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How to Write a Critical Review

When you are required to write a critical review, you will need to do two main things: summarise a text and evaluate it. The critical review can be of a book, a chapter or a journal article. You are usually asked to read the selected text in detail as well as other related texts in order to present a rational and practical evaluation of the selected text.

Being critical does not mean simply criticising in a negative way. Instead, it requires you to question the text, and to present your judgement or evaluation of it reasonably.

Although critical reviews might have different evaluation criteria depending on your discipline, they usually have a similar structure. To write the review correctly, you should check your assignment instructions with regard to formatting, discipline-specific criteria and other requirements.

Usual Structure of a Critical Review

Provide readers with the author(s) and the information of the text to be reviewed, and briefly explain the topic of the text. Think about how you can relate the text you are reviewing to its broader context. In the introduction, you should present the main argument of your review and include a brief statement of your evaluation of the text.

Summarising a text to be reviewed is one of the main components of critical review writing. To write a good summary, you should:

  • Present the ideas in the original text accurately, ensuring you cover the main question the text attempts to address.
  • Discuss the important points, including the evidence the text uses to support the argument, and its conclusion.
  • Ensure the summary is consistent and understandable to readers who have not read the original text.
  • Ensure the summary section is shorter than the evaluation section that follows it.

Remember that the summary section is based on the author’s ideas, about which you neither can make arguments nor judgements. You can evaluate the original text in the evaluation section, instead. Here are some guidelines to get started on critical reviewing:

  • Base your discussion on a specific criteria.
  • You can organise each criterion you select into a paragraph, including your negative and positive points, if you are writing a longer review.
  • For a short critical review (one page or less), it is better to include a paragraph of positive aspects and another of negative ones.
  • If your critique is more positive than negative, then sequence the negative points first and the positive last.
  • If your critique is more negative than positive, then sequence the positive points first and the negative last.
  • Make sure that your judgments or opinions are well supported by evidence from the original text and other sources.
  • Think about who might find the text useful, whether it is simple or complex and whether it provides new answers to established questions. What sort of conclusions does it reach?

This is usually presented in a very short section or one paragraph.

  • Restate your overall opinions of the text (summarise your important points but do not repeat your words exactly. Use different words and phrases).
  • Briefly present recommendations if this is appropriate for the review.

If you have used other sources in your review, you need to include a list of references at the end of the review.

Updated 14 October 2018

Ms Rachel Wheeler,

Managing Editor,

Elite Editing.