Critiquing a research article
Division of Medical Imaging Sciences, St. Martin’s College, Lancaster LA1 3JD, UK Accepted 16 September 2004 Available online 1 December 2004
Critical reading; Peer review; Literature; Journal review
Abstract This article explores certain concepts relating to critiquing research papers. These include considering the peer review process for publication, demonstrating the need for critiquing, providing a way to carefully evaluate research papers and exploring the role of impact factors. Whilst all these features are considered in this article, the focus is on presenting a systematic and comprehensive way of critiquing research papers. The information provided should be of use to the many radiographers, associated health professionals and undergraduate and postgraduate students embarking on research projects. ª 2004 The College of Radiographers. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Why critique peer reviewed research articles?
The peer review process is integral to the functioning of all scientiﬁc journals and plays a pivotal role in the publication of new scientiﬁc material.1 The ‘‘invisible hand’’ of peer review is what is claimed to maintain the quality of refereed i.e. peer reviewed, journal literature.2 The publication of a research article in a peer reviewed journal may thus appear to be a measure of its worth.3 However, the process of peer review has attracted its share of criticisms from academics over the years4 with one author going as far as to say ‘‘those that review essays for inclusion in scholarly journals know what they are supposed to do. Their ) Tel.: C44 1524 384639; fax: C44 1524 384591. E-mail address: email@example.com
function is to take innovative and challenging work by young scholars and ﬁnd reasons to reject it’’.5 Furthermore reviewers need not necessarily have expert knowledge of the subject matter they review3 as even experts have gaps in their knowledge.6 Peer review is notoriously unreliable and subject to bias and conﬂict of interest. Publication bias, the tendency of editors and reviewers to accept manuscripts submitted by investigators based on the strength and direction of their own research ﬁndings,7 means that what is published may not be representative of the research in an area which may mislead the reader. Consequently, publication bias can reduce the intellectual value of the research. The problems associated with the peer review process seem difﬁcult to overcome, as even training peer reviewers does not increase the quality of their reviews to a level of editorial signiﬁcance or in a way that is maintained long term.8
1078-8174/$ - see front matter ª 2004 The College of Radiographers. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.radi.2004.09.001
G. Marshall consistent with the ‘‘Guide for Authors’’ of the speciﬁc journal. These key words should encapsulate the main topics of the research and should allow the article to be accessed when searching the literature using key words as search terms.
Critical evaluation of research articles
This is necessary so that you do not take what you read at face value but consider the work with a critical mind in order that you can decide on the value of the article. This empowers you to decide whether to change your practice based on what you have read9 or whether the work is a worthwhile study to base future research around. Critical evaluation is deﬁned as ‘‘a systematic way of considering the truthfulness of a piece of research, the results and how relevant and applicable they are’’.10 How to critically evaluate research articles is a topic addressed by a plethora of books on research methodology11e13 and by various articles.6,9,14,16 Set out below is a way of systematically critiquing such articles in a structured way. This is the method for critiquing the literature taught to...