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How to review journal articles critically

Have you read the previous post entitled the importance of literature review in research? It has become a standard procedure when a supervisor or promoter asks students to review articles published in national and international journals. Whether it's part of a lecture assignment or writing a literature review in thesis and dissertations, as well as other research products. Sometimes lecturers' colleagues are also often asked to be reviewers of articles by the editorial board of certain journals. 

How to review journal articles critically
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Doctoral program students, for example, will be asked by the promoter to review a minimum of 60 recent journal articles related to the dissertation topic. Unfortunately, the results of the analysis of articles written by students are often meaningless. Article reviews are not carried out critically, but only provide an overview of the articles.

It's different when students are asked to criticize government or campus policies, their arguments are sharp and deep. The same phenomenon occurs when a friend from the campus world buys an item, so he is very observant and critical in his assessment of it starting from the brand, specifications, quality, to price.

However, they seem silent and do not even know what to do when asked to review the journal critically. Previous relevant research to support the research hypothesis, often just a list of researchers and the same title and variables as the research without critical analysis. Finally, the list of relevant research is only a complementary accessory to scientific work.

Then how to review a journal article critically? Is there a different way of critiquing an empirical research article compared to a literature review? the following points can be used as references in critiquing a journal article:

First of all, for all types of journal articles, start recording some basic information, including 1) Author's name, 2) Article title, 3) Journal name, volume number, date, month, and page number, 4) Statement of the problem or issue concerned. discussed, and 5) The author's purpose, approach or method, hypotheses, and main conclusions. The five pieces of information can be used as a database so you don't lose track of records. Make sure you note the URL address where the article was published. In addition, this information becomes important when you write bibliography notation. Without these records, you can imagine that you will have difficulty if the number of articles that must be reviewed is 100 pieces

The next step, read the article that will be criticized once to get an overview. Then read it again critically based on the systematics of the article (Abstract, Introduction, Literature Review, Method, Result and Discussion, and Conclusion and Recommendations, and References). At this stage, it is necessary to make critical notes on the article by answering the following questions:

  1. Is the title of the article appropriate and clear? That is, there is a match between the title and the substance of the article. Often we read articles that are inconsistent between the title and the article content. The title of the article should trigger the reader's desire to read the entire contents of the article. Imagine if the title is not clear, will you continue reading the whole article?
  2. Is the abstract specific, representative of the article, and in the correct format? A good abstract describes the research objectives, research methods, research results, and recommendations. It is also important to pay attention to the maximum number of words in the abstract (ranging from 100 to 150 words).
  3. Was the main issue/problem and purpose of the article explained in the introduction? The introduction to a good article at least provides an overview of why research is important and how previous studies have answered the problem. The introduction must contain the research gap, research novelty, and research limitations.
  4. Do you find errors in facts and interpretations? We often encounter writers misinterpreting or misrepresenting other people's work. We can check this by looking for the references cited by the author ourselves. Compare your understanding or interpretation with the author after reading the article from the references referred to by the author. If necessary, read similar articles other than those referred to by the author for comparison.
  5. Are all discussions relevant? In the results and discussion section, we often find articles that only describe research results without any discussion regarding research findings. The discussion should be able to explain why related to the hypothesis decision. In addition, critique how the authors compare the research findings with previous studies. Observe whether there are unique research findings that are discussed by the author comprehensively in the discussion section.
  6. Has the author of the article cited appropriate and appropriate literature? If the author includes unimportant references, or references that are irrelevant, suggest removing them. Don't forget to provide other reference recommendations that you think are more appropriate.
  7. Were any ideas overblown or ignored by the author? You must be able to criticize the author when his ideas and ideas are too focused, while you think they should be put aside with various arguments. Or it could be the other way around. It's a good idea to give advice on what and how it should be
  8. Should some parts of the manuscript be expanded, summarized, or omitted? It is important to evaluate each part of the body of the article. Has the author described the composition of his writing proportionally? Sometimes we find articles that are disproportionate. For example, the description in the research method section is too long, while in the results and discussion section it is only described briefly.
  9. Are the author's statements clear? Critique the entire article for whether any of the questions have ambiguous meaning. Suggest with examples how clarity of meaning can be achieved.
  10. What basic assumptions does the author have? Critically examine whether the author has presented the assumptions that must be met based on the limitations of the study. This means that if the research model and findings are to be applied, what prerequisites must be met?
  11. Has the author been objective in his discussion of the topic? A good researcher must be neutral and objective. Researchers with their research locus in the institution/organization where the researcher works often have very high subjectivity. Discussion of research results is not done critically, so the recommendations are very normative. It could be that the researcher is worried about the consequences that will be received when presenting the research results critically. The high subjectivity is also reflected in the imposition of the researcher's ideas and thoughts because the researcher feels he knows better, not because of the empirical facts of the research findings.

In addition, here are some questions that are more specific to empirical research articles;

  1. Is the objective of the experiment or observation important for the field?
  2. Was the experimental method adequately described?
  3. Are the research designs and methods appropriate for the research objectives?
  4. Has the procedure been presented in sufficient detail so that the reader can duplicate it?
  5. Scan and check the calculation. Are statistical methods appropriate?
  6. Did you find content that was repeated or duplicated? A common error is a repetition in the text of data in tables or figures. Suggest that table data be interpreted from a summary, or simply repeated, in the text.

Tips and tricks for critically reviewing journal articles are very helpful for friends in the campus world to write literature reviews to find research gaps, prepare novelty and state-of-the-art research. The steps above are also useful for lecturer colleagues who are often asked by editors of certain journals to review articles. Hopefully, this article is useful.

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