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How to Critique

It can be a little overwhelming trying to critique an article when you're not sure
where to start, however considering the article under the following headings may
be of some use:

Title of Study/Research

You may be a better judge of this after reading the article, but the title should
succinctly reflect the content of the work, stimulating readers interest.

Keywords

Three to six key words that encapsulate the main topics of the research will have
been drawn from the body of the article.

Introduction

This should include:

Evidence of a literature review that is relevant and recent, critically appraising


other works, not merely describing them
Background information to the study to orientate the reader to the problem
Hypothesis or aims of the study
Rationale for the study that justifies its need i.e. to explore an un-investigated
gap in the literature.
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Materials and Methods

Similar to a recipe, the description of materials and methods will allow others to
replicate the study elsewhere if needed. It should both contain and justify the
exact specifications of selection criteria, sample size, response rate and any
statistics used. This will demonstrate how the study is capable of achieving its
aims. Things to consider in this section are:

What sort of sampling technique and size was used?

What proportion of the eligible sample participated? e.g. 553 responded to a


survey sent to 750 medical technologists.
Were all eligible groups sampled e.g. was the survey sent only in English?
What were the strengths and weaknesses of the study?
Were there threats to the reliability and validity of the study and were these
controlled for?
Were there any obvious biases?
If a trial was undertaken was it randomised, case controlled, blinded or double
blinded?
At other times the barrier is harder, or even impossible to cross. Communication
difficulties arise - even when a translator is available, non-verbal messages may
be missed by the patient, or even by the health professional.

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Results

Results should be statistically analysed and presented in a way that the average
reader of the journal will understand. Graphs and tables should be clear and
promote clarity of the text. Consider whether:

there were any major omissions in the results, which could indicate bias
percentages have been used to disguise small sample sizes
the data generated is consistent with the data collected
Negative results are just as relevant as research that produces positive results
(but as mentioned previously may be omitted in publication due to editorial
bias).

Discussion

This should show insight into the meaning and significance of the research
findings. It should not introduce any new material, but should address how the
aims of the study have been met. The discussion should use previous research
work and theoretical concepts as the context in which the new study can be
interpreted. Any limitations of the study, including bias should be clearly
presented. You will need to evaluate whether the author has clearly interpreted
the results of the study, or whether the results could be interpreted another way.

Conclusions

These should be clearly stated and will only be valid if the study was reliable,
valid and used a representative sample size. There may also be
recommendations for further research.

References

These should be relevant to the study, be up to date and should provide a


comprehensive list of citations within the text.

Final Thoughts

Undertaking a critique of a research article may seem challenging at first, but will
help you to evaluate whether the article has relevance to your own practice and
workplace. Reading a single article can act as a springboard into researching the
topic more widely and aids in ensuring your nursing practice remains current and
is supported by existing literature.