how to write a research article review

how to write a research article review

Writing an Effective Research Article Review

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1. Introduction

The general approach is less well specified, but we can distinguish between two major methodological strategies to be applied as appropriate in different cases. One is to identify specific problems or weaknesses in what is known, and to make constructive suggestions for improvements. The other is a justifiable plea for a more or less radical reorientation of the entire field. Partly because of the extreme complexity of the behavioural and biological sciences, and partly because experimental and theoretical work are so closely integrated, whereby theoretical assumptions may dictate the kinds of data collected, it is often difficult to disentangle flaws of data gathering from flaws of theory. It therefore is less common in these fields for a review paper to focus on a single explicit hypothesis to be tested against some alternative in the light of certain data. It is certainly not inappropriate to try to specify known facts and uncertainties in a particularly important area, and to show how these can be more profitably interpreted in terms of a new hypothesis. But the main point of an explanatory theory often lies in its comparison with other theories with different assumptions, and this is more appropriately the topic of high-level discourse among theorists and philosophers, not review articles to be read by the general scientific public in the journals reporting the data. Step by step improvement of the general level of knowledge or theory in a field is best achieved by the accumulation of many separate investigations, no one of which need be specially remarkable, but which together give rise to changes in conventional wisdom. If however there is a way of posing an old problem that is known to be of general interest in a completely new light, so that it becomes more amenable to solution, it may be possible to plan a review that will exert a powerful influence. Whoever the author, whatever the topic, and whatever the method of approach, the review paper is essentially a tool of communication. Its value lies in its relevance to other people’s work, its ability to make explicit the comparisons that are being made, and the critiques that are being voiced and to remove areas of ambiguity. Each paper is a discrete item, to be assessed on its own merits. But it is worth stressing that good review writing is difficult. The ideas must be essentially logical, in the sense that a sequence of statements is envisioned that will carry the reader from his starting point to the understanding of the theme or the criticisms being developed. Usually this will involve some description of the known and the unknown, or the comparison of a new to an old theory. But the review is not a tale of what had happened in the past, a document with no plan of action, and its value lies in the connections which are disclosed between the events or ideas put forward. Often the connections have been perceived only vaguely, but a skillful author will bring them to the fore and make them explicit. This cannot be done well unless there is a clear understanding of the subject matter on the part of the writer. He must know what is important, and what is less so. More often than not, a lengthy review with much incidental matter, a review that devotes disproportionate attention to one of several areas under debate, is the result of a writer’s lack of basic knowledge or lack of critical ability.

2. Understanding the Research Article

Understanding research articles for a literature review essentially means comprehending the research that has already been done in the field under study. It involves the intelligent use of your source material. This intelligence incorporates understanding what the author is trying to do in the research article, what the key concepts and terms employed in the research are, how the research is structured (usually found in the introduction), what the research methodology is, and finally, what the results are and whether these results address the research issue and whether they are valid. To do this effectively, one must be meticulous in note-taking. You should then be reading your rough notes or highlighted material over and over to reinforce an understanding of the article. The use of note-taking devices such as columns in MS Word or on paper, headings and subheadings, as well as bullet points, will greatly assist in the organization of the research article into a brief. When taking notes, it is also useful to make a summary of the article, which is, in essence, a reworded version of the original article but in simpler and more concise language. This will assist in the communication of the research article to someone else as the understanding will be internalized. An alternative method to enhance the internalization of the research article is to teach the content of the research article to someone else. This will further reinforce understanding. Finally, if there is a specific concept that you don’t understand, you should be looking into different resources to understand those concepts. This is very important as understanding the article does not only involve understanding the research article itself but is built on your previous understandings you may have gained from using other sources. Welcome to the Ultimate APA Citation Guide! I have compiled the information in this guide from the 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual. A few important notes: The changes from the 6th edition to the 7th are addressed in the Publication Manual, in particular Chapter 1. I have compiled all the updates in citation styles from the 6th to the 7th edition, so do pay attention if an instructor requests APA 6th edition format in 2020 and beyond. APA has said they will keep the 7th edition static until late in 2020, after which they may make changes. I will do my best to keep this resource updated, and I appreciate comments if you find something that is already out-of-date. Remember that my guide cannot include every possible citation arrangement; when a unique source cannot be determined by the Publication Manual, you will need to use these guidelines and criteria to piece it together and use your best judgment. Feel free to ask me about a citation in the comments. So you should be using a number of resources to understand any given research article. And thus understanding the research article should be an ongoing process throughout your literature review. This places quite a heavy burden on your initial search for relevant research articles because without a thorough search, you cannot judge the relevance of your article and thereby waste a lot of time.

