How To Write a Critical Appraisal

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A critical appraisal is an academic approach that refers to the systematic identification of strengths and weakness of a research article with the intent of evaluating the usefulness and validity of the work’s research findings. As with all essays, you need to be clear, concise, and logical in your presentation of arguments, analysis, and evaluation. However, in a critical appraisal there are some specific sections which need to be considered which will form the main basis of your work.

Structure of a Critical Appraisal

Introduction

Your introduction should introduce the work to be appraised, and how you intend to proceed. In other words, you set out how you will be assessing the article and the criteria you will use. Focusing your introduction on these areas will ensure that your readers understand your purpose and are interested to read on. It needs to be clear that you are undertaking a scientific and literary dissection and examination of the indicated work to assess its validity and credibility, expressed in an interesting and motivational way.

Body of the Work

The body of the work should be separated into clear paragraphs that cover each section of the work and sub-sections for each point that is being covered. In all paragraphs your perspectives should be backed up with hard evidence from credible sources (fully cited and referenced at the end), and not be expressed as an opinion or your own personal point of view. Remember this is a critical appraisal and not a presentation of negative parts of the work.

When appraising the introduction of the article, you should ask yourself whether the article answers the main question it poses. Alongside this look at the date of publication, generally you want works to be within the past 5 years, unless they are seminal works which have strongly influenced subsequent developments in the field. Identify whether the journal in which the article was published is peer reviewed and importantly whether a hypothesis has been presented. Be objective, concise, and coherent in your presentation of this information.

Once you have appraised the introduction you can move onto the methods (or the body of the text if the work is not of a scientific or experimental nature). To effectively appraise the methods, you need to examine whether the approaches used to draw conclusions (i.e., the methodology) is appropriate for the research question, or overall topic. If not, indicate why not, in your appraisal, with evidence to back up your reasoning. Examine the sample population (if there is one), or the data gathered and evaluate whether it is appropriate, sufficient, and viable, before considering the data collection methods and survey instruments used. Are they fit for purpose? Do they meet the needs of the paper? Again, your arguments should be backed up by strong, viable sources that have credible foundations and origins.

One of the most significant areas of appraisal is the results and conclusions presented by the authors of the work. In the case of the results, you need to identify whether there are facts and figures presented to confirm findings, assess whether any statistical tests used are viable, reliable, and appropriate to the work conducted. In addition, whether they have been clearly explained and introduced during the work. In regard to the results presented by the authors you need to present evidence that they have been unbiased and objective, and if not, present evidence of how they have been biased. In this section you should also dissect the results and identify whether any statistical significance reported is accurate and whether the results presented and discussed align with any tables or figures presented.

The final element of the body text is the appraisal of the discussion and conclusion sections. In this case there is a need to identify whether the authors have drawn realistic conclusions from their available data, whether they have identified any clear limitations to their work and whether the conclusions they have drawn are the same as those you would have done had you been presented with the findings.

Conclusion

The conclusion of the appraisal should not introduce any new information but should be a concise summing up of the key points identified in the body text. The conclusion should be a condensation (or precis) of all that you have already written. The aim is bringing together the whole paper and state an opinion (based on evaluated evidence) of how valid and reliable the paper being appraised can be considered to be in the subject area. In all cases, you should reference and cite all sources used. To help you achieve a first class critical appraisal we have put together some key phrases that can help lift you work above that of others.

Key Phrases for a Critical Appraisal

  • Whilst the title might suggest
  • The focus of the work appears to be…
  • The author challenges the notion that…
  • The author makes the claim that…
  • The article makes a strong contribution through…
  • The approach provides the opportunity to…
  • The authors consider…
  • The argument is not entirely convincing because…
  • However, whilst it can be agreed that… it should also be noted that…
  • Several crucial questions are left unanswered…
  • It would have been more appropriate to have stated that…
  • This framework extends and increases…
  • The authors correctly conclude that…
  • The authors efforts can be considered as…
  • Less convincing is the generalisation that…
  • This appears to mislead readers indicating that…
  • This research proves to be timely and particularly significant in the light of…

 

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