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Posted: November 24th, 2022

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PRIMER FOR CRITIQUING SECTIONS OF A RESEARCH ARTICLE
Purpose of An Article Critique

The purpose of an article critique is to provide your critical analysis. An article appraisal is composed of
identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the article and (in your opinion) implications of the article’s
strengths and weaknesses. Identifying what the authors did or did not do well without discussing the
implications of the article’s strengths and weaknesses limits the article critique to an article summary. An article
critique discusses an author’s strengths, weaknesses, and implications.

The items below enumerate minimum or critical elements that should be evident in each section of an article.
Use the items below to identify what the authors did or did not do well and use the individual items to discuss
the implications of the article’s strengths or weaknesses—this supports the rating justification. Similarly,
providing ways in which the authors could have revised or enhanced the article’s clarity and readability are
ways to support and strengthen the critique and rating justification.

The Primer

Items outlined below cover key elements to consider in each section of a research article when critiquing
(appraising) those respective sections. For critique assignments, use the Likert scale rating to assign a rating
based on key elements that were or were not covered and level of clarity and quality in your respective article or
sections of an article.

0 = poor; 1 = below average; 2 = average; 3 = above average ; 4 = excellent

ARTICLE TITLE

• Makes sense standing alone
• Includes the study population and study variables (independent and dependent variables—the reader
should be able to decipher the respective variables without reading the abstract)
• Avoids being cutesy, avoids posing rhetorical questions, and avoids jargon

ABSTRACT

A reminder that the abstract should contain enough information for the reader to know the following without
reading the full-text article: the purpose of the study (and independent and dependent variables if the purpose of
the study statement is written correctly), the study design, the sample size, statistical tests that were used to
analyze the data, the main findings, and the meaning of the findings (implications).
There are structured and unstructured abstracts. Irrespective of abstracts being structured or unstructured, they
should include—at a minimum—the following key elements:

Background/Purpose Section of an Abstract
• Optional—but a plus: A sentence or sentences that describes or provides the background of the study or
the rationale for the study (usually in 1 or no more than 3 sentences).

• Required: A standalone and clearly written purpose of the study or objectives of the study statement (1
sentence) (e.g., The purpose of this study was….; The objectives of this study were….; The aims of this
were…). The statement should be written in a way that the reader is able to identify the dependent and
independent variables and population—alone by reading the purpose statement irrespective of reading
the full abstract.

Methods Section of an Abstract
• Identification of the study design (explicitly stated or written in a way that the reader is easily able to
determine the study design—experimental/quasi-experimental/non-experimental—and the reader should
be able know if the study was prospective or retrospective)
o If an experimental design, the treatment arms should be specified, the total number of
participants should be specified or the number of participants who were randomized to each
treatment arm should be specified.
There is no need for the author to specify if the design was prospective or retrospective
as experimental designs by default are always prospective.
o If a quasi-experimental design, the treatment arm(s) should be specified along with the total
number of participants or the number of participants in each treatment arm.
Quasi-experimental studies can be either prospective or retrospective. The authors should
specify if the study was prospective or retrospective or it should be easy for the reader to
be able to determine if the quasi-experimental study was prospective or retrospective.
o Non-experimental designs vary widely, but in most cases the study design should be written in a
way for the reader to be able to determine if the study was prospective or retrospective.
o If the study conducted a secondary data analysis, specification of the dataset (or if chart review
where patients or the data were extracted) is required.
• Specification of the statistical tests that were used to analyze the data.

Results Section of an Abstract
• Optional—but a plus: A sentence or 2 that provides a few characteristics of the sample (age, sex, race,
and so on). Again, not required in the abstract because the main purpose of the results section of an
abstract is to provide the main findings (the reader can discover characteristics of the sample upon
reading the article).
• Required: The main finding(s) of the study (should be written in statistical terms or non-statistical
terms). Secondary findings can be provided but are not required in the abstract.

Discussion Section of an Abstract
• A discussion of the implications of the findings.

