field. It is our hope that our descriptive account will serve as a valuable source for those conducting, evaluating or using reviews in this important and growing domain.
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- Cite this Page Paré G, Kitsiou S. Chapter 9 Methods for Literature Reviews. In: Lau F, Kuziemsky C, editors. Handbook of eHealth Evaluation: An Evidence-based Approach [Internet]. Victoria (BC): University of Victoria; 2017 Feb 27.
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- Overview of the Literature Review Process and Steps
- Types of Review Articles and Brief Illustrations
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How to Write a Literature Review
- 5. Critically Analyze and Evaluate
- Literature Reviews: A Recap
- Reading Journal Articles
- Does it Describe a Literature Review?
- 1. Identify the Question
- 2. Review Discipline Styles
- Searching Article Databases
- Finding Full-Text of an Article
- Citation Chaining
- When to Stop Searching
- 4. Manage Your References
Critically analyze and evaluate
Tip: read and annotate pdfs.
- 6. Synthesize
- 7. Write a Literature Review
Ask yourself questions like these about each book or article you include:
- What is the research question?
- What is the primary methodology used?
- How was the data gathered?
- How is the data presented?
- What are the main conclusions?
- Are these conclusions reasonable?
- What theories are used to support the researcher's conclusions?
Take notes on the articles as you read them and identify any themes or concepts that may apply to your research question.
This sample template (below) may also be useful for critically reading and organizing your articles. Or you can use this online form and email yourself a copy .
- Sample Template for Critical Analysis of the Literature
Opening an article in PDF format in Acrobat Reader will allow you to use "sticky notes" and "highlighting" to make notes on the article without printing it out. Make sure to save the edited file so you don't lose your notes!
Some Citation Managers like Mendeley also have highlighting and annotation features.Here's a screen capture of a pdf in Mendeley with highlighting, notes, and various colors:
Screen capture from a UO Librarian's Mendeley Desktop app
- Learn more about citation management software in the previous step: 4. Manage Your References
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- Next: 6. Synthesize >>
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Critically Analyzing Information Sources: Critical Appraisal and Analysis
- Critical Appraisal and Analysis
Initial Appraisal : Reviewing the source
- What are the author's credentials--institutional affiliation (where he or she works), educational background, past writings, or experience? Is the book or article written on a topic in the author's area of expertise? You can use the various Who's Who publications for the U.S. and other countries and for specific subjects and the biographical information located in the publication itself to help determine the author's affiliation and credentials.
- Has your instructor mentioned this author? Have you seen the author's name cited in other sources or bibliographies? Respected authors are cited frequently by other scholars. For this reason, always note those names that appear in many different sources.
- Is the author associated with a reputable institution or organization? What are the basic values or goals of the organization or institution?
B. Date of Publication
- When was the source published? This date is often located on the face of the title page below the name of the publisher. If it is not there, look for the copyright date on the reverse of the title page. On Web pages, the date of the last revision is usually at the bottom of the home page, sometimes every page.
- Is the source current or out-of-date for your topic? Topic areas of continuing and rapid development, such as the sciences, demand more current information. On the other hand, topics in the humanities often require material that was written many years ago. At the other extreme, some news sources on the Web now note the hour and minute that articles are posted on their site.
C. Edition or Revision
Is this a first edition of this publication or not? Further editions indicate a source has been revised and updated to reflect changes in knowledge, include omissions, and harmonize with its intended reader's needs. Also, many printings or editions may indicate that the work has become a standard source in the area and is reliable. If you are using a Web source, do the pages indicate revision dates?
Note the publisher. If the source is published by a university press, it is likely to be scholarly. Although the fact that the publisher is reputable does not necessarily guarantee quality, it does show that the publisher may have high regard for the source being published.
E. Title of Journal
Is this a scholarly or a popular journal? This distinction is important because it indicates different levels of complexity in conveying ideas. If you need help in determining the type of journal, see Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals . Or you may wish to check your journal title in the latest edition of Katz's Magazines for Libraries (Olin Reference Z 6941 .K21, shelved at the reference desk) for a brief evaluative description.
Critical Analysis of the Content
Having made an initial appraisal, you should now examine the body of the source. Read the preface to determine the author's intentions for the book. Scan the table of contents and the index to get a broad overview of the material it covers. Note whether bibliographies are included. Read the chapters that specifically address your topic. Reading the article abstract and scanning the table of contents of a journal or magazine issue is also useful. As with books, the presence and quality of a bibliography at the end of the article may reflect the care with which the authors have prepared their work.
A. Intended Audience
What type of audience is the author addressing? Is the publication aimed at a specialized or a general audience? Is this source too elementary, too technical, too advanced, or just right for your needs?
B. Objective Reasoning
- Is the information covered fact, opinion, or propaganda? It is not always easy to separate fact from opinion. Facts can usually be verified; opinions, though they may be based on factual information, evolve from the interpretation of facts. Skilled writers can make you think their interpretations are facts.
- Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched, or is it questionable and unsupported by evidence? Assumptions should be reasonable. Note errors or omissions.
- Are the ideas and arguments advanced more or less in line with other works you have read on the same topic? The more radically an author departs from the views of others in the same field, the more carefully and critically you should scrutinize his or her ideas.
- Is the author's point of view objective and impartial? Is the language free of emotion-arousing words and bias?
- Does the work update other sources, substantiate other materials you have read, or add new information? Does it extensively or marginally cover your topic? You should explore enough sources to obtain a variety of viewpoints.
