Writing a CriticalWriting a Critical
Writing a CriticalWriting a Critical
Writing a Critical
The advice in this brochure is a general guide only. We strongly recommend that you also follow
your assignment instructions and seek clarification from your lecturer/tutor if needed.
Purpose of a Critical Review
The critical review is a writing task that asks you to summarise and evaluate a text. The critical review can be of a
book, a chapter, or a journal article. Writing the critical review usually requires you to read the selected text in detail
and to also read other related texts so that you can present a fair and reasonable evaluation of the selected text.
What is meant by critical?
At university, to be critical does not mean to criticise in a negative manner. Rather it requires you to question the
information and opinions in a text and present your evaluation or judgement of the text. To do this well, you should
attempt to understand the topic from different perspectives (i.e. read related texts) and in relation to the theories,
approaches and frameworks in your course.
What is meant by evaluation or judgement?
Here you decide the strengths and weaknesses of a text. This is usually
based on specific criteria. Evaluating requires an understanding of not just
the content of the text, but also an understanding of a text’s purpose, the
intended audience and why it is structured the way it is.
What is meant by analysis?
Analysing requires separating the content and concepts of a text into their
main components and then understanding how these interrelate, connect
and possibly influence each other.
Structure of a Critical Review
Critical reviews, both short (one page) and long (four pages), usually have a similar structure.
Check your assignment instructions for formatting and structural specifications. Headings are usually
optional for longer reviews and can be helpful for the reader.
The length of an introduction is usually one paragraph for a journal article review and two or three paragraphs for a
longer book review. Include a few opening sentences that announce the author(s) and the title, and briefly explain the
topic of the text. Present the aim of the text and summarise the main finding or key argument. Conclude the introduction
with a brief statement of your evaluation of the text. This can be a positive or negative evaluation or, as is usually the
case, a mixed response.
Present a summary of the key points along with a limited number of examples. You can also briefly explain the
author’s purpose/intentions throughout the text and you may briefly describe how the text is organised. The summary
should only make up about a third of the critical review.
The critique should be a balanced discussion and evaluation of the strengths, weakness and notable features of the
text. Remember to base your discussion on specific criteria. Good reviews also include other sources to support your
evaluation (remember to reference).
You can choose how to sequence your critique. Here are some examples to get you started:
• Most important to least important conclusions you make about the text.
• If your critique is more positive than negative, then present the negative points first and the positive last.
• If your critique is more negative than positive, then present the positive points first and the negative last.
• If there are both strengths and weakness for each criterion you use, you need to decide overall what your judgement
is. For example, you may want to comment on a key idea in the text and have both positive and negative comments.
You could begin by stating what is good about the idea and then
concede and explain how it is limited in some way. While this example
shows a mixed evaluation, overall you are probably being more
negative than positive.
• In long reviews, you can address each criteria you choose in a
paragraph, including both negative and positive points. For very short
critical reviews (one page or less) where your comments will be briefer,
inlude a paragraph of positive aspects and another of negative.
• You can also include recommendations for how the text can be
improved in terms of ideas, research approach; theories or frameworks
used can also be included in the critique section.
This is usually a very short paragraph.
• Restate your overall opinion of the text.
• Briefly present recommendations.
• If necessary some further qualification or explanation of your
judgement can be included. This can help your critique sound fair
If you have used other sources in you review you should also include a
list of references at the end of the review.
Summarising and paraphrasing for the critical review
Summarising and paraphrasing are essential skills for academic writing and in particular, the critical review. To summarise
means to reduce a text to its main points and its most important ideas. The length of your summary for a critical review
should only be about one quarter to one third of the whole critical review. The best way to summarise is to:
1. Scan the text. Look for information that can be deduced from the introduction, conclusion and the title and headings.
What do these tell you about the main points of the article?
2. Locate the topic sentences and highlight the main points as you read.
3. Reread the text and make separate notes of the main points. Examples and evidence do not need to be included at
this stage. Usually they are used selectively in your critique.
