Describe the article in your own words first. Can you explain to a friend without looking at your notes?

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.


Part I.

  1. 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.


  1. 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

  1. 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.


  1. 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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