What Is an Article Critique?
An article critique bases the strengths and weaknesses of an article on how well its author interprets its sources. This critique shows the validity and effectivity of the argument presented in the article.
Critical thinking for this assignment is a must. Authors with a bias work hard to convince readers that their skewed position is correct. That is why the only tools for finding the truth is to be a good investigator, having the right tools to pick out facts from fiction.
The structure in an article critique, addressed below, has different parts than a standard 5-paragraph essay. But, they are both ways to convince the reader that a point of view is true. A good article critique details what makes an article correct or incorrect, much like any persuasive essay.
How to Critique an Article: The Main Steps
1. Reading Actively
Read the article once to understand the information it presents. Then, re-read it critically to address this series of questions:
Why is this author considered an expert?
What do other experts say about this author? Is he or she covered in academic praise? Or is this person a lone wolf laughed at by professionals?
What is this author’s thesis?
Does the author have a clear message to deliver? Or do they use a lot of big words to hide that they have no actual position?
Who is the target audience?
Is the message geared towards everyone? Or does it use specialized slang that only an in-group would understand?
Does the author present valid proof for their claims?
Are the sources from all over the place? Does the author use sources from places that seem to share a cult-like vocabulary?
What are the logical fallacies of the author’s point of view?
Does the author have logical blindspots? How much do those blindspots skew their outcome?
Is there a clear conclusion?
Much like your need to search for a thesis, you need to see if the author arrived at an obvious outcome.
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2. Gathering Evidence
1) Establish that the author’s general idea follows logic
This isn’t an easy task if you have never studied formal logic. Undereducated people have common and hazardous logical fallacies. An example of bad logic is to accept information based on how good it makes you feel, instead of the proof that supports it.
Some examples of logical fallacies include:
- Ad hominem – when you attack the person saying something in order to discredit what they are saying.
- Slippery Slope – when you say that action A will always become the worst possible scenario.
- Correlation vs. Causation – when you say that because actions 1 and 2 happened one after the other, action 2 happened because of action 1, without looking deeper to see if it actually did.
- Wishful Thinking – when you believe something that doesn’t have any proof to back it up. You think it’s true because it makes you feel good.
2) Look through the text for any biased points of view
People pick sides of an argument based on what an outcome implies. For instance, if a conclusion makes someone feel bad about where they are in society, they can fight the evidence to make themselves feel better. Look for any misplaced emotions in the tone of the text.
3) Note how the author interprets the texts of others. Does the author look at other people’s texts through inappropriately political lenses?
It takes years of research to fully recognize the fingerprints and dog whistles of all the political slants that are out there. We can take the subject of animal studies. Let’s start with the fact that many people enter industries because of an emotional involvement of some sort to the topic. People who extensively write about animals are very likely those who genuinely love them. This can put their work at risk of being biased towards portraying animals in a way that gives the topic more importance than it deserves. This is what you have to look for. Find and highlight instances where the author overstates the importance of some things.
To polish your mental research instruments, go back to point 1 of this list to review the list of logical fallacies.
4) See if the author cited untrustworthy sources.
Identifying untrustworthy sources takes experience. Take Breitbart news for instance. To know why it is an untrustworthy source, you have to know about its long history of distorting facts to suit a far-right agenda. Learning this requires paying lots of attention to local and international news.
5) Pay close attention to the language used.
- Some words have cultural meanings attached to them which can place people, objects, or ideas into the Them side in the Us vs. Them of a topic.
- If a conservative uses the word Leftist when referring to an opponent, it is when you attack the messenger and not the message.
- If a progressive uses the word bigot when referring to their opponent, it is a similar concept.
- Their idea is to discredit the other side on the merit of who they are, rather than what they say. This is bad because the debate doesn’t get resolved.
6) Question research methods in scientific articles.
When writing an article critique for something scientific, judge the way the research was done.
Address the following questions:
- How does the article fully explain the research methods?
- Are there any errors in the design of the study?
- Were there any sample size issues?
- Did the research include a control group?
- Were there any statistical mistakes?
- Is it possible to duplicate the experiment in a laboratory setting?
- Does the experiment have any impact in its scientific field?
3. Formatting Your Article Critique
An article critique is made of four general parts. Use these as your checklist:
- The author’s name and article title.
- Introduce the author’s core idea.
- A thesis statement that shows where your critique is headed.
- The article’s core idea.
- The arguments in the article.
- The article’s conclusions.
- Talks about the strengths and weaknesses of the article that you highlighted while reading it.
- Expresses your educated point of view regarding how clear, relevant, and accurate the article was – use direct examples from the author’s work to back up your statements.
- Take the key positions of the article and summarize them.
- Finalize your conclusion with your commentary about why it this research is relevant.
- If relevant, include a statement of why further research in this field is useful.