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HHP 815: Research in Health and Human Performance (Washburn & Kriley)

Created for students enrolled in HHP815, this guide provides suggested resources, research tips, writing a literature review, citation management, APA citations, and more.

What is a Critical Review

What is a Critical Review?

A critical review is your OWN detailed commentary and evaluation of a research article. A critical review can be a helpful first step in the research process because it can help you engage with and understand existing studies in a meaningful way before organizing and writing a literature review. After you've critically reviewed several articles, it will become more clear as to the strengths and weaknesses of the existing studies related to your research topic so that you can more effectively design your own research, place studies within the landscape of what we collectively know about the research topic, and identify possible gaps in the larger body of research.

In a critical review, your job is to use critical thinking to QUESTION the information and opinions presented in the various sections of the research article in order to evaluate its overall value. In order to effectively assess the strengths and weaknesses of a research article, you need to:

  • know the general structure of a research article
  • understand the purpose of each section

Parts of a Research Article

Parts of a Research Article

Abstract Summary of the article and the researcher's methods and results



Introduces the research problem

States the goals and rationale of the research

Literature Review

Discusses what has already been researched and written about on the topic

Presents the sources in an organized way to justify the need for the proposed research


Describes exactly how the researcher setup and conducted the experiment so that it can be replicated

May also provide rationale behind the specifics of the research design (sampling, analysis, etc.)


Clearly presents the data collected from the research

Often presented in charts, graphs, and tables

Missing data or gaps should be explained

Discussion / Analysis

Explains the meaning of the results

Addresses the significance of findings to researchers (often referring to the main ideas presented in the literature review) to show how this study adds new knowledge to that body of research

Identifies strengths and weaknesses

Conclusion / Recommendations

Summarizes the important information learned from this particular study (no new claims or information is presented)

All claims are supported by the data that was previously presented

May also discuss weaknesses in this study and/or suggestions for future studies



Steps for Completing a Critical Review

How to Write a Critical Review

  1. Read the Whole Article  Write a Brief Summary
    1. What is the article about?
    2. What are the main findings?
    3. Are the sections clearly defined?
  2. Evaluate Each Section of the Article → Write Detailed Notes 
    1. Does each section achieve its intended purpose?
    2. What are the strengths?
    3. What are the weaknesses?
    4. Do you have any evidence to prove those as strengths or weaknesses?
  3. Write Your Critical Review → Use Info from Steps 1 & 2
    1. Introduction (use summary of article from Step 1)
      1. Research topic
      2. Author
      3. Outline the structure of your review
    2. 1-2 Paragraphs for EACH Section of the Article (use detailed notes from Step 2)
      1. Paraphrase the main points of the section (to show your understanding)
      2. Strengths & Weaknesses (explain your thinking or provide evidence)