Paraphrasing means putting it into your own words. Paraphrasing offers an alternative to using direct quotations in
your summary (and the critique) and can be an efficient way to integrate your summary notes. The best way to
paraphrase is to:
1. Review your summary notes
2. Rewrite them in your own words and in complete sentences
3. Use reporting verbs and phrases (eg; The author
describes…, Smith argues that …).
4. If you include unique or specialist phrases from the text, use quotation marks.
Some General Criteria for Evaluating Texts
The following list of criteria and focus questions may be useful
for reading the text and for preparing the critical review.
Remember to check your assignment instructions for more
specific criteria and focus questions that should form the basis
of your review. The length of the review/ assignment will
determine how many criteria you will address in your critique.
Significance and contribution to
Methodology or approach
(This usually applies to more formal,
research- based texts)
Argument and use of evidence
Writing style and text structure
Possible focus questions
What is the author’s aim?
• To what extent has this aim been achieved?
• What does this text add to the body of knowledge? (This could be in
terms of theory, data and/or practical application)
• What relationship does it bear to other works in the field?
• What is missing/not stated?
• Is this a problem?
• What approach was used for the research? (eg; quantitative or
qualitative, analysis/review of theory or current practice, comparative,
case study, personal reflection etc…)
• How objective/biased is the approach?
• Are the results valid and reliable?
• What analytical framework is used to discuss the results?
• Is there a clear problem, statement or hypothesis?
• What claims are made?
• Is the argument consistent?
• What kinds of evidence does the text rely on?
• How valid and reliable is the evidence?
• How effective is the evidence in supporting the argument?
• What conclusions are drawn?
• Are these conclusions justified?
• Does the writing style suit the intended audience? (eg; expert/non-expert,
• What is the organising principle of the text? Could it be better organised?
Prepared by Pam Mort, Lyn Hallion and Tracey Lee Downey, The Learning Centre © April 2005 The University of New South Wales. This
guide may be distributed or adapted for educational purposes. Full and proper acknowledgement is required.
Here is a sample extract from a critical review of an article. In this brochure only the introduction and conclusion are
included. We thank Suwandi Tijia for allowing us to use his critical review in this resource.
of the article
A Critical Review of Goodwin et al, 2000, Decision making in Singapore and Australia: the influence
of culture on accountants’ ethical decisions, Accounting Research Journal, vol.13, no. 2, pp 22-36.
Using Hofstede’s (1980, 1983 and 1991) and Hofstede and Bond’s (1988) five cultural dimensions,
Goodwin et al (2000) conducted a study on the influence of culture on ethical decision making
between two groups of accountants from Australia and Singapore. This research aimed to provide
further evidence on the effect of cultural differences since results from previous research have
been equivocal. The study reveals that accountants from the two countries responded differently
to ethical dilemmas in particular when the responses were measured using two of the five cultural
dimensions. The result agreed with the prediction since considerable differences existed between
these two dimensions in Australians and Singaporeans (Hofstede 1980, 1991). However the results
of the other dimensions provided less clear relationships as the two cultural groups differed only
slightly on the dimensions. To the extent that this research is exploratory, results of this study
provide insights into the importance of recognising cultural differences for firms and companies
that operate in international settings. However several limitations must be considered in interpreting
the study findings.
In summary, it has to be admitted that the current study is still far from being conclusive. Further
studies must be undertaken, better measures must be developed, and larger samples must be
used to improve our understanding concerning the exact relationship between culture and decisionmaking.
to the extent that this research is exploratory
trying to investigate an emerging issue, the
study has provided some insights to account for
culture in developing ethical standards across national borders.
Language features of the critical review
1. Reporting verbs and phrases
These are used to tell the reader what the author thinks or does in their text.
Academic conventions & language features
begins his article claiming that the new teaching machines represent a new kind of encounter.
Modal verbs and other expressions are used to express degrees of certainty and probability (from high to low). Writers
use modality to present ideas as opinions rather than facts.
The word ‘theory’ has an honorific status. … The same could probably be said for ‘practice’.
