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How to Critique a Journal Article: A Step-by-Step Guide

Discussion of Main Points

1.You should begin with an introductory paragraph (no more than page double-spaced) that provides the author, title, and subject of the article. In this paragraph, you should give the author’s thesis. A thesis is a statement (not a question) of what the author says they are going to prove.  Do not copy the author’s thesis – put it in your own words.  Be concise and to the point.  The introduction should also include two or three short sentences outlining how the author says he is going to prove his thesis. 

Then you should provide a sentence that says you are going to critique the article and inform the reader whether or not you support the author’s thesis and his argument. It is perfectly acceptable to say that you agree with the author with reservations, or that you disagree completely, as long as in your essay you prove these statements.  These introductory statements therefore will determine how you will approach the critique.

2.The next part of your critique should include a discussion of the main points/arguments made by the author of the article to support his thesis.  You need to give specific examples of these points, but do not use direct quotes. Give your examples in your own words.  Give specific page numbers from the article for each of the examples.For an essay of this length, you will need to discuss a minimum of 3-4 points.  You should have a separate paragraph (about ½ page) for each point. This part of the essay should be approx. 2-3 pages. 

3.The third section of your critique presents your evaluation of the author’s thesis and arguments (some suggestions to think about are below) and should include your comments on the validity of each argument (i.e. did the author prove his point?). You will need to explain why or why not you think a particular argument is valid. You can, if you prefer, integrate this part with part 2 (above), and discuss and evaluate each point in the same paragraph (or two).   This section by itself should be approx. 2-3 pages, or if combined with # 2, 3-4 pages.

4.Comment on the research sources used by the author to prove his thesis at the end of the essay in a short paragraph (no more than ½ page). What kind of sources are used (primary, secondary, oral)? If the author refers to other literary sources as well so comment on this.  You are not expected to read these sources.  Take the author at his word that they say what he says they say.  You are commenting on whether the author used enough sources of each type or research source to prove his thesis.

Evaluation of Thesis and Arguments

A primary source is something that was written at the time of the event (a quote, an original document, etc.); a secondary source is written after the event and may use primary sources to arrive at a conclusion.  An oral source consists of a source from the time of the event that was not written down.  If the author refers to something said or written at the time (an interview or newspaper article from the period, for example), the original is a primary source. A primary source usually will not reference any previous source.  This present article is a secondary source. 

You can determine what kind of sources are used by reading through the footnotes.

5.Concluding paragraph. This sums up your argument and should be about ½ page. Again, be specific.

In this particular article, the author provides a comprehensive list of sources in his Endnotes.  Endnote #3 gives a detailed discussion of the history of the Black Loyalists.  Be sure to comment on the Endnotes and their value.

1.First, read the journal article. The link to the article is given at the top of page one of this file.  This takes you directly to the article.

As you read the article, make notes (with page numbers) of all the relevant points.  Try to identify a thesis and points of argument.  Do not decide on the thesis until you have read the entire article.  It is common for an author to reaffirm their thesis at the end of an article, so check and see if this is the case here).   Read the article carefully and again if necessary.  If there are any words that you do not understand, look them up or any other reputable dictionary.  Do not include a dictionary as a research source or put it in your bibliography.

2.Read the background material on the power point file after you have read the article once.  Then, when you read the article again you can supplement your notes, if necessary. 

The background material is designed to give you the context of the material presented in the article and help you understand and judge the author’s argument. You should not include any background material in your critique unless it is mentioned in the article and is necessary for your critique.  Your only reference should be to the article itself, not the power points.

3.You are now ready to write the first draft of your review. A good essay goes through at least 2-3 drafts before the final copy in order to catch any glitches.

At each stage (draft), you need to check your organization and argument, your spelling and grammar, and whether you have followed all the instructions.

4.You will need to come to a conclusion about whether the author proved what he said he was going to prove.   You will need to support your conclusion by making 2-3 concluding sentences in your essay’s concluding paragraph. (no more than ½ page).  If you believe that the author did not support his thesis, you need to explain why you feel that way and explain what you think is missing.

NOTE: There is no correct conclusion for this critique as long as you present valid points to support your arguments.

  1. Are the thesis and points of argument clear? - Discuss clarity.
  2. Do the arguments and proof follow logically and clearly? Discuss organization.
  3. Does the author have any apparent bias in his arguments? If so explain. (A bias is an unsubstantiated conclusion usually based on the author’s background and/or beliefs). Discuss any perceived biases.
  4. Does the author support his arguments with sufficient proof? Discuss referencing

The use of footnote/endnote references or a bibliography for a journal article is determined by each  journal’s editorial board.  This particular journal requires footnotes and does not use in-text references (in-text references are not acceptable in Humanities’ articles).  This journal does not require a bibliography, but you can identify the author’s sources by looking at the footnotes which provide the author’s published sources as well as additional comments.  You need to comment on these sources.

  1. Are you convinced of the author’s overall argument? State why or why not and explain. Make sure that you answer this question in your essay’s concluding paragraph.

Academic journal articles provide in-depth analyses of specific aspects of history, literature, art, etc. and are written for academics and university students such as yourself who are expected to have a high level of literacy. As you comment on the value of this article, keep in mind these target readers. 

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