What it the critical review?

It is a type of brief written text that involves a process of synthesis, since the reader can and must “discover” the ideas and analyzing the main themes of the source text, to be able to elaborate an essay where these ideas and topics are condensed, keeping cohesion and coherence. That is to say, the review is a type of text that can be expository or argumentative and that implies the understanding of the ideas contained in the original source.

A review can be made from any type of text, either visual (cinematographic, theatrical review, etc.), or a musical text (about a group, interpretation or interpreter in general), or a written text (novel, essay , poetry, specialized article, dissemination article, school content text, etc.). In all these cases, the review will always be constituted by recognizing the elements that distinguish each type of text to be able to construct meaning.

As in other types of written academic texts, the review also presents the construction of a system of argumentation, which must be made up of valid elements that are expressed in a clear, concise and orderly manner based on the characteristics of the discursive genres. relevant. This argument are opinions that the author of the review constructs on those ideas and themes that have been identified, understood and analyzed from the source text.

     However, it should be noted that these opinions are not only based on common sense, but should be based on the source text. For this, the student writer must bear in mind that the critical-argumentative review is a short text, but not for that reason subjective; It is a text that will contain the main contents of the text that you analyzed, but you can use the paraphrase, to express and communicate your ideas on the subject or topics covered in the original source text.

     The critical review will have the function of letting the reader know the fundamental aspects of the original text, in such a way that the reader can feel motivated to read the source. The review can also serve to communicate personal ideas especially if it is about reviews of films, novels or plays that point the reader to relevant information and useful as an informative reference to contextualize the work in question.

     If the critical review is used in a specific subject of the career, it is likely that the teacher wants to know if the student was able to understand the content of the source text, in terms of the management of the main issues addressed. In this sense, the review will tend to be a concise and explanatory text, where, from considering the economy of language, the student can demonstrate his understanding of the subject dealt with in the book that gave rise to it.

The critical review step by step

It is very likely that at some point in your university life, they will ask you to write a critical review of an article in a periodical publication. Even if you are not very familiar with this type of task, it will not be as difficult as writing an essay that requires a lot of research in the library, but it is not like writing a review for El Norte that would be written for a general reader.

     The review that you would write would be directed to a reader, for example, your supervisor, professor or thesis advisor, who knows the subject and is interested not only in covering the content of the article that is reviewed, but also that an assessment be made criticism of the ideas and the argument presented by the author.You could use the following questions to guide your review:

  • Objectives: What is the purpose of the article?
  • Theory: Is there any explicit theoretical framework? If not, does it contain important theoretical assumptions?
  • Concepts: What are the central concepts? Are they clearly defined?
  • Argument: What is the central argument? Are there specific hypotheses?
  • Method: What methods are used to test hypotheses?
  • Evidence: Is evidence provided? How appropriate is it?
  • Value judgments: Are value judgments clearly present or implicitly made?
  • Literature: What is the place of this article in the literature that deals with this topic?
  • Contribution: How much does the article contribute to increase our knowledge on the subject?
  • Style: Is the author’s language / style / expression clear?

Conclusion: A brief general assessment of the article.

Now let’s know some steps to elaborate your review:

Familiarize yourself with the article that you are going to review:

Look at the title, the list of contents, the abstract and the introduction. With this you will get an idea of ​​the central theme and its scope, as well as the author’s reasons for writing that article.

Take a look at the whole article, focusing on paragraph start sentences, tables, illustrations and any other graphic material.

Read carefully the first section, which will indicate the main topics to discuss and the theoretical or conceptual framework that the author proposes to work.

Also read carefully the final section, which should include the author’s conclusions and summarize the main reasons for how he arrived at them.

Plan the content of your review

Now that you have familiarized yourself with the text, read it thoroughly and carefully to establish a basis on which you will critically review it.

Decide which aspects of the article you would like to discuss in detail in your review: the theoretical approach, the content, the case studies, the selection and interpretation of the evidence, the scope of the topic, the presentation style.

Now, based on your knowledge of the article and your decision about which issues to discuss, read more carefully the sections that are relevant to those topics. Take notes of key points and key quotes. You can divide the page in two columns, in the one on the left you can summarize the main points of the article and in the one on the right register your reactions and tentative evaluations of that section.

If necessary, read other articles or books related to the subject, possibly they can provide you with evidence of alternative theoretical models or interpretations of the data.

Prepare the draft and write the review

The structure of your review should include:

An initial identification of the article (author, title of the article, title of the periodical publication, year of publication, and other details that seem important, eg if it is originally an English edition, etc.), and an indication of the Main aspects of the article that you will discuss.

A brief summary of the scope, contents and argument of the article. Sometimes you can summarize section by section, but in brief reviews (1,000 to 1,500 words), you only choose the main topics. This section should represent the third part of your review.

A critical discussion of 2 or 3 main issues mentioned in the article. This section is the most important part of your review. You need to clearly establish the author’s arguments, before you criticize and evaluate them. It is important that you base your criticism with evidence from the text or other articles. At this point you could also bring up hollows of content, in the way the author deals with the subject; Be careful not to criticize an author for not doing something that you never intended to do.

A final evaluation that mentions the way in which the article contributed to your understanding of the subject (and probably its importance in the development of knowledge in this particular area or discipline, placing it in the context of other articles in the field).

Checklist for the final draft

Did you identify the article clearly, from the beginning?

Did you summarize the author’s argument clearly and objectively, so that the reader can recognize the theoretical approach and the scope of the material covered? (one third of the text in a brief review).

Were the 2 or 3 key issues of the article clearly identified and discussed? (50-60% of the review)

Did you provide reasons to substantiate your criticism and approval of the article?

Is there any final evaluation of the importance of the article, based on what you just mentioned?


It is expected that with this brief explanation and these proposed steps, the writing of a critical review is not a complex process, but you visualize it as a type of brief academic text that serves to publicize in a concise, complete and logical way, a Relevant information about another text, which we always refer to as the original text, or the original source. Do not forget to always make drafts and cards, either as annotations in your notebook or using any technological resource. These are organizers of the information that will always help you to write better academic texts.