Critiquing Research Articles: A Personal Toolkit

Toolkit for Article Critique

Credibility

  1. Was the article written by a scholar, who already has a record in academic journals?
  2. Was the article published in a scholarly journal or by a respectful academic publishing agency?
  3. Was the article published five years ago at most?
  4. Is the article intended for scholars, students, experts, etc. (not for the general audience)?
  5. Does the author reference a range of scholarly articles and trustworthy sources in their research? (Trochim, 2006)

Content

Introduction

  1. Has the background for the study been provided?
  2. Does the author outline the key research variables (both dependent and independent ones)?
  3. Have the research questions been listed?
  4. Does the author include hypotheses in the study?
  5. Have the key constructs been identified in the study?

Theory

  1. Does the author provide a solid theoretical framework for their study?
  2. Does the theoretical framework choose to allow for exploring the issue in question in depth?
  3. Are other theoretical approaches towards the issue in question mentioned in the study?

Literature review

  1. Are the sources used in the study up to date?
  2. Are the sources relevant to the topic of the research?
  3. Do the sources cover all the issues raised in the research?
  4. Does the literature review incorporate various opinions on the subject matter?
  5. Does the literature review incorporate the description of the key research constructs?
  6. Does the literature review feature enough scholarly sources?

Analysis

  1. Does the author of the research provide a coherent analysis of the key factors?
  2. Are the relationships between every variable introduced in the research explored?
  3. Does the study attempt at defining the veracity of the hypotheses listed in the introduction section?
  4. Is the analysis aimed at answering the key research questions?

Conclusions

  1. Are the research questions answered in a detailed and careful manner?
  2. Have the research hypotheses been proven?
  3. Are the results of the study summarized in a clear and concise manner?
  4. Are the implications for the further research provided?
  5. Does the author list key recommendations for addressing the topic in question further?

Design

  1. Is the choice of the research design based on the type of the study?
  2. Does the research design include the essential parts of the research?
  3. Does the research design conflict with any of the research ethical principles?
  4. Have the research goals been spelled out in a detailed and clear manner?
  5. Does the choice of the sources comply with the goals of the research fully? (Creswell, 2013)

Method

  1. Does the methodology of the study align with its design?
  2. Are the methods chosen for the research predetermined by their specifics?
  3. Have proper measurement tools been introduced in the research?
  4. Are the weaknesses of the research method chosen taken into account?

Scope

  1. Does the research embrace the phenomenon in question fully?
  2. Does the study include the required amount of participants?
  3. Are enough samples provided for the author of the study to come up with compelling results?
  4. Can the results of the research be applied to solve similar problems?
  5. Are the research results globally significant?
  6. Do the study results provide new information that can be used for scholarly purposes?

Limitations

  1. Does the author acknowledge the existing limitations?
  2. Does the author list the limitations of the study in a detailed manner?
  3. Does the author mention the nature of the limitations? (McDowell, 2013)

Use of the Toolkit

Analysis of article 1

Deshpande, R. (2012). A healthy way to handle workplace stress is through yoga, meditation, and soothing humor. International Journal of Environmental Sciences, 2(4), 2143–2154.

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Despite the fact that Deshpande does not have a record of writing any scholarly articles before 2012, one must give him credit for issuing several articles in the specified year. In addition, the article was published in an academic journal, which makes it rather trustworthy. As far as the audience is concerned, the article is clearly intended for both scholars and the people having workplace stress, which brings its weight down a few notches. The fact that the author references thirty-two scholarly sources, however, and quite recent ones at that, elevates the article, making it more trustworthy. Therefore, it can be assumed that his work is credible enough.

Deshpande (2012) provides a substantial background for the concept of stress as a phenomenon, the key factors inducing stress in general and workplace stress in particular, etc. Through Deshpande does not spell out the key research variables, the latter is quite easy to nail down, stress factors being the independent one and the stress rates within the specified workplace environment being the dependent one.

Through Deshpande does not name his supposition to be proven in the course of the study the research hypothesis, the latter is clearly incorporated into the introduction in the last passage: “Hence we can say that stress is a silent killer and prolonged exposure to stress may exert a harmful effect on physical, psychological and behavioral well being of an individual” (Deshpande, 2012, p. 2144). In the course of the study, Deshpande makes endeavors to prove the above-mentioned statement, which means that the latter is the key research hypothesis. One must also give Deshpande credit for outlining the key constructs related to the study, i.e., stress, workplace environment, productivity, motivation, etc. (Deshpande, 2012).