3. Conceding (Concessive clauses)
Here an adverbial clause can be used to describe a circumstance that is in contrast or unfavourable to another
circumstance. In academic writing, concessive clauses are one way (there are others!) to acknowledge the strength/
validity of an idea before presenting an alternate view. This does not weaken your critique; rather it can show balance
and fairness in your analysis.
Though by no means the first empiricist among the Greek philosophers, Aristotle stood out among his
contemporaries for the meticulous care with which he worked.
Hyman R (Ed) 1971, Contemporary thought on teaching, Prentice-Hall, New Jersey.
Dunbar R 1995, The trouble with science, Faber & Faber, London.)
details of the
on the text
in expressing a
Nature of family and community influences on the development of children with sensory disability
Parents who have been coping with the diagnosis of the disability in their child have not received much research attention even though the evidence present shows the importance of such research. Research and evaluation of the effectiveness and the characteristics of early childhood interventions which have positive consequences for the children with disabilities and their parents and family functioning is growing continuously (Bloom, 1998). But most of the studies conducted in the past used the main effects procedure of data analysis which is still being used in most of the studies, despite the fact that much more powerful techniques for statistical analysis are available today. Research conducted earlier had found that the structural equation modeling could the particularly useful for the purpose of program evaluation (Bornstein, 2002).
Very few studies have used the structural equation modeling to investigate the effects of interventions and non-intervention variables in early childhood on the child and the parent outcomes. For example Cochran and Niego (2002) use this technique to investigate the effects of early intervention programs on the parent stress and empowerment. They found that family centeredness and social support had a direct as well as indirect positive effect on the aspects of parent functioning.
Disabilities like deaf-blindness can cause extreme developmental disadvantages. Such disadvantages affect all the area of development in the child which includes the formation of early patent child relationships. It also affects the process of communication, motor and perceptual development and also the social and emotional development. These effects start from the birth of the child. Since many decades early intervention has been recognized as a medium of removing the developmental constraints that are linked with this ability. Limited research has been conducted regarding the benefits of early intervention for children with disabilities. This can be partly attributed to the fact that early intervention is generally difficult. Another reason could be that the developmental effects of disabilities among children present a particular challenge and ethical issues to the researchers. Research conducted among children with hearing impairment or visual impairment shows that intervention produces best results if it is started early. Intervention for children with disabilities also needs to be individualized intensive and specialist which aims at the areas of development which are particularly affected by that impairment in the child (Dunst, Trivette and Hamby, 2007).
Research conducted in the past has revealed that children with disabilities could experience lower levels of social interaction, social difficulties, limited friendships, poor social skills or negative response regarding their attempts at social interaction when the children are placed in mainstream schools (Barnard and Solchany, 2002). Social competence can be defined as the general quality of the performance of the child in a social situation (Hops, 1983). Through the investigation of social competence, we can identify the children who experience poor socialization. Significant characteristics that affect social competence among children with disabilities have been identified as severity of the disability, parental attitude, family relationships and parental involvement. However the research that has been conducted in the past but not focus on the relationship between these characteristics and the social skills of the children with disabilities. The severity of the disability has been found to be a major impairment in the development of a child with physical disabilities. It has also been found that the children with disabilities face a higher risk of poor adjustment in the society (Boyd and Dunst, 1996).
In the present review, we will also look at the prevalence studies of inquiry impairment among people with intellectual disabilities. The studies which looked at the psychiatric and psychological disorders in people having sensory impairments will also be reviewed. Intellectual disability can coexist with other handicaps and sensory impairments. The presence of both sensory impairment and intellectual deficiency can result in making the individual more vulnerable to the development of behavioral problems. Such children especially can also be influenced by their parents’ reaction towards their impairments. The care providers should also have confidence in their abilities to look after the children. The expectations of the parents and community regarding the growth and development in the child should also be realistic so that a relationship can be maintained between the child and parents as well as the community (Grob, 2000). In case of deaf children the communication between the child and the parents becomes a critical factor during their early development and can also affect their psychological health. Deaf children were born to deaf parents are less likely to face this problem of communication as their parents seem to be better when it comes to interacting with their children. However in case where the deaf child is born to parents who can hear, the attachment behavior can be delayed or in some cases be threatened altogether.