- Is the material primary or secondary in nature? Primary sources are the raw material of the research process. Secondary sources are based on primary sources. For example, if you were researching Konrad Adenauer's role in rebuilding West Germany after World War II, Adenauer's own writings would be one of many primary sources available on this topic. Others might include relevant government documents and contemporary German newspaper articles. Scholars use this primary material to help generate historical interpretations--a secondary source. Books, encyclopedia articles, and scholarly journal articles about Adenauer's role are considered secondary sources. In the sciences, journal articles and conference proceedings written by experimenters reporting the results of their research are primary documents. Choose both primary and secondary sources when you have the opportunity.
D. Writing Style
Is the publication organized logically? Are the main points clearly presented? Do you find the text easy to read, or is it stilted or choppy? Is the author's argument repetitive?
E. Evaluative Reviews
- Locate critical reviews of books in a reviewing source , such as the Articles & Full Text , Book Review Index , Book Review Digest, and ProQuest Research Library . Is the review positive? Is the book under review considered a valuable contribution to the field? Does the reviewer mention other books that might be better? If so, locate these sources for more information on your topic.
- Do the various reviewers agree on the value or attributes of the book or has it aroused controversy among the critics?
- For Web sites, consider consulting this evaluation source from UC Berkeley .
If you wish to use or adapt any or all of the content of this Guide go to Cornell Library's Research Guides Use Conditions to review our use permissions and our Creative Commons license.
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What is "critical analysis".
"Critical analysis" is a desirable skill in all aspects of your university work, but what actually is it? As Brown and Keely discuss, analysing critically is a process of deconstructing what you read, write and listen to in a rational and logical manner (2012). It requires you to move beyond describing and analysing to evaluating, criticising and postulating on what you process.
However, while you are encouraged to critique, your response always has to be informed and well-grounded in research and wide reading. Critical analysis moves beyond simple description of a particular topic into the realms of analysis and evaluation, as visualised in the diagram below:
Description: Who? What? Where? When?
Analysis: How? Why?
Evaluation: So What? What If? What Next?
As shown in the diagram, description and simple analysis must precede evaluation, which is where critical analysis lies. With your evaluative skills you must be able to ask yourself what all the description and analysis actually means, what it says about the author or topic and what its implications are.
Critical analysis is associated with a "deep approach" to your learning, which means that you relate new knowledge to what you already know. It also requires the examination of theoretical concepts and ideas; comparing and contrasting issues and perspectives to challenge your own understandings and to speculate and seek out implications. Furthermore, you must be able to distinguish between what is evidence and what is an argument. This involves questioning assumptions, recognising generalisations, and identifying bias in what you see, read and hear. Thinking critically helps you to uncover links across large and diverse bodies of knowledge enabling you to synthesise your own informed ideas.
Why is it so important?
At university, it is essential to think critically as it allows you to understand and analyse the evidence, ideas and claims within your particular field of study. Critical analysis allows you to have greater clarity on the issues and information you process. Academic disciplines are kept alive through constant reflection, debate and refinement of ideas. Critical analysis is thus crucial to the survival and renewal of all fields of enquiry.
How do I start to think and analyse "critically"?
In an academic context, critical analysis requires you to do the following in all your endeavours:
- Provide informed reasoning backed by evidence and ideas from trustworthy academic resources such as books and peer-reviewed journal articles.
- Identify context, background and/or bias that may lead to distortion within what you read and hear.
- Identify and question unfounded assumptions.
- Explain the significance and consequences of particular data, arguments and conclusions made by others (Drew & Bingham 2001, pp. 281 - 282)
Questions to ask when critically analysing information
- What do I already know?
- What do I need to work out?
- Is this fact or opinion?
- What evidence do they use to back their claim?
- What are the stated and unstated assumptions in this information?
- Are there other ways we can think about this?
- Is it convincing and relevant?
- What is critical thinking (PDF)
- How to read and take notes critically (PDF)
- How to write critically (PDF)
- Effective Reading
- Peer-assessment & Self-evaluation
Browne, M & Keeley, S 2012, Asking the right questions: a guide to critical thinking, 10th edn, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. Drew, S & Bingham, R 2001, The Student Skills Guide, 2nd edn, Gower, Aldershot, UK.
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For further queries or assistance in writing a critical analysis email Bill Wrigley .
What do you critically analyse?
In a critical analysis you do not express your own opinion or views on the topic. You need to develop your thesis, position or stance on the topic from the views and research of others . In academic writing you critically analyse other researchers’:
- concepts, terms
- viewpoints, arguments, positions
- methodologies, approaches
- research results and conclusions
This means weighing up the strength of the arguments or research support on the topic, and deciding who or what has the more or stronger weight of evidence or support.
Therefore, your thesis argues, with evidence, why a particular theory, concept, viewpoint, methodology, or research result(s) is/are stronger, more sound, or more advantageous than others.
What does ‘analysis’ mean?
A critical analysis means analysing or breaking down the parts of the literature and grouping these into themes, patterns or trends.
In an analysis you need to:
1. Identify and separate out the parts of the topic by grouping the various key theories, main concepts, the main arguments or ideas, and the key research results and conclusions on the topic into themes, patterns or trends of agreement , dispute and omission .
2. Discuss each of these parts by explaining:
i. the areas of agreement/consensus, or similarity
ii. the issues or controversies: in dispute or debate, areas of difference
ii. the omissions, gaps, or areas that are under-researched
3. Discuss the relationship between these parts
4. Examine how each contributes to the whole topic
5. Make conclusions about their significance or importance in the topic
What does ‘critical’ mean?
A critical analysis does not mean writing angry, rude or disrespectful comments, or expressing your views in judgmental terms of black and white, good and bad, or right and wrong.