*If needing to review the full-text article for the any of the items above (that should be in the abstract), this
should inform and impact the appraisal, rating, and rating justification of the abstract.

*A note regarding abstract word count. There is no need to consider word count in your evaluation of the
abstract. Although APA may have a word count limit, the word count is often different (a higher word count
limit) for other styles. Abstract word counts or limits differ from journal to journal.

INTRODUCTION/LITERATURE REVIEW
Some studies have separate or distinct introduction and literature review sections, while others may only have
an introduction that integrates the literature review. Studies with a distinct literature review section [the
literature review] will likely be more in-depth than studies with an introduction but without a literature review
section. Irrespective, both formats should aim to accomplish, cover, or include the following.
From reading the literature review, can you determine the prevalence, occurrence, and incidence of
the phenomena which is being studied?
Do the authors present pro and con literature to back up their study? Although there is a natural
tendency to include only pro (or supportive) literature in this section, good literature reviews also
reflect some balance and con (or non-supportive) studies.
After reading the literature review, are the reasons for doing this study [the rationale] clear?
Does the literature presented in the literature review clearly justify the purpose of the study?
Is the review of the literature adequate? In other words, does it meet the 15-10 rule of thumb (are
there at least 15 different references cited in the literature review and are the majority recent –
published within 10 years of the publication year of the article)?
Does the introduction/literature review contain a purpose statement a well-written purpose of the
study statement (that includes the dependent and independent variables and the study population)?
(Not a requirement, but a plus) Does the study provide hypotheses statements and well-written
hypotheses statements?
METHODS

The methods section is generally broken up into or covers 5 distinctive areas of content:
Study Design: Sample Selection/Sampling (how the sample was acquired—including probability or non-
probability sampling; study sites or locations, participant recruitment, and inclusion and exclusion criteria);
Outcomes of Interest; Measures; Data/Statistical Analysis (statistical analysis is usually the last paragraph of the
methods section).

Study Design
• Identification of the study design (explicitly stated or written in a way that the reader is easily able to
determine the study design—experimental/quasi-experimental/non-experimental—and the reader should
be able know if the study was prospective or retrospective)
o If an experimental design, the treatment arms should be specified, the total number of
participants should be specified or the number of participants who were randomized to each
treatment arm should be specified.
Number of participants in each treatment arm (and number of participants in each
treatment arm if multiple treatment arms)
Intervention duration
Who provided the intervention (e.g., social worker, nurse, public health professional,
physician)
Where the intervention was provided or conducted (e.g., clinic, hospital, VA)
A description of the interventions—for each treatment arm (and a description of the
control intervention—if a control was used)
There is no need for the author to specify if the design was prospective or retrospective
as experimental designs by default are always prospective.
o If a quasi-experimental design, the treatment arm(s) should be specified along with the total
number of participants or the number of participants in each treatment arm.
Number of participants in each treatment arm (and number of participants in each
treatment arm if multiple treatment arms)
Intervention duration
Who provided the intervention (e.g., social worker, nurse, public health professional,
physician)
Where the intervention was provided or conducted (e.g., clinic, hospital, VA)
A description of the interventions—for each treatment arm (and a description of the
control intervention—if a control was used)
Quasi-experimental studies can be either prospective or retrospective. The authors
should specify if the study was prospective or retrospective or it should be easy for the
reader to be able to determine if the quasi- study was prospective or retrospective.
o Non-experimental design. Non-experimental designs vary widely, but in most cases the study
design should be written in a way for the reader to be able to determine if the study was
prospective or retrospective.
• If the study conducted a secondary data analysis, specification of the dataset (or if chart review where
patients or the data were extracted) is required.

