How to Write a Psychology Critique Paper

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Critique papers require students to conduct a critical analysis of another piece of writing, often a book, journal article, or essay. No matter what your major is, you will probably be expected to write a critique paper at some point.

For psychology students, critiquing a professional paper is a great way to learn more about psychology articles, writing, and the research process itself. Students will analyze how researchers conduct experiments, interpret results, and discuss the impact of the results.

Steps for Writing an Effective Critique Paper

While these tips are designed to help students writing a psychology critique paper, many of the same principles apply to writing critiques in other subject areas as well.

Your first step should always be a thorough read-through of the material you will be analyzing and critiquing. It needs to be more than just a casual skim read—think in-depth with an eye toward key elements.

The following guideline can help you assess what you are reading and make better sense of the material.

  1. Read the introduction section of the article. Is the hypothesis clearly stated? Is the necessary background information and previous research described in the introduction?
    1. In addition to answering these basic questions, note other information provided in the introduction and any questions that you have.
  2. Read the methods section of the article. Is the study procedure clearly outlined in the methods section? Can you determine which variables the researchers are measuring?
    1. Remember to jot down questions and thoughts that come to mind as you are reading. Once you have finished reading the paper, you can then refer back to your initial questions and see which ones remain unanswered.
  3. Read the results section of the article. Are all tables and graphs clearly labeled in the results section? Do researchers provide enough statistical information? Did the researchers collect all of the data needed to measure the variables in question?
    1. Make note of any questions you have or any information that does not seem to make sense. You can refer back to these questions later as you are writing your final critique.
  4. Read the discussion section of the article. Experts suggest that it is helpful to take notes while reading through sections of the paper you are evaluating. Ask yourself key questions:
    1. How do the researchers interpret the results of the study? Did the results support their hypothesis? Do the conclusions drawn by the researchers seem reasonable?
      1. The discussion section offers students a good opportunity to take a position.
        1. If you agree with the researcher's conclusions, explain why. If you feel that the researchers are incorrect or off-base, point out problems with the conclusions and suggest alternative explanations.
    2. Another alternative is to point out questions that the researchers failed to answer in the discussion section.

Begin Writing Your Own Critique of the Paper

Once you have read the article, compile your notes and develop an outline that you can follow as you write your psychology critique paper. Here's a guide that will walk you through how to structure your critique paper.

Introduction

Begin your paper by describing the journal article and authors you are critiquing. Provide the main hypothesis (or thesis) of the paper. Explain why you think the information is relevant.

Thesis Statement

The final part of your introduction should include your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the main idea of your critique. Your thesis should briefly sum up the main points of your critique.

Article Summary

Provide a brief summary of the article. Outline the main points, results, and discussion.

When describing the study or paper, experts suggest that you include a summary of the questions being addressed, study participants, interventions, comparisons, outcomes, and study design.

Don't get bogged down by your summary. This section should highlight the main points of the article you are critiquing. Don't feel obligated to summarize each little detail of the main paper. Focus on giving the reader an overall idea of the content of the article.

Your Analysis

In this section, you will provide your critique of the article. Describe any problems you had with the author's premise, methods, or conclusions. You might focus your critique on problems with the author's argument, presentation, information, and alternatives that have been overlooked.

When evaluating a study, summarize the main findings—including the strength of evidence for each main outcome—and consider their relevance to key demographic groups.

Organize your paper carefully. Be careful not to jump around from one argument to the next. Arguing one point at a time ensures that your paper flows well and is easy to read.

Conclusion

Your critique paper should end with an overview of the article's argument, your conclusions, and your reactions.

More Tips When Writing a Psychology Critique Paper

  • As you are editing your paper, utilize a style guide published by the American Psychological Association, such as the official Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
  • Reading scientific articles can be difficult. You might want to read up on how to read (and understand) psychology journal articles.
  • Take a rough draft of your paper to your school's writing lab for additional feedback and make use of your university library's resources.
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