To be critical, or to critique, means to evaluate . Therefore, to write critically in an academic analysis means to:
- judge the quality, significance or worth of the theories, concepts, viewpoints, methodologies, and research results
- evaluate in a fair and balanced manner
- avoid extreme or emotional language
- strengths, advantages, benefits, gains, or improvements
- disadvantages, weaknesses, shortcomings, limitations, or drawbacks
How to critically analyse a theory, model or framework
The evaluative words used most often to refer to theory, model or framework are a sound theory or a strong theory.
The table below summarizes the criteria for judging the strengths and weaknesses of a theory:
- empirically supported
Evaluating a Theory, Model or Framework
The table below lists the criteria for the strengths and their corresponding weaknesses that are usually considered in a theory.
Critical analysis examples of theories
The following sentences are examples of the phrases used to explain strengths and weaknesses.
Smith’s (2005) theory appears up to date, practical and applicable across many divergent settings.
Brown’s (2010) theory, although parsimonious and logical, lacks a sufficient body of evidence to support its propositions and predictions
Little scientific evidence has been presented to support the premises of this theory.
One of the limitations with this theory is that it does not explain why…
A significant strength of this model is that it takes into account …
The propositions of this model appear unambiguous and logical.
A key problem with this framework is the conceptual inconsistency between ….
How to critically analyse a concept
The table below summarizes the criteria for judging the strengths and weaknesses of a concept:
- key variables identified
- clear and well-defined
Critical analysis examples of concepts
Many researchers have used the concept of control in different ways.
There is little consensus about what constitutes automaticity.
Putting forth a very general definition of motivation means that it is possible that any behaviour could be included.
The concept of global education lacks clarity, is imprecisely defined and is overly complex.
Some have questioned the usefulness of resilience as a concept because it has been used so often and in so many contexts.
Research suggests that the concept of preoperative fasting is an outdated clinical approach.
How to critically analyse arguments, viewpoints or ideas
The table below summarizes the criteria for judging the strengths and weaknesses of an argument, viewpoint or idea:
- reasons support the argument
- argument is substantiated by evidence
- evidence for the argument is relevant
- evidence for the argument is unbiased, sufficient and important
- evidence is reputable
Evaluating Arguments, Views or Ideas
Critical analysis examples of arguments, viewpoints or ideas
The validity of this argument is questionable as there is insufficient evidence to support it.
Many writers have challenged Jones’ claim on the grounds that …….
This argument fails to draw on the evidence of others in the field.
This explanation is incomplete because it does not explain why…
The key problem with this explanation is that ……
The existing accounts fail to resolve the contradiction between …
However, there is an inconsistency with this argument. The inconsistency lies in…
Although this argument has been proposed by some, it lacks justification.
However, the body of evidence showing that… contradicts this argument.
How to critically analyse a methodology
The table below provides the criteria for judging the strengths and weaknesses of methodology.
An evaluation of a methodology usually involves a critical analysis of its main sections:
design; sampling (participants); measurement tools and materials; procedure
- design tests the hypotheses or research questions
- method valid and reliable
- potential bias or measurement error, and confounding variables addressed
- method allows results to be generalized
- representative sampling of cohort and phenomena; sufficient response rate
- valid and reliable measurement tools
- valid and reliable procedure
- method clear and detailed to allow replication
Evaluating a Methodology
Critical analysis examples of a methodology
The unrepresentativeness of the sample makes these results misleading.
The presence of unmeasured variables in this study limits the interpretation of the results.
Other, unmeasured confounding variables may be influencing this association.
The interpretation of the data requires caution because the effect of confounding variables was not taken into account.
The insufficient control of several response biases in this study means the results are likely to be unreliable.
Although this correlational study shows association between the variables, it does not establish a causal relationship.
Taken together, the methodological shortcomings of this study suggest the need for serious caution in the meaningful interpretation of the study’s results.
How to critically analyse research results and conclusions
The table below provides the criteria for judging the strengths and weaknesses of research results and conclusions:
- appropriate choice and use of statistics
- correct interpretation of results
- all results explained
- alternative explanations considered
- significance of all results discussed
- consistency of results with previous research discussed
- results add to existing understanding or knowledge
- limitations discussed
- results clearly explained
- conclusions consistent with results
Evaluating the Results and Conclusions
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Critical Analysis in Composition
Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms
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In composition , critical analysis is a careful examination and evaluation of a text , image, or other work or performance.
Performing a critical analysis does not necessarily involve finding fault with a work. On the contrary, a thoughtful critical analysis may help us understand the interaction of the particular elements that contribute to a work's power and effectiveness. For this reason, critical analysis is a central component of academic training; the skill of critical analysis is most often thought of in the context of analyzing a work of art or literature, but the same techniques are useful to build an understanding of texts and resources in any discipline.
In this context, the word "critical" carries a different connotation than in vernacular, everyday speech. "Critical" here does not simply mean pointing out a work's flaws or arguing why it is objectionable by some standard. Instead, it points towards a close reading of that work to gather meaning, as well as to evaluate its merits. The evaluation is not the sole point of critical analysis, which is where it differs from the colloquial meaning of "criticize."
