Landing : Athabascau University

Critically Reviewing Writing

Critically Reviewing Writing
  • define a critical review and describe its purpose in graduate level writing
  • identify the key characteristics of a critical review

A critical review is the critical thinking, analysis and assessment of a written work. The critical review is an important process in learning during ones academic career – but it is also a meaningful process that a student needs to “master” (no pun) in writing at the graduate level.

The purpose of a ‘critical review’ in graduate level writing is therefore, to help students delve deeply into their reading – and with an open mind, asking questions that prompt an array of answers and/or solutions to problems that may exist. Doing a critical review and/or using this approach in graduate level writing aids the student in taking the time to think deeply about what it is being read and understand it fully. As ‘critical thinkers’ in our reading, we don’t have to agree or support all that we read, but it is necessary to understand what we read and appreciate the perspectives of others.

As mentioned in Désirée Motta-Roth’s ‘study on discourse analysis and academic book reviews’ (1998), and ‘as outlined’ in John M. Swales and Christine B. Feak’s “Academic Writing for Graduate Students” (pp. 230-32), Désirée suggests that a ‘book review ‘ has certain characteristics which can aid in how to read, understand and review a book:

*general aim or topic of the book

*introduction of the book

*outline of the book

*highlights of the book

*final commentary and any recommendations

The above is meant as a general guideline in how to examine a book; although, with a critical review, it is good to take into consideration Motta-Roth’s suggestive elements, but to do so with a critical eye and questioning appetite in deeply understanding what is being written, by whom, why and how, and search for the strengths and weaknesses of all that is presented for further analysis, argument and comparison.

“May the critical review of a written piece come with the asking of many questions; but at the same time, may it also prompt further questions into understanding the answers not our own.” – Charleen Stokes

Works Cited

Motta-Roth, D, Discourse analysis and academic book reviews: A study of text and disciplinary cultures. In 1. Fortanet, S. Posteguillio, J. C. Palmet, and J.F. Coll (Eds.), Genre studies in English for academic purposes (pp. 29-58). Castello, Spain: Universitat Jaume 1, 1998. 

Swales, John M, and Christine B. Feak. “Unit Six Writing Critiques,” Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Tasks and Skills. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2004, Print, pp. 230-32.


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