A critical review of an article

Chapter

Critically reviewing the literature

• to discover explicit recommendations for further research. These can provide you with a superb justification for your own research question(s) and objectives; • to help you to avoid simply repeating work that has been done already; • to sample current opinions in newspapers, professional and trade journals, thereby gaining insights into the aspects of your research question(s) and objectives that are considered newsworthy; • to discover and provide an insight into research approaches, strategies (Section 4.3) and techniques that may be appropriate to your own research question(s) and objectives.

Adopting critical perspective in your reading Harvard College Library (2006) provides for its students a useful check list of skills to be practised for effective reading. These skills include:

Previewing, which is looking around the text before you start reading in order to establish precisely its purpose and how it may inform your literature search; Annotating; that is conducting a dialogue with yourself, the author, and the issues and ideas at stake.

Here the Harvard advice, we think, is very useful. It urges readers to be ‘thinking-intensive’ (see Box 3.1). Summarising. The best way to determine that you’ve really got the point is to be able to state it in your own words. Outlining the argument of a text is a version of annotating, and can be done quite informally in the margins of the text.

Box 3.1 40 Checklist

Annotating your critical reading. _ Nix Advice on how to read in a ‘thinking-intensive’ way ? First of all: throw away the highlighter in favour of a pen or pencil. Highlighting can actually distract from the business of learning and dilute your comprehension. It only seems like an active reading strategy; in actual fact, it can lull you into a dangerous passivity. ? Mark up the margins of your text with words: ideas that occur to you, notes about things that seem important to you, reminders of how issues in a text may connect with your research questions and objectives. This kind of interaction keeps you conscious of the reason you are

reading. Throughout your research these annotations will be useful memory triggers. ? Develop your own symbol system: asterisk a key idea, for example, or use an exclamation point for the surprising, absurd, bizarre … Like your mar-gin words, your hieroglyphs can help you recon-struct the important observations that you made at an earlier time. And they will be indispensable when you return to a text later in the term, in search of a particular passage that you may want to include in your project report. ? Get in the habit of hearing yourself ask questions — ‘what does this mean?’ why is he or she drawing that conclusion?’ Write the questions down (in your margins, at the beginning or end of the reading, in a notebook, or elsewhere). They are reminders of the unfinished business you still have with a text: to come to terms with on your own, once you’ve had a chance to digest the material further, or have done further reading.

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