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University of Newcastle Library Guides

Literature Reviews: Critical Reading

This guide is an introduction to the Literature Review process - including its purpose and strategies, guidelines and resources to help you get started

Critical reading

Before you start, consider the following:

  1. Do you have a clear and concise understanding of the topic?
  2. What is the scope of the literature to be investigated?
  3. Are there limits or exclusions to your research eg. time frames, published or unpublished works, language?
  4. Is your review going to be a chronological or thematic approach? Sort ideas into relevant categories.
  5. Keep your purpose in mind while reading. Don't be swayed by arguments or let points of view distract you.

Critical reading strategies:
Critical reading involves evaluating the point of view, argument/s and evidence presented by the author.

Common questions to ask when evaluating literature are:

  • Do I agree or disagree with the authors claims?
  • What evidence do I have for agreeing or disagreeing?
  • Is there an alternative argument or evidence being presented?
  • What methodology did the author use?
  • Was data collected and what were the results?
  • How can you apply these findings to your own work?

Example: Critical Reading Strategies:

Critical reading of web based material

Unlike journal articles and scholarly books, most information that is on the web has not been peer-reviewed. Therefore it is very important to read any information that appears on the web critically and objectively.

Evaluate all information found:

  1. Authority – who wrote it?
  2. Accuracy – is it well researched? Is it fact or opinion?
  3. Reliability – is it an accredited artist or association?
  4. Validity – is it a credible source?
  5. Bias – is the author affiliated with and organisation? Your own bias?
  6. Timeliness – how current is the information? Is there a need to add or update the information
  7. Illustrations – are photographs, art works, charts, maps etc. used relevant, clear and professional-looking?

Taking notes

There are many methods available for taking notes. Whichever method ensure you:

  • Make your notes clear and legible
  • Make notes comparing your ideas and the ideas of other authors
  • Keep note of page numbers and referencing details so you can refer back to them if needed
  • Compare and contrast the views of other authors
  • Show connections between your topic and the literature written
  • Make note of gaps in research

Example:  Note taking systems: