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Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions





Introduction   Basics   Advanced   Samples   Activities


Introduction to Critical Review

Note: This chapter has FIVE web pages--be sure to also read "Basics," Advanced," and "Samples" in this chapter.  You may go to them by clicking on the links directly above, or in the right column.




This introductory page of the "Critical Review" chapter offers a simple, brief summary.  For more, go to "Basics" and to "Sample Papers" by students. If you understand this type of paper already or want to explore it in more depth, you might prefer to read "Advanced Methods."  All five web pages of this chapter are listed at the top of this page--and also in the right-hand column.  Simply click on one of the five pages.


Definition of a Critical Review

A critical review as discussed in this chapter is a formal academic or professional critical review.  It is a formal discussion of the contents, implications, and quality of an academic or professional text: a nonfiction book, essay, or article.  Sometimes non-text materials, such as educational videos, also are discussed using this formal model of reviewing.  A critical review is not a book report, nor is it a literary analysis, literary review , movie review, or other arts review that works with the elements of literature or art.  Rather, a critical review is a thorough, usually formal discussion that uses a variety of critical-thinking tools, especially (a) logical, accurate summary; (b) discussion or analysis of arguments, implications, and responses; and (c) evaluative weighing of the quality of the writing, organization, and contents.  

Examples of critical reviews are most common in simple, less formal versions appearing in newspapers and magazines: of educational nonfiction books with contents organized by subject matter (not in story form).  Such reviews summarize the content of the text being reviewed, discuss various opinions or possible responses from the public, and evaluate how well the text has been developed.  Examples of formal--academic or professional--reviews often can be found in the latter half of academic and professional journals and magazines.  A formal review often discusses two, three, or more texts on a single subject at the same time, thus enabling the reviewer to compare and contrast several works.  Like a newspaper review, a professional or academic review summarizes the contents of the works reviewed.  However, in discussing opinions, it often does not worry as much about public opinions and responses but rather those of experts in the field.  And in evaluating the quality of the works reviewed, the value and method of research often is considered much more important than the quality of the writing.   


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Writer's Goal or Assignment

The goal of writing a critical review is to help readers decide whether to read or view a text.  Summarizing gives readers a thoughtful, unbiased account of what the work says.  Opinions from the public or experts help readers understand how the work might be perceived from several differing viewpoints.  And evaluation of quality helps readers decide whether the work is presented well.  Most reviews follow this pattern of three functions by starting with summary and ending with evaluation, but there are not always clear-cut sections: the types of thinking may even be thoroughly intermixed.  However, if you wish to write a simple critical review with all of its major structural elements in it, you can simply develop your review in three body sections: summary of the work; arguments, responses, and/or implications; and evaluative judgments.  If your instructor allows it, you also may have a brief first section, after the introduction, that reports on the issue's history or background, though many instructors expect their students to mix pertinent background information into the general discussion.  

If you need an online reading, go to links.  If at all possible, choose a subject in your area or field of interest, one about which you know something or can research easily.  Whether you choose your reading or it is chosen for you, be sure to summarize its contents thoroughly in your own words.  Then decide what kinds of opinion you will discuss: public responses and viewpoints, experts' responses and viewpoints,  implications, or all three.  Then use a set of criteria to judge--fairly and in a balanced manner--the quality of the text's writing and research.  Enclose your writing with a brief introduction and conclusion.  If you are writing a research paper, be sure to include quotations and/or paraphrases from additional sources.  These quotations and/or paraphrases should support your points of discussion, should be  substantial in quality and quantity, and should come from authoritative sources.  Also attach a bibliography appropriate to your field, discipline, or profession.

            If you are writing a research paper, each body section must include quotations, paraphrases, and/or illustrations and other visual materials from your required and optional sources.  These source materials should support your own points of discussion in your paper, should be  substantial in quality and quantity, and should come from authoritative sources.  Also attach a bibliography appropriate to your field, discipline, or profession.


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Summary/Outline of the Visual Structure

Here is a typical structure or organization for critical review.  More development of this structure is shown in the "Basics" section.

Organization of A Critical Review

Unique Title 


Intro Paragraph:

and introductory details


(Optional Background Section)

Body Section 1:

Summary of contents of reading(s)

Body Section 2:

Public or Professional Responses,
Arguments, and/or Implications

(Section 3:

Evaluation of Quality Using Criteria


Concluding Paragraph:

and concluding details



Jones, A.J. Book One, et al.

Smith, B.K. Book Two, et al.


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Focusing Methods

A "focus" in writing helps you at any given moment to concentrate on writing.  Here are several helpful, important focuses people use to develop a disagreement. 


[Below, substitute the proper info for the type of paper for the stuff on analyses as given here:]

SUBJECT: If possible, choose a reading about a subject you know well.  As you read it, brainstorm a list of summarizing points, arguments, responses, implications, and/or evaluations.  Choose several such points.  Will they appeal to you throughout your writing time?  Do you have enough details or examples to support what you are saying, or can you find supporting details easily?  Can you write about your subject fully and logically?  What are some problems and solutions your paper could present?  Will your audience find your paper and its solutions appropriate and interesting?    

FIRST & SECOND DRAFTS: Start with one or two methods that work best for you, but develop the others in later drafts.

  1. Read critically: take your text apart so that you understand its contents and structure thoroughly (see "How to Read Critically"). 

  2. Free-write: write as much as you can quickly on what you know about your text or your own viewpoint(s).

  3. Gather details: mark or type the quotations in your text that best summarize the points you hope to make.  Write descriptions or a list of the details you have to support your points--facts, quotations, and/or experiences.

  4. Write for your audience: visualize it.  What details does it need to take seriously your critical points of view?

  5. Organize: make an outline using the structure above or whatever structure your instructor suggests.

  6. Research: if required, mix research of your summaries, arguments, and evaluations with the above methods to develop a first draft during your research.

STYLE, TONE, and WRITER'S ROLE: Develop (in early or late drafts) an academic style and tone of calm, reasoned, fair, balanced logic.  In your role as a writer, you should remain a neutral observer, simply applying the analyses in a balanced, logical, consistent manner. 

AUTHENTICITY: Be as real and meaningful as you can to your audience, your content, and yourself.  First, respect your audience: try as fully as you can to consider its own beliefs about your text.  Second, find the heart of the meaning in both your reading and your examination of it, and write about them clearly using high-quality supporting details.  Third, make your analyses your own:  develop them in a way as meaningful to you as possible.   


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Section E.
Responding to Reading


Ch. 30. Critical Review:







Related Chapters:

Thinking in College

Research Writing

 Related Links in

   3. Thinking & Reading

12. Types of Papers

14. Online Readings

16. Research Writing



Updated 1 Aug. 2013

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1st through 5th Editions:: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012.
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted.
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