Sample Selection/Sampling
• How and where the participants or sample were recruited.
• The sampling strategy should be worded in a way for the reader to easily know or infer if a probability
or non-probability sampling strategy was employed.
• Sampling time frame (e.g., January 2019 – November 2019) or the timeframe of the study.
• Inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Outcomes of Interest
• The outcomes of interest were clearly stated or can be clearly inferred.
o A reminder that outcomes of interest are what the authors sought out to observe (and they are not
what the authors found or the actual findings).
Correct Outcomes of Interest: The outcomes of interest were changes in symptoms of
depression, symptoms of anxiety, and quality of life among patients living with major
depressive disorder who received CBT.
Incorrect Outcomes of Interest: Patients achieved improvements in symptoms of
depression, but symptoms of anxiety and quality of life scores did not significantly
improve.
*In some instances, there is a section heading that may read outcomes of interest, variables, or dependent
variables. Irrespective of the heading used or not used, the reader should be able to clearly locate or infer the
outcomes of interest from the methods section.

Measures
• How each dependent variable was measured?
• Measures that were used to measure each dependent variable
o If the authors used a psychometric scale:
• Total score range of the scale
• Score cut-offs
• Score cut-off interpretations
• Psychometric properties of the scale (reliability and validity of the scale)—at a minimum the
scale’s “Cronbach’s alpha”
• Clear specification of time points that the scale or scales were used to measure the dependent
variable(s) or in other words at what points throughout the study were the measures used to
collect data on participants (e.g., baseline, end of treatment, 12 weeks follow-up)
• The following items within these bullet points only if the study is an intervention, evaluation, or
program evaluation study (examination of effectiveness or efficacy of the intervention):
o Number of participants in the treatment arm (and number of participants in each treatment arm if
multiple treatment arms)
o Intervention duration
o Who provided the intervention (e.g., social worker, nurse, public health professional, physician)
o Where the intervention was provided (e.g., clinic, hospital, VA)
o A description of the interventions—for each treatment arm (and a description of the control
intervention—if a control was used)

Statistical (Data) Analysis
• Specification of the statistical tests that were used to analyze the data (e.g., chi-square, the dependent
samples t-test [i.e., the paired samples t-test]; the independent samples t-test; ANOVA; ANCOVA;
linear regression; logistic regression; ordinal regression; Cox proportional-hazards model; SEM/HLM)
• The statistical software program that was used to analyze the data (e.g., SPSS, STATA)

DISCUSSION

• A summary of the main findings in non-statistical terms (in other words the authors stated and described
the main findings of the study in plain language—using non-statistical language)
o This should be done with each dependent variable that was identified in the methods section (in
other words there should be a discussion of each outcome or result for each dependent variable)
• An in-depth discussion of the implications of each main finding (including citations of other articles and
ways in which the study’s findings concur or oppose findings of those respective studies)
• Use of both pro and con literature or studies with similar or differing results, and a discussion of those
respective similarities and differences
• A paragraph (or 2) that discusses both limitations and strengths of the study (the section should equally
cover both limitations and strengths: 50%/50%, 60%/40%, but not beyond a 70%/30% divide…if
determined the section is about 80% focused on strengths and about 20% focused on limitations—this is
not balanced)
• Suggestions or actions that the intended audience can take or act on (e.g., social workers are encouraged
to consider adaption of motivational interviewing approaches in HCV clinical settings to reduce alcohol
use among patients living with HCV; public health social workers are advised to develop health
promotion and education initiates to increase awareness of HPV and the HPV vaccine among Asian
American parents)
• Suggestions or steps for future research or future research that is needed

—-

THE PURPOSE OF AN ARTICLE CRITIQUE PRIMER FOR CRITIQUING SECTIONS OF A RESEARCH ARTICLE

The goal of an article critique is to provide a critical examination of the content. An article evaluation is made up of the following components:

outlining the article’s strengths and faults, as well as (in your opinion) the ramifications of the article’s findings

Weaknesses and strengths Identifying what the writers did or did not do well without going into detail about it

The article’s strengths and faults have ramifications The article critique is limited to a synopsis of the article. An article about

The strengths, shortcomings, and consequences of an author are discussed in a critique.

The following items list the essential or minimum elements that should be present in each section of an article.

Use the items below to determine what the authors did or did not do well, and then use the individual items to support your conclusion.

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