How do I critique a research paper?

Information on research, statistics and publications - tips including how to recruit participants, gain funding, understand your results and get them published.
Post Reply
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 8459
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 11:20 pm
Location: Bucks

How do I critique a research paper?

Post by miriam »

In a lot of interviews, particularly if there is a written task you may be asked to critique a research design (often just the methodology). Also critiquing papers is essential for literature reviews. So I thought it might be useful to outline some things to consider when doing this (or actually produce a whole load of questions :))

Literature Review

Does the review offer different perspectives? Is it critical, does it discuss the good and bad points in the literature? Are the sources mainly primary? Are at least some of the references current? see here for info on writing a literature review

Research Problem
Are hypotheses present? Are they clear; is it easy to understand what is being looked for? Is there a rationale for looking at the problem? How will this piece of research add to evidence base? This can be considered by looking at the introduction, the hypotheses and design.

How is the study designed? Are there a sufficient number of participants? Are the participants used likely to be generalisable to the population intended? For example, if the research is interested in the diet of people with depression, looking at students diet after receiving bad exam results is unlikely to be generalisable.

Is the design counterbalanced? Could one variable be producing an effect in another variable? Are conditions within the experiment as similar as possible, e.g. all in the same room? If half the participants are tested outside, a quarter in the pub and a quarter during a lecture, the results may be affected by environment.

Does this design allow the research problem to be addressed? Is there sufficient detail for the study to be replicated?

Are the measures used within the study appropriate? Have they been used in previous research, do they have reliability and validity? Do the measures accurately measure what is intended?

Researcher effects; is the researcher likely to have had an impact on the results – if measuring attitudes towards Chinese people in a Caucasian population, think about the effects of a Caucasian versus a Chinese experimenter.

Are they clear, do you understand what analysis was used and why? Does it seem appropriate, are there any other analyses you could suggest? Do the results answer the research problem/hypothesis?

Does the discussion address the research problem? Can the conclusions made feasibly be interpreted from the results, could there be other interpretations? Are shortcomings in the study acknowledged? Are the implications discussed?

Another point
For all of these questions think about the good and bad points of the study.
Remember, there are no right or wrong conclusions, just show that you have thought about the study. Research isn't perfectly designed, the constraints in which it is run do not allow it to be. There will always be something to critique.

Critiquing research in an interview context
(If relevant) Think about how you could use conclusions from this paper in an interview context, for example:
What did you learn from reading the paper?
If you were going to add to this work what would you do?
How would you use the findings in your clinical work?

Online guides to help you with critical appraisals
The NHS's Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) has some useful primers for helping you to appraise different kinds of research including systematic reviews, randomised controlled trials, qualitative studies, economic evaluation studies, cohort studies, case control studies and diagnositc test studies. You can access them here:

Note: If you have a suggestion about how to improve or add to this wiki please post it here. If you want to discuss this post please post a new thread in the forum.

Content checked by a Team Member on 30/04/2021.
Last modified on 30/04/2021.

See my blog at
This forum is free to use. If you find the site useful, you are welcome to contribute the cost of a cup of coffee to our running costs.
Post Reply