Format:Your critique should be no more than 2 pages typed double-spaced with 1-inch margins and 12-point font. The article you are critiquing should be cited in APA style e.g. "Brown et al (2002) found that ...". You do not need to include a bibliography unless you cite additional references. The ideal critique will contain no more than a 0.5 page very succinct summary capturing the major points in the paper, followed by 1.5 pages discussing two or three or so major issues. An example of a major issue is the following: "From their study of Alzheimer's patients, the authors were trying to draw conclusions regarding the functions of the frontal lobes, but in fact the fMRI brain images of their Alzheimer's patients showed widespread cortical damage. It is therefore unclear whether the memory deficits seen in these patients were due to frontal damage or damage elsewhere in the brain. For example, a general memory deficit could also be due to temporal lobe damage. An alternative explanation for the findings is that these patients might have a general deficit of attention rather than one of memory; this was not tested for." Other things that might be raised in a critique: you could point out some factor that wasn't controlled for in a study, or some other way in which it was incomplete. Any criticism you make of a paper should be backed up by direct evidence from the paper (and possibly from other things you've read). On a more positive side, you could also discuss ways in which the work could have been done better, directions for future work, related issues that could be studied by similar methods etc.
The most common mistake students make is to write a book report on the paper, basically a 2 page summary of the research. While we do ask you to summarize the paper it should be only a small part of your paper. What we are really looking for is critical thought and analysis, of synthesizing information from the class into a critique of the paper. Do not just summarize and report.
Another common mistake is to not use any specifics. You should say a lot more than just "the methods used in the second experiment were flawed". What specifically was flawed, and how did it affect the results and conclusions?
Avoid critical points that could apply to almost any other paper or similar research. If the paper is using an animal model don't use a general criticism like "research on animals might not extrapolate well to people". If you feel it is a really important point, explain why the criticism applies specifically to that, e.g. was there something about the animal model used that was particularly faulty?
Points in the critique can be positive. You might come across a paper that you really liked, and don't see obvious flaws, or maybe there was something really great that they did. Your critique can include positive points, just make sure you're still demonstrating synthesis and not merely reporting or summarizing. Why was it so good? What would the consequences have been if not used? How could it be used in other research?
Don't ignore future work or extensions. While the critique is important try to work in your ideas about the direction in which you would like to see future research in this area.
And last but not least, don't save all your critiques till the last few are due. The earlier you complete them in the course the more time you have to get feedback and the more chances you have to improve your grade.