Deaf children who are born to parents who can hear have also been reported to have more behavioral problems. Such children are less happy, less compliant, less creative and less likely to enjoy interacting with their mother as compared to the deaf children who are more communicatively able. It is also been seen that behavioral problems also increase the communicative difficulties which in turn creates a vicious circle. Some studies suggest that behavioral disorders are related more with conduct rather than emotions. While looking at the risk factors for the development of psychological disorders, the degree of deafness appears to be not related but the findings have been inconsistent when the studies looked at the schooling of his children. Major problems were described to be taking place at the time of leaving the school. Another major factor was interaction and abuse within the family. Some other studies have also described problems like physical and sexual abuse, and marginalization. Emotional and behavioral problems were particularly common in children who suffered from multiple handicaps. A correlation was found between low IQ and behavioral problems in children with disabilities (Hoyle, 1995). Similarly low communication ability was found to be considerably linked with psychiatric disorders. Such findings can be expected as an idiot like vision impairment or learning impairment are some of the other risk factors in their own right.
Children with multiple disabilities like deaf-blindness and intellectual disability have very little or no communication skills. These children could also lack self help skills and the ability for abstract thinking. The researchers have even suggested that children having multiple disabilities could become unresponsive towards the traditional reinforces like warmth, love, interaction, communication and food. They care providers could find these children unrewarding due to their apparent lack of responsiveness. The result could be that the efforts made by the child to communicate are missed by the care providers who only attend to the behaviors that indicate distress and thereby reinforce such behavior. The development of such problematic behavior could lead to a breakdown in relationships. The problems are compounded by such a situation as the children may start feeling anxious, rejected and in some cases may even become depressed. On the other hand parents could also find it difficult to accept the multiple handicaps in their child and it could lead to rejection of the child and the failure in bonding between the child and the parents (Judge, 1997).
Children having multiple disabilities often have a number of specialists who are involved in their care. Such children may also need several hospital admissions and procedures. In case of children who are suffering from deafness or blindness, environment becomes a critical factor. A number of studies have found that the children who are under simulated could become passive and disinterested. But on the other hand the children who are over stimulated could become overactive. The psychiatric evaluation of children with sensory impairments is not an easy task and it becomes more difficult when and intellectual deficiencies also involved. The evaluation of the process of thought is a difficult process and generally it is easier to evaluate the disturbances in mood rather than the thoughts. In case where the communications skills exist, close and careful observation of the behavioral manifestations is the only way of such examination.
Parenting is a task whose main object of action and attention as the child. Human children have the ability to grow up as lonely individuals. Parents are concerned regarding the well-being of children and also there long-term development. Basically the parents are investing in their children, their socialization, their survival and their education. The evolutionary psychology differentiates between bringing a new person in the world and caring for an existing person. This can be called childrearing versus child caring. While the species which are lower in hierarchy are basically child bearers, mammals like human beings tend to become child carers. One reason could be that the human children are completely dependent on their parents or their survival in their early years. Childhood is also the period when we learn to forge social bonds and learn how to express basic human emotions. Childhood is the time when social styles and individual personality develops for the first time. The parents are there to guide their children through these dramatic firsts.
Parenting is a shared experience among the siblings and due to the shared effects of the environment, parenting effects could be small. It has been seen that the parents do not behave in a similar way with all their children. Similarly parenting is not perceived in the same way by all the children of the family. There is sufficient data present to show that the behavior of the parents makes a significant contribution to the development of the child. The non-shared environmental effects refer to the effects of events that are specific to the life of an individual like an illness or a particular friendship which are not shared by the other members of the family. Several researchers have argued that the fee is also exerts considerable environmental influence on the psychology of the child. Group socialization influences the behavior of the child as well as the language, emotions, self-esteem and cognitions (MacCallum, 1995).