Examples of Critical Essays
- "Jack and Gill: A Mock Criticism" by Joseph Dennie
- "Miss Brill's Fragile Fantasy": A Critical Essay About Katherine Mansfield's Short Story "Miss Brill" and "Poor, Pitiful Miss Brill"
- "On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth " by Thomas De Quincey
- A Rhetorical Analysis of Claude McKay's "Africa"
- A Rhetorical Analysis of E B. White's Essay "The Ring of Time"
- A Rhetorical Analysis of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
- "Saloonio: A Study in Shakespearean Criticism" by Stephen Leacock
- Writing About Fiction: A Critical Essay on Hemingway's Novel The Sun Also Rises
Quotes About Critical Analysis
- " [C]ritical analysis involves breaking down an idea or a statement, such as a claim , and subjecting it to critical thinking in order to test its validity." (Eric Henderson, The Active Reader: Strategies for Academic Reading and Writing . Oxford University Press, 2007)
- "To write an effective critical analysis, you need to understand the difference between analysis and summary . . . . [A] critical analysis looks beyond the surface of a text—it does far more than summarize a work. A critical analysis isn't simply dashing off a few words about the work in general." ( Why Write?: A Guide to BYU Honors Intensive Writing . Brigham Young University, 2006)
- "Although the main purpose of a critical analysis is not to persuade , you do have the responsibility of organizing a discussion that convinces readers that your analysis is astute." (Robert Frew et al., Survival: A Sequential Program for College Writing . Peek, 1985)
Critical Thinking and Research
"[I]n response to the challenge that a lack of time precludes good, critical analysis , we say that good, critical analysis saves time. How? By helping you be more efficient in terms of the information you gather. Starting from the premise that no practitioner can claim to collect all the available information, there must always be a degree of selection that takes place. By thinking analytically from the outset, you will be in a better position to 'know' which information to collect, which information is likely to be more or less significant and to be clearer about what questions you are seeking to answer." (David Wilkins and Godfred Boahen, Critical Analysis Skills For Social Workers . McGraw-Hill, 2013)
How to Read Text Critically
"Being critical in academic enquiry means: - adopting an attitude of skepticism or reasoned doubt towards your own and others' knowledge in the field of enquiry . . . - habitually questioning the quality of your own and others' specific claims to knowledge about the field and the means by which these claims were generated; - scrutinizing claims to see how far they are convincing . . .; - respecting others as people at all times. Challenging others' work is acceptable, but challenging their worth as people is not; - being open-minded , willing to be convinced if scrutiny removes your doubts, or to remain unconvinced if it does not; - being constructive by putting your attitude of skepticism and your open-mindedness to work in attempting to achieve a worthwhile goal." (Mike Wallace and Louise Poulson, "Becoming a Critical Consumer of the Literature." Learning to Read Critically in Teaching and Learning , ed. by Louise Poulson and Mike Wallace. SAGE, 2004)
Critically Analyzing Persuasive Ads
"[I]n my first-year composition class, I teach a four-week advertisement analysis project as a way to not only heighten students' awareness of the advertisements they encounter and create on a daily basis but also to encourage students to actively engage in a discussion about critical analysis by examining rhetorical appeals in persuasive contexts. In other words, I ask students to pay closer attention to a part of the pop culture in which they live. " . . . Taken as a whole, my ad analysis project calls for several writing opportunities in which students write essays , responses, reflections, and peer assessments . In the four weeks, we spend a great deal of time discussing the images and texts that make up advertisements, and through writing about them, students are able to heighten their awareness of the cultural 'norms' and stereotypes which are represented and reproduced in this type of communication ." (Allison Smith, Trixie Smith, and Rebecca Bobbitt, Teaching in the Pop Culture Zone: Using Popular Culture in the Composition Classroom . Wadsworth Cengage, 2009)
Critically Analyzing Video Games
"When dealing with a game's significance, one could analyze the themes of the game be they social, cultural, or even political messages. Most current reviews seem to focus on a game's success: why it is successful, how successful it will be, etc. Although this is an important aspect of what defines the game, it is not critical analysis . Furthermore, the reviewer should dedicate some to time to speaking about what the game has to contribute to its genre (Is it doing something new? Does it present the player with unusual choices? Can it set a new standard for what games of this type should include?)." (Mark Mullen, "On Second Thought . . ." Rhetoric/Composition/Play Through Video Games: Reshaping Theory and Practice , ed. by Richard Colby, Matthew S.S. Johnson, and Rebekah Shultz Colby. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)
Critical Thinking and Visuals
"The current critical turn in rhetoric and composition studies underscores the role of the visual, especially the image artifact, in agency. For instance, in Just Advocacy? a collection of essays focusing on the representation of women and children in international advocacy efforts, coeditors Wendy S. Hesford and Wendy Kozol open their introduction with a critical analysis of a documentary based on a picture: the photograph of an unknown Afghan girl taken by Steve McCurry and gracing the cover of National Geographic in 1985. Through an examination of the ideology of the photo's appeal as well as the 'politics of pity' circulating through the documentary, Hesford and Kozol emphasize the power of individual images to shape perceptions, beliefs, actions, and agency." (Kristie S. Fleckenstein, Vision, Rhetoric, and Social Action in the Composition Classroom . Southern Illinois University Press, 2010)
- Analysis and Critical Essay
- Book Report
- Close Reading
- Critical Thinking
- Discourse Analysis
- Evaluation Essay
- Rhetorical Analysis
- Rhetorical Analysis Definition and Examples
- How to Write a Critical Essay
- Definition and Examples of Analysis in Composition
- What Is a Written Summary?
- Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples
- Miss Brill's Fragile Fantasy
- How to Become a Critical Reader
- Definition and Examples of Explication (Analysis)
- The Definition of a Review in Composition
- Audience Analysis in Speech and Composition
- Holistic Grading (Composition)
- Argument (Rhetoric and Composition)
- Persuasion and Rhetorical Definition
- A Writing Portfolio Can Help You Perfect Your Writing Skills
- A Rhetorical Analysis of U2's 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'
- Definition and Examples of Juxtaposition in Art
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33 Critical Analysis Examples
Critical analysis refers to the ability to examine something in detail in preparation to make an evaluation or judgment.
