SCientific Journal Article Critique
Each time you evaluate an article, you will complete Part I and Part II. You will submit on a typed hardcopy Part I., and Part II on the due date listed in your syllabus.
- Skim the article (take light notes)
- Read the abstract. The abstract informs you of the major findings of the study, and the importance.
- What is the big picture of the study (this is done as you read the article)
- Record terms or techniques you are not familiar with.
- Include questions to parts of the article you do not understand.
- If you are unfamiliar with concepts discussed throughout the article, then perform a Google search.
- Re-read the article
- Go to the Materials and Methods and Results section, and ask the following questions within each section
o Was the study repeated? (You should know why a study must be repeated. If you do not know ask Prof. Olave or Dr. Bignami ASAP)
o What was the sample size? Is this representative of a large population?
o What were the variables? Controls?
o What factors might affect the outcome (according to the investigators)
o Interpret the data within each figure without looking at the text. Once you have done this, then read the text.
o Understand the purpose of the Materials and Methods
- Preparing to summarize the article:
- Describe the article in your own words first. Can you explain to a friend without looking at your notes? If not, then most likely you do not understand. Go over your notes again.
- What was the purpose of the study?
- A reader who has not read your article must understand your summary.
- Write a draft of your summary:
- Begin to write the article without looking at your notes. If you choose to look at your notes, then you may not understand the article, and may unintentionally plagiarize.
- Ask yourself the following questions to write your summary (without looking at your notes) in your own words:
o What was the purpose of the study?
o What questions were asked?
o How did the study address these questions?
o What assumptions did the author make?
o What were the major findings?
o What questions are still unanswered (according to the authors of the article)
Part II. Critical Review and Assessment of the Article
- In your summary, include your own analysis and evaluation of the article.
- Do not include personal opinions
- Use professional language. For example:
Common language: Dipodomys merriami is a kangaroo rat that has a longer Loop of Henle, and this helps it survive better in the desert by retaining more water.
Professional language: A longer Loop of Henle in Dipodomys merriami allows for greater water absorption, an adaptation that has led to survival in an arid environment.
- How did this study answer questions proposed in the introduction section of the paper?
- Include the limitations of the study:
o Does the data support the conclusions of the study. Explain.
o What questions remain unanswered?
o How could future studies be improved?
Note: This scientific writing critique is based on Pechenik, Jan A. “Writing Summaries and Critiques.” A Short Guide to Writing about Biology. Ed. Rebecca Gilpin. 6th ed. New York: Pearson, 2007. 130-138.
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