On the other hand some researchers argue that the parents and peers exert a joint influence on the child while developing. The preference among individuals to select like-minded peers could also explain the similarities found between children and their friends. Group socialization can also be applied to everyday behaviors and also to transient attitudes but it could not be applied to enduring personality traits and the values found in the child. Children also very in their susceptibility towards the influence of the peers and parents could be the major source behind this difference in the susceptibility of the children. Of course very young children are infants cannot be exposed to influence by their peers. The theory of social relationship proposes that multiple relationships are significant for children as they could fulfill the different developmental needs of children. Parents serve as the source of love and affection. They also provide protection, security and advice. Limits are also set by the parents. On the other hand, mutual commitment, trust and support is provided by peer friendships. The teachers and non parental care givers of young children generally act as the parents while the teachers of older children could be influential when it comes to the access to opportunities and expertise. It should be noted that the theory of group socialization does not mean that children can get along without their parents (Olsen, 1996). It recognizes the emotional attachment between children and their parents. Children depend on their parents for care and protection. They also learn skills in their homes which proved very useful in the outside world.
The parent child relationship also highlights the role played by the parents as the agents of socialization for the children to a significant extent. However, it should be noted that parenting is a two way process. Nothing could compare the emotions that are experienced by adults at the time of the birth of their child. The eating, sleeping and working habits of the parents are altered when a child enters the life of its parents. The activities of the child and parents are characterized by the complex patterns of interactions and a sensitive mutual understanding exists between them. Children cry when they need to be fed and when they are awake, they tell their parents that they are ready to play or learn. Generally the initiatives of the parents are reactive but sometimes they are proactive also. Parents and children interact with each other to co-construct parenthood and childhood. Parents also have to perform the task regarding the enculturation of the children which prepares them to face the economic, psychosocial and physical situations which are commonly found in the environment in which the children have to survive and hopefully thrive. Some amount of knowledge is intuitively held by the parents and some characteristics of parenting are present in their biological makeup. Many roles are played by the parents in the development of the child includes the nurturing and protection of the child, guiding children in expressing an understanding emotions and feelings. Parents also help their children in educating them regarding the behaviors which are acceptable at their age. The kind of emotions that can be expressed publicly differ from culture to culture and it is the responsibility of the parents to educate their children regarding them. Previous research has shown that frequent contact with the professionals by the parents is related with the variations that take place in the judgments of the parents regarding family centeredness (Clark, Kochanska and Ready, 2000).
The parents have an overwhelming task to manage the hearing loss of the child successfully. The fear regarding their inability and inadequacy is generally manifested as anger. Early diagnosis and intervention has several benefits described in the literature which are generally in terms of language development and speech. This increased focus on positive child outcomes sometimes eclipses the contribution of the parents and family towards the development of the children with sensory disabilities. Emotionally available parents are sensitive and connected with the support program of the child. Other variables that are related to language development include interaction and bonding between the child and the mother, parental stress and the emotional availability of the parents. Maternal sensitivity which is characterized by emotional connectivity and warmth has predicted positive special language gain. The grief of the parents and their coping skills are also an important variable when it comes to achieving positive outcomes for the children with sensory disabilities. Significant pressure is put on the family by the presence of a child with a disability and it would also be a continual source of stress and the family. The emotional response of the parents and the way the handle the stress also affects the child outcomes and the adjustment in the family. Parents suffering from an emotional crisis due to the disability of their child could lack the psychological energy which is required to communicate or connect with their child. These differences show the parents’ adaptation to communicating with their child. A positive influence has been pointed out in the literature on the development of the child when the parents are able to cope up with the stress and adjust according to this psychological stress (Cochran, 1993).