It will involve exploring underlying assumptions, theories, arguments, evidence, logic, biases, contextual factors, and so forth, that could help shed more light on the topic.
In essay writing, a critical analysis essay will involve using a range of analytical skills to explore a topic, such as:
- Evaluating sources
- Exploring strengths and weaknesses
- Exploring pros and cons
- Questioning and challenging ideas
- Comparing and contrasting ideas
I’ll explore some practical ways to conduct critical analysis (in essays or otherwise) in this article.
Critical Analysis Examples
1. exploring strengths and weaknesses.
Perhaps the first and most straightforward method of critical analysis is to create a simple strengths-vs-weaknesses comparison.
Most things have both strengths and weaknesses – you could even do this for yourself! What are your strengths? Maybe you’re kind or good at sports or good with children. What are your weaknesses? Maybe you struggle with essay writing or concentration.
If you can analyze your own strengths and weaknesses, then you understand the concept. What might be the strengths and weaknesses of the idea you’re hoping to critically analyze?
Strengths and weaknesses could include:
- Does it seem highly ethical (strength) or could it be more ethical (weakness)?
- Is it clearly explained (strength) or complex and lacking logical structure (weakness)?
- Does it seem balanced (strength) or biased (weakness)?
You may consider using a SWOT analysis for this step. I’ve provided a SWOT analysis guide here .
2. Evaluating Sources
Evaluation of sources refers to looking at whether a source is reliable or unreliable.
This is a fundamental media literacy skill .
Steps involved in evaluating sources include asking questions like:
- Who is the author and are they trustworthy?
- Is this written by an expert?
- Is this sufficiently reviewed by an expert?
- Is this published in a trustworthy publication?
- Are the arguments sound or common sense?
For more on this topic, I’d recommend my detailed guide on digital literacy .
3. Identifying Similarities
Identifying similarities encompasses the act of drawing parallels between elements, concepts, or issues.
In critical analysis, it’s common to compare a given article, idea, or theory to another one. In this way, you can identify areas in which they are alike.
Determining similarities can be a challenge, but it’s an intellectual exercise that fosters a greater understanding of the aspects you’re studying. This step often calls for a careful reading and note-taking to highlight matching information, points of view, arguments or even suggested solutions.
Similarities might be found in:
- The key themes or topics discussed
- The theories or principles used
- The demographic the work is written for or about
- The solutions or recommendations proposed
Remember, the intention of identifying similarities is not to prove one right or wrong. Rather, it sets the foundation for understanding the larger context of your analysis, anchoring your arguments in a broader spectrum of ideas.
Your critical analysis strengthens when you can see the patterns and connections across different works or topics. It fosters a more comprehensive, insightful perspective. And importantly, it is a stepping stone in your analysis journey towards evaluating differences, which is equally imperative and insightful in any analysis.
4. Identifying Differences
Identifying differences involves pinpointing the unique aspects, viewpoints or solutions introduced by the text you’re analyzing. How does it stand out as different from other texts?
To do this, you’ll need to compare this text to another text.
Differences can be revealed in:
- The potential applications of each idea
- The time, context, or place in which the elements were conceived or implemented
- The available evidence each element uses to support its ideas
- The perspectives of authors
- The conclusions reached
Identifying differences helps to reveal the multiplicity of perspectives and approaches on a given topic. Doing so provides a more in-depth, nuanced understanding of the field or issue you’re exploring.
This deeper understanding can greatly enhance your overall critique of the text you’re looking at. As such, learning to identify both similarities and differences is an essential skill for effective critical analysis.
My favorite tool for identifying similarities and differences is a Venn Diagram:
To use a venn diagram, title each circle for two different texts. Then, place similarities in the overlapping area of the circles, while unique characteristics (differences) of each text in the non-overlapping parts.
6. Identifying Oversights
Identifying oversights entails pointing out what the author missed, overlooked, or neglected in their work.
Almost every written work, no matter the expertise or meticulousness of the author, contains oversights. These omissions can be absent-minded mistakes or gaps in the argument, stemming from a lack of knowledge, foresight, or attentiveness.
Such gaps can be found in:
- Missed opportunities to counter or address opposing views
- Failure to consider certain relevant aspects or perspectives
- Incomplete or insufficient data that leaves the argument weak
- Failing to address potential criticism or counter-arguments
By shining a light on these weaknesses, you increase the depth and breadth of your critical analysis. It helps you to estimate the full worth of the text, understand its limitations, and contextualize it within the broader landscape of related work. Ultimately, noticing these oversights helps to make your analysis more balanced and considerate of the full complexity of the topic at hand.
You may notice here that identifying oversights requires you to already have a broad understanding and knowledge of the topic in the first place – so, study up!
7. Fact Checking
Fact-checking refers to the process of meticulously verifying the truth and accuracy of the data, statements, or claims put forward in a text.
Fact-checking serves as the bulwark against misinformation, bias, and unsubstantiated claims. It demands thorough research, resourcefulness, and a keen eye for detail.
Fact-checking goes beyond surface-level assertions:
- Examining the validity of the data given
- Cross-referencing information with other reliable sources
- Scrutinizing references, citations, and sources utilized in the article
- Distinguishing between opinion and objectively verifiable truths
- Checking for outdated, biased, or unbalanced information
If you identify factual errors, it’s vital to highlight them when critically analyzing the text. But remember, you could also (after careful scrutiny) also highlight that the text appears to be factually correct – that, too, is critical analysis.