The theoretical framework, however, can be viewed as the weak link in the chain of Deshpande’s efforts. “Yogic philosophy and psychological theory” (Deshpande, 2012, p. 2148), while offering an admittedly interesting way of looking at the subject matter, are not explored fully. Therefore, an in-depth analysis of the subject matter does not seem possible.

The review of literature, though rather scarce, incorporates recent sources and covers the key issues that are featured in the research. Moreover, a variety of opinions on the nature of workplace stress are provided. Likewise, the analysis of the information is thorough and all-embracing. The conclusions serve to prove the research hypothesis, as yoga and meditation are proven to be the most efficient methods for developing a coping mechanism for stress in the workplace. The methods chosen by the author can be deemed as rather efficient, as general research suits the purpose of examining the effects of stress factors on employees perfectly and complies with the requirements of a qualitative study. One might argue that the lack of limitations analysis is a minor flaw, as the study, being general research, has obviously overlooked some of the minor stress-inducing factors. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that Deshpande did a perfect job defining the key stress factors and carrying out a vast literature analysis.

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Analysis of article 2

Taylor, W. C., King, K. E., Shegog, R., Paxton, R. J., Evans-Hundall, G. L., Rempel, D. M., … & Yancey, A. K. (2012). Booster breaks in the workplace: Participants’ perspectives on health-promoting work breaks. Health Education Research, 28(3), 415–425.

Another research exploring the issue of stress in the workplace, the article was written by Taylor et al. (2012) sheds some light on the nature of workplace stress and allows for exploring the problem with a bit more insight. The research can be considered quite credible, as the sources used by the author are up to date and come from reputable databases. Taylor et al. (2012) do not define a specific research question or, for that matter, any research hypothesis; however, they do provide an assumption that physical activity breaks increase the productivity of employees and reduce workplace stress at some point.

As far as the research design is concerned, the authors of the study mention that the paper in question was designed in accordance with the key principles of conducting a qualitative study. To be more specific, survey-based research was conducted in order to trace the efficacy of booster breaks in reducing stress rates in the workplace. The idea of using a survey fits the qualitative design perfectly, as it helps establish the relationship between the key independent and dependent variables and explores the reasons underpinning the significance of booster breaks. The Six Months and One

Year Survey was reported as the basic measurement tool (Taylor et al., 2012, p. 423). The authors never mention the disadvantages of the specified method, though. It would be desirable that the researchers should identify the key limitations that the method in question triggers (i.e., a restricted amount of participants and, therefore, the risks of using the research results as general instructions on stress reduction). The methods used for the study, therefore, are fully justified and can be considered an impeccable choice for the purposes of the given research.

The literature review embraces the key theories and lists the major facts that are required for determining the veracity of the hypothesis in question. As far as the analysis is concerned, the relationships between the key variables (i.e., exercises, active breaks, and workplace stress) are established throughout the analysis. The research results are concise and very clear, with a solid poof for the research hypothesis.

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The scope of the research, though restricted by the language that the surveys were issued in (Taylor et al. preferred to limit the number of participants to the English-speaking ones), is still impressive. However, herein some of the obvious problems with the study lie – with no specific limitations outside the language preferences, no exclusion and inclusion criteria could be set.

Much to the authors’ credit, some of the limitations of the study have been outlined briefly. For instance, the scarce database and insights from actual participants (Taylor et al., 2012) were listed among the key limitations. Nevertheless, the article in question could have been designed in a slightly better way, with the scope of the research being given the limits that it needed to provide more thought-provoking results.

Reference

Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approach. SAGE: Thousand Oaks, CA.

Deshpande, R. (2012). A healthy way to handle workplace stress is through yoga, meditation, and soothing humor. International Journal of Environmental Sciences, 2(4), 2143–2154.

McDowell, B. (2013). Historical research: a guide for writers of dissertations, theses, articles, and books. New York, NY: Routledge.

Taylor, W. C., King, K. E., Shegog, R., Paxton, R. J., Evans-Hundall, G. L., Rempel, D. M., … & Yancey, A. K. (2012). Booster breaks in the workplace: Participants’ perspectives on health-promoting work breaks. Health Education Research, 28(3), 415–425.

Trochim, W. (2006). Introduction to validity. The Research Methods Knowledge Base. Web.

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