Sunday, March 24, 2013

Critical Review

This post is a summary of the video lecture on how to write a critical review by Professor Comer. I have also found a few links that could be useful for the assignment completion.

The stages in writing, which are recursive and overlapping, are:

  • Pre-drafting - deciding what you are going to write and thinking about the project
  • Drafting -  writing actively
  • Revision - re-thinking what you have to write
  • Editing/Proof-Reading - polishing
At pre-drafting stage, many things can be helpful. You may choose to do one of the following:
  • reading,
  • researching, 
  • note-taking,
  • analyzing,
  • outlining,
  • discussing with others
  • planning.
.Revision stage  includes re-organizing, deleting, adding, re-thinking; and editing is all about checking writing for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes, clarity and appropriate choice of vocabulary.

But before one starts even thinking about writing a critical review, one needs to read whatever they are supposed to be reviewing critically.  The first thing to do is just to read the text to enjoy it, and then go back to it second or third time and do marginal annotations. One may want to circle the main idea and underline the significant concepts. The latter may be different depending on what the purpose of the writing is. It may also be useful to note down the key terms in the text. While reading one should also marginally annotate the questions and emotions (anger, confusion, etc) that arise during the reading process. One should also read carefully to identify any contradictions or ambiguity there might be in what the writer says throughout the text.

Professor Comer showed an example of marginal annotation which looked like this
Screenshot of Prof Comer's Video Tutorial
 Professor Comer also advises to pay attention to any questions posed by the writer because if the writer thought of asking that question, it was significant for him/her and readers should think about why that question was so significant to the writer. 

It may also be useful to talk about ideas with others to make it more generative and help yourself think more deeply about the text you are reading. The screenshot below shows what questions you may want to discuss

A Screenshot of a Video Tutorial explaining the discussion stage of the project.

Optional Reading
Writing a Critical Review, University of New South Wales
The Book Review or Article Critique, University of Toronto
Critical Reading Towards Critical Writing, University of Toronto
Active Reading, Open University UK
Active Reading Strategies, Princeton University
Writing a critical book review, Australian National University
Thompson Writing Program, Duke University
A Review of Online Learning
A Review of Alone Together
What makes a good critical review, Monash University


  1. Dear Anna,
    I love the Process Approach to teaching writing. It's great to know it works well with writing critical reviews. I always find difficulties in teaching critical reading and discussing critical thinking question or writing reviews about books, novels, articles...etc.

    I should try this approach ...!!
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Rose! It makes me happy to know that my posts are useful. :)

    How do you usually teach critical reading and writing?

  3. Nice to see it all laid out so simply. Good job.

  4. Thank you, Don! It is easier for me to focus on a task when the explanation is in one place and is without any distractions.

  5. That's really useful...I have just finished reading the text...!!

  6. I am glad that the post is useful. Thank you for reading it. :)