8. Exploring Counterexamples
Exploring counterexamples involves searching and presenting instances or cases which contradict the arguments or conclusions presented in a text.
Counterexamples are an effective way to challenge the generalizations, assumptions or conclusions made in an article or theory. They can reveal weaknesses or oversights in the logic or validity of the author’s perspective.
Considerations in counterexample analysis are:
- Identifying generalizations made in the text
- Seeking examples in academic literature or real-world instances that contradict these generalizations
- Assessing the impact of these counterexamples on the validity of the text’s argument or conclusion
Exploring counterexamples enriches your critical analysis by injecting an extra layer of scrutiny, and even doubt, in the text.
By presenting counterexamples, you not only test the resilience and validity of the text but also open up new avenues of discussion and investigation that can further your understanding of the topic.
See Also: Counterargument Examples
9. Assessing Methodologies
Assessing methodologies entails examining the techniques, tools, or procedures employed by the author to collect, analyze and present their information.
The accuracy and validity of a text’s conclusions often depend on the credibility and appropriateness of the methodologies used.
Aspects to inspect include:
- The appropriateness of the research method for the research question
- The adequacy of the sample size
- The validity and reliability of data collection instruments
- The application of statistical tests and evaluations
- The implementation of controls to prevent bias or mitigate its impact
One strategy you could implement here is to consider a range of other methodologies the author could have used. If the author conducted interviews, consider questioning why they didn’t use broad surveys that could have presented more quantitative findings. If they only interviewed people with one perspective, consider questioning why they didn’t interview a wider variety of people, etc.
See Also: A List of Research Methodologies
10. Exploring Alternative Explanations
Exploring alternative explanations refers to the practice of proposing differing or opposing ideas to those put forward in the text.
An underlying assumption in any analysis is that there may be multiple valid perspectives on a single topic. The text you’re analyzing might provide one perspective, but your job is to bring into the light other reasonable explanations or interpretations.
Cultivating alternative explanations often involves:
- Formulating hypotheses or theories that differ from those presented in the text
- Referring to other established ideas or models that offer a differing viewpoint
- Suggesting a new or unique angle to interpret the data or phenomenon discussed in the text
Searching for alternative explanations challenges the authority of a singular narrative or perspective, fostering an environment ripe for intellectual discourse and critical thinking . It nudges you to examine the topic from multiple angles, enhancing your understanding and appreciation of the complexity inherent in the field.
A Full List of Critical Analysis Skills
- Exploring Strengths and Weaknesses
- Evaluating Sources
- Identifying Similarities
- Identifying Differences
- Identifying Biases
- Hypothesis Testing
- Exploring Counterexamples
- Assessing Methodologies
- Exploring Alternative Explanations
- Pointing Out Contradictions
- Challenging the Significance
- Cause-And-Effect Analysis
- Assessing Generalizability
- Highlighting Inconsistencies
- Reductio ad Absurdum
- Comparing to Expert Testimony
- Comparing to Precedent
- Reframing the Argument
- Pointing Out Fallacies
- Questioning the Ethics
- Clarifying Definitions
- Challenging Assumptions
- Exposing Oversimplifications
- Highlighting Missing Information
- Demonstrating Irrelevance
- Assessing Effectiveness
- Assessing Trustworthiness
- Recognizing Patterns
- Differentiating Facts from Opinions
- Analyzing Perspectives
- Making Predictions
- Conducting a SWOT Analysis
- PESTLE Analysis
- Asking the Five Whys
- Correlating Data Points
- Finding Anomalies Or Outliers
- Comparing to Expert Literature
- Drawing Inferences
- Assessing Validity & Reliability
Analysis and Bloom’s Taxonomy
Benjamin Bloom placed analysis as the third-highest form of thinking on his ladder of cognitive skills called Bloom’s Taxonomy .
This taxonomy starts with the lowest levels of thinking – remembering and understanding. The further we go up the ladder, the more we reach higher-order thinking skills that demonstrate depth of understanding and knowledge, as outlined below:
Here’s a full outline of the taxonomy in a table format:
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- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 13 Secondary Data Examples
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 31 Instinct Examples (In Humans and Animals)
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ Montessori vs Reggio Emilia vs Steiner-Waldorf vs Froebel
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2 thoughts on “33 Critical Analysis Examples”
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! – I cannot even being to explain how hard it has been to find a simple but in-depth understanding of what ‘Critical Analysis’ is. I have looked at over 10 different pages and went down so many rabbit holes but this is brilliant! I only skimmed through the article but it was already promising, I then went back and read it more in-depth, it just all clicked into place. So thank you again!
You’re welcome – so glad it was helpful.
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How to Write a Critical Analysis
Last Updated: August 23, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Jake Adams . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,444,389 times.
- You may need to read the text more than once, especially if it is dense or complicated.
- It might be easier to find the thesis in an academic article than in a creative work, movie, or painting. If you’re critiquing a work of fiction or creative nonfiction, in either written form or film form, identify one of the main themes of the story instead. For a painting, identify what the painter may be trying to get across with their work of art.
- In an academic article, identify the topic sentences of each paragraph or section.
- For works of fiction or paintings, look for scenes and imagery that seem to support the thesis.
- If the text was a film or work of art, write a brief 1 to 2 paragraph synopsis of the film or description of the painting.
Analyzing the Text
- For example, if the text made you angry, what was it about the text that made you angry?
- If you found yourself laughing at the text, what about it was laughable?
- For example, if the author is an outspoken proponent of healthcare reform, then this would likely explain any bias in an argumentative essay on universal healthcare.