3. Analyzing the Key Components

If the article reports the results of original research, it will be easier to identify a single clear key component. These types of articles usually begin with a brief literature review to set the scene. This could cause confusion in identifying the key component, so it may be necessary to define the key component as what the authors were trying to find out by doing the study. Data presentation articles and literature reviews often don’t have a clear identifiable key component, as they are not answering a specific question. If you have trouble defining the key component, then the article is probably not reporting original research.

The key components of an article can be better understood by questioning “What does the article set out to do?” Consider the title: do you get any clues about the author’s intentions? Sometimes the title will tell you straight away what the key component of the article is (e.g. a study of the importance of mammography in older women with breast cancer to lengthen survival). Often, however, the title is an indirect guide to the key component.

4. Critiquing the Methodology and Results

In critiquing the methodology and results, the student may want to reflect on the study in terms of a few key points. For example, it may be relevant to the student’s own research to consider the sample and the way that it was divided, in terms of its size and any subgroups. The student may compare this sample to others in the literature, to studies cited within the article in question, and even to the general population. It is also of the utmost relevance to compare the results of the study to the findings in the literature, including those that were not cited by the authors. Was it consistent with the student’s expectations and other research findings? These above points will lead to a consideration of the internal and external validity of the study. Obviously we are etching close to a systematic dismantling of the study in question, and there is a real danger of being overly-critical. It is suggested that the writer prepare a list of points to critique in the article and then review it for relevance to the central themes and objectives of the unit. Any advanced criticism should be linked to an understanding of the article and research design, and kept in perspective as to how it fits to the student’s broader learning in the unit. It’s probably not a good idea at this stage to slam an article and completely discount it, except in the case where the article is so poor and irrelevant to the unit that it’s better to throw it aside and move on. If this is the case, the student should seek guidance from their tutor. A good critique will be balanced, and have a positive and negative slant. It needs to be objectively considered and reasoned, rather than simply a list of one-sided gripes and complaints.

5. Summarizing and Concluding the Review

In discussing your themes, are you just summarizing them, or are you pointing out their significance? There is a fine line between the two, and it is possible to summarize by simply listing, rather than analyzing the themes and how they connect to the research question or topic. It is also very easy to go off on a tangent, or to include things that are not necessarily connected to the themes you have identified. Make sure to keep the focus on your research article review and not to diverge into including the content of other sources (e.g. How does this all relate back to my review?). One way to ensure this is to return to your introduction and reiterate the aim of your review. You might also need to reiterate your research question. Then link all your sections to the aim of the review, explaining how your analysis of each section has answered your review question (if it hasn’t perhaps you need to review it further). This will keep you on track and help to avoid getting sidetracked into including information that is not relevant to your original question. After you have analyzed each section of the article, determine the overall state of the article’s content in relation to your study of the theme. Note the argument, the main points, and the conclusions of each section and how they contribute to the development of the theme and the article as a whole. This will be very useful in constructing your overall evaluation of the article’s content. Then take a few sentences to explain how this section provides a solution to your theme. Repeat for each section of the article. This way, you have essentially outlined how the article will be evaluated using your criteria and this provides a very sound structure to your evaluation. Now you should have a clear idea of your article’s content and how it can be evaluated in terms of your study of the themes.

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