• Justify your selection of the papers you chose to review: otherwise it looks random. Briefly say why you chose them. A short listing of the papers you have chosen in your introduction helps the reader be clear about the scope and structure of your critical review.
  • The introduction should manage the readers' expectations; in particular tell the reader how you have structured the rest of the critical review: by paper, by theme, by critical point, and so on.
  • Provide explicit definitions of technical terms and categories wherever this is central to the criticisms you will discuss, or to how the topic is defined and the papers selected. It's surprising how simply writing out an exact definition immediately leads you to making some critical comments.
  • Be very careful about citations: do not cite papers you haven't personally read. Even if you think it's OK to cite papers you haven't read in other writing, in a review the whole essay is about your personal discussion of what others have written.
  • Tell the reader which criticisms are your own thoughts, and which you are repeating from others (such as an author's self-criticism). Both are interesting, but tell the reader which is which.
Revising your critical review:
  • If you want to improve quality, revise what you write. When you think that it is finished, get someone else to read it and comment on it. This is easily the single biggest thing you can do to improve quality, but you have to allow some time for it - plan ahead.
  • You only get the best out of any reader the first time, when the document is new to them. So if you are serious about quality, line up more than one reader, and revise it after each set of comments before using your next reader. If you think one reader is more expert than another for this piece of work, save the best reader till last (get the first one to find the worst of the spelling mistakes and so on first).
  • It is probably a good idea to think of fellow students as your audience: this will encourage you to be interesting, and not to assume too much, which will then lead to you writing more clearly and impressing everyone especially staff.

Finally - good luck!

Creative Commons Licence
PILOT - Writing a critical review by Steve Draper, Glasgow University, Dr Jane McKay, GCU modified by Marion Kelt, Glasgow Caledonian University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Based on a work at