- The author’s background may also include credentials, such as a doctorate or medical degree. This is part of the ethos of the text since having credentials may help to bolster an author’s credibility.
- For example, if the author’s explanation of greenhouse gasses is long, full of jargon, and confusing, then you might focus on this as part of your critique.
Tip : Keep in mind that you can also have a positive critique of the text if you think it was effective. For example, if the author’s description of greenhouse gasses was written in simple, easy to understand language, you might note this as part of your analysis.
- For example, if the author has used a website that is known for being biased in favor of their argument, then this would weaken their position. However, if the author used sources that were fair and unbiased, then this would strengthen their position.
- Not all texts will incorporate evidence. For example, if you’re doing a critical analysis of a film or work of art, it probably won’t include secondary sources.
Drafting the Analysis
- For example, in the first sentence of your essay, provide the basic information on the text. Then, describe text’s argument in about 1 to 2 sentences.
- For example, you might write, “Darcy Gibbons’ essay on the environmental impact of consumerism provides a thorough and valuable overview of the problem.”
- Or, you might write, “Shannon Duperty’s mixed media painting, “Dove on Heroin,” falls short of its attempt at edgy political commentary.”
- Keep in mind that the summary paragraph is the only place in your essay where you may include summary. The rest of the essay should provide analysis of the essay.
- Organization. How did the author organize their argument? Was this a good strategy or not? Why?
- Style. What style did the author use to get their point across? How did the style hurt or help their argument?
- Effectiveness. In general, was the text effective at getting its point across? Why or why not?
- Fairness or bias. Did the author demonstrate a fair or biased perspective on their topic? How could you tell?
- Appeal to a specific audience. Did the author seem to have a specific audience in mind? If so, who were they and how well did the author meet their needs?
Tip : Check with your teacher for details on how to cite sources. They may want you to use a specific citation style, such as MLA, Chicago, or APA.
- For example, you might conclude by talking about how the author made a good effort in some regards, but ultimately their argument was ineffective, and then explain why in 2 to 3 sentences.
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- ↑ Jake Adams. Academic Tutor & Test Prep Specialist. Expert Interview. 20 May 2020.
- ↑ https://www.tru.ca/__shared/assets/Critical_Analysis_Template30565.pdf
- ↑ https://depts.washington.edu/pswrite/Handouts/CriticalAnalysisPapers.pdf
- ↑ https://content.nroc.org/DevelopmentalEnglish/unit09/Foundations/creating-a-thesis-and-an-outline-for-a-critical-analysis-essay.html
- ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/ending-essay-conclusions
About This Article
To write a critical analysis, first introduce the work you’re analyzing, including information about the work’s author and their purpose in writing it. As part of the introduction, briefly state your overall evaluation of the work. Then, summarize the author’s key points before you use the bulk of your paper to provide your full critique of the work. Try to put each point you want to make in a separate paragraph for clarity. Finally, write a concluding paragraph that restates your opinion of the work and offers any suggestions for improvement. To learn how to balance positive and negative comments in your critical analysis, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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How to write a critical analysis
Unlike the name implies a critical analysis does not necessarily mean that you are only exploring what is wrong with a piece of work. Instead, the purpose of this type of essay is to interact with and understand a text. Here’s what you need to know to create a well-written critical analysis essay.
What is a critical analysis?
A critical analysis examines and evaluates someone else’s work, such as a book, an essay, or an article. It requires two steps: a careful reading of the work and thoughtful analysis of the information presented in the work.
Although this may sound complicated, all you are doing in a critical essay is closely reading an author’s work and providing your opinion on how well the author accomplished their purpose.
Critical analyses are most frequently done in academic settings (such as a class assignment). Writing a critical analysis demonstrates that you are able to read a text and think deeply about it. However, critical thinking skills are vital outside of an educational context as well. You just don’t always have to demonstrate them in essay form.
How to outline and write a critical analysis essay
Writing a critical analysis essay involves two main chunks of work: reading the text you are going to write about and writing an analysis of that text. Both are equally important when writing a critical analysis essay.
Step one: Reading critically
The first step in writing a critical analysis is to carefully study the source you plan to analyze.
If you are writing for a class assignment, your professor may have already given you the topic to analyze in an article, short story, book, or other work. If so, you can focus your note-taking on that topic while reading.
Other times, you may have to develop your own topic to analyze within a piece of work. In this case, you should focus on a few key areas as you read:
- What is the author’s intended purpose for the work?
- What techniques and language does the author use to achieve this purpose?
- How does the author support the thesis?
- Who is the author writing for?
- Is the author effective at achieving the intended purpose?
Once you have carefully examined the source material, then you are ready to begin planning your critical analysis essay.
Step two: Writing the critical analysis essay
Taking time to organize your ideas before you begin writing can shorten the amount of time that you spend working on your critical analysis essay. As an added bonus, the quality of your essay will likely be higher if you have a plan before writing.
Here’s a rough outline of what should be in your essay. Of course, if your instructor gives you a sample essay or outline, refer to the sample first.
- Background Information
Here is some additional information on what needs to go into each section:
In the first paragraph of your essay, include background information on the material that you are critiquing. Include context that helps the reader understand the piece you are analyzing. Be sure to include the title of the piece, the author’s name, and information about when and where it was published.
“Success is counted sweetest” is a poem by Emily Dickinson published in 1864. Dickinson was not widely known as a poet during her lifetime, and this poem is one of the first published while she was alive.
After you have provided background information, state your thesis. The thesis should be your reaction to the work. It also lets your reader know what to expect from the rest of your essay. The points you make in the critical analysis should support the thesis.