There is always an experience of grief among the parents after their child has been diagnosed with a disability. The parents of the child who has been diagnosed with a disability have many fears but they rarely acknowledge their fears. Their anger is related with the violated expectations and their loss of control. Parents have an expectation that their child would be normal but when this expectation is violated they become angry. In some cases when the parents are immobilized by grief and sadness, even clinical depression can set in. Parents become angry due to their own helplessness in changing the situation. Sometimes the parents who did not have the opportunity to express their feelings and to become overprotective and over dedicated towards their child with a disability. Neither anger nor overprotection is good for achieving positive outcomes from the child (Cassidy, 1994).
Many scholars have argued that the families while acting as social institutions serve to organize the woman as they are expected to a particular type of work. Mothers work to protect and preserve the life of the child. While doing so the mothers need to be careful that they do not exercise too much control over the children. Mothers need to work with cheerfulness and humility, the characteristics of successful mothers. Most of the studies regarding the parents and children are co relational and the resultant associations usually have been modest. Some studies have demonstrated the improvements in parental behavior and changes in the behavior of the children (French, 2002). They also show that the increased parental perceptions regarding the improved of the child and the decrease in parental depression. Some other studies have found that the interventions aimed at improving the didactic interactions of the mothers with their children while playing with them also resulted in a considerably higher exploratory play as compared to the children who were in the no treatment control group. It has been shown that the intervention to train mothers from the lower class to respond sensitively towards the children modified the negative responses towards the irritability of the child and also reduced the extent of avoiding attachment and children who were distress prone. Another study has shown that the reduction in parental child coercive behavior which is brought by the parents training intervention could produce a decline in the antisocial behavior among the aggressive children.
Studies have shown that when the treatment is able to change the behavior of the parents towards the children, the behavior of the children also undergoes a corresponding change. Such experimental studies show that changes in the field of the parents could predict changes in the school adjustment of the children.
Barnard, K. E., & Solchany, J. E. (2002). Mothering. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Vol. 3. Status and social conditions of parenting (2nd ed., pp. 3–25). Mahwah, NJ:
Bloom, L. (1998). Language acquisition in its developmental context. In W. Damon (Editor-in-Chief ) & D. Kuhn & R. S. Siegler (Vol. Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 2. Cognition, perception, and language (5th ed., pp. 309–370). New York: Wiley.
Bornstein, M. H. (Ed.). (2002a). Handbook of parenting (2nd ed., Vols. 1–5). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Boyd, K., and Dunst, C. J. Personal assessment of control scale, Winterberry Press, Asheville, NC, 1996
Cassidy, J. (1994). Emotion regulation: Inf luences of attachment relationships. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59, 228–283.
Clark, L. A., Kochanska, G., & Ready, R. (2000). Mothers’ personality and its interaction with child temperament as predictors of parenting behavior. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 79, 274–285.
Cochran, M. (1993). Parenting and personal social networks. In T. Luster & L. Okagaki (Eds.), Parenting: An ecological perspective (pp. 149–178). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Cochran, M., & Niego, S. (2002). Parenting and social networks. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Vol. 4. Applied parenting (2nd ed., pp. 123–148
Dunst, C . J., Trivette, C. M., and Hamby, D. W. Meta-analysis of family-centered helpgiving practices research, Manuscript submitted for publication, 2007
French, V. (2002). History of parenting: The ancient Mediterranean world. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Vol. 2.
Grob, A. Perceived control and subjective well-being across nations and across the life span, In Diener, E. and Suh, E. M. (eds.) “Culture and subjective well-being”, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2000
Hoyle, R. The structural equation modeling approach: Basic concepts and fundamental issues, In Hoyle, R. (ed.) “Structural equation modeling: Concepts, issues, and applications”, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, 1995
Judge, S. L. Parental perceptions of help-giving practices and control appraisals in early intervention programs, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education 17, 1997, pp. 457-476
MacCallum, R. Model specification: Procedures, strategies, and related issues, In Hoyle, R. H. (ed.) “Structural equation modeling: Concepts, issues and applications”, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, 1995
Olsen, R. (1996). “Young carers: Challenging the facts and politics of research into children and caring.” Disability & Society 11 (1): 41-54.
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