Dickinson’s use of metaphor in the poem is unexpected but works well to convey the paradoxical theme that success is most valued by those who never experience success.
The next section should include a summary of the work that you are analyzing. Do not assume that the reader is familiar with the source material. Your summary should show that you understood the text, but it should not include the arguments that you will discuss later in the essay.
Dickinson introduces the theme of success in the first line of the poem. She begins by comparing success to nectar. Then, she uses the extended metaphor of a battle in order to demonstrate that the winner has less understanding of success than the loser.
The next paragraphs will contain your critical analysis. Use as many paragraphs as necessary to support your thesis.
Discuss the areas that you took notes on as you were reading. While a critical analysis should include your opinion, it needs to have evidence from the source material in order to be credible to readers. Be sure to use textual evidence to support your claims, and remember to explain your reasoning.
Dickinson’s comparison of success to nectar seems strange at first. However the first line “success is counted sweetest” brings to mind that this nectar could be bees searching for nectar to make honey. In this first stanza, Dickinson seems to imply that success requires work because bees are usually considered to be hard-working and industrious.
In the next two stanzas, Dickinson expands on the meaning of success. This time she uses the image of a victorious army and a dying man on the vanquished side. Now the idea of success is more than something you value because you have worked hard for it. Dickinson states that the dying man values success even more than the victors because he has given everything and still has not achieved success.
This last section is where you remind the readers of your thesis and make closing remarks to wrap up your essay. Avoid summarizing the main points of your critical analysis unless your essay is so long that readers might have forgotten parts of it.
In “Success is counted sweetest” Dickinson cleverly upends the reader’s usual thoughts about success through her unexpected use of metaphors. The poem may be short, but Dickinson conveys a serious theme in just a few carefully chosen words.
What type of language should be used in a critical analysis essay?
Because critical analysis papers are written in an academic setting, you should use formal language, which means:
- No contractions
- Avoid first-person pronouns (I, we, me)
Do not include phrases such as “in my opinion” or “I think”. In a critical analysis, the reader already assumes that the claims are your opinions.
Your instructor may have specific guidelines for the writing style to use. If the instructor assigns a style guide for the class, be sure to use the guidelines in the style manual in your writing.
Additional t ips for writing a critical analysis essay
To conclude this article, here are some additional tips for writing a critical analysis essay:
- Give yourself plenty of time to read the source material. If you have time, read through the text once to get the gist and a second time to take notes.
- Outlining your essay can help you save time. You don’t have to stick exactly to the outline though. You can change it as needed once you start writing.
- Spend the bulk of your writing time working on your thesis and critical analysis. The introduction and conclusion are important, but these sections cannot make up for a weak thesis or critical analysis.
- Give yourself time between your first draft and your second draft. A day or two away from your essay can make it easier to see what you need to improve.
Frequently Asked Questions about critical analyses
In the introduction of a critical analysis essay, you should give background information on the source that you are analyzing. Be sure to include the author’s name and the title of the work. Your thesis normally goes in the introduction as well.
A critical analysis has four main parts.
The focus of a critical analysis should be on the work being analyzed rather than on you. This means that you should avoid using first person unless your instructor tells you to do otherwise. Most formal academic writing is written in third person.
How many paragraphs your critical analysis should have depends on the assignment and will most likely be determined by your instructor. However, in general, your critical analysis paper should have three to six paragraphs, unless otherwise stated.
Your critical analysis ends with your conclusion. You should restate the thesis and make closing remarks, but avoid summarizing the main points of your critical analysis unless your essay is so long that readers might have forgotten parts of it.
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Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology
Quality evaluation and health risk assessment of drinking water in minab county: hydrochemical analysis and artificial neural network modeling †.
* Corresponding authors
a Department of Environmental Health Engineering, School of Health, Student Research Committee, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran E-mail: [email protected]
b Department of Environmental Health Engineering, School of Health, Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences, Hormozgan, Iran
c Research Center for Health Sciences, Department of Environmental Health Engineering, School of Health, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran E-mail: [email protected]
In many regions, access to clean and safe drinking water remains a critical concern due to the potential health risks associated with water contamination. Thus, this study focused on assessing the water quality and associated health risks of drinking water in Minab County, located within Hormozgan Province. The computed WQI values were between 27.5 and 105 with the average of 60.5 in this study, where fluoride had the most significant impact. In the probabilistic approach, approximately 50% of the collected samples showed very good water quality, while less than 0.03% was classified as poor quality. Furthermore, to evaluate the effect of different input parameters on the precision of an artificial neural network (ANN) model for the prediction of F concentration in the water, a sensitive analysis was performed. The dominant water compositions in this area consisted of Na–K–Cl and Na–K–HCOâ types. The results showed that the average values of hazard quotient (HQ) for all the pollutants in all age groups were below 1. Moreover, the non-carcinogenic risk according to the health risk assessment in children was higher than adults and teenagers. The Sobol analysis results indicated that the nitrate concentration ( C W ) in children, teenagers and adults and water intake rate in infants were the most sensitive parameters. Based on the results, chloride, NO 3 , and TH had the most significant effects as independent variables on the determination of F concentration in water, as determined by the sensitivity analysis. Therefore, it is necessary to implement a comprehensive management program for water resources aimed at reducing non-carcinogenic pollutants and improving the quality of drinking water for the local population.
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Quality evaluation and health risk assessment of drinking water in Minab County: hydrochemical analysis and artificial neural network modeling
M. Amiri Gharaghani, A. Mohammadpour, M. Keshtkar, A. Azhdarpoor and R. Khaksefidi, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol. , 2024, Advance Article , DOI: 10.1039/D3EW00525A
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