Critical reviewing

Research Skills required by PhD students A5: Critical reviewing.

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3 March 2010

A5: The ability to critically analyse and evaluate one's findings and those of others

Check this skill

By the time students complete a PhD, they should be able to answer ‘Yes’ to most of these questions.

  • Given a report of some research, can you think of other ways in which the research question might have been addressed?
  • Given a set of evidence, can you think of alternative ways of interpreting it? Given a set of research papers, can you summarise their work in a table, comparing their methods, findings, and distinctions? Given two accounts of research results, can you give reasoned argument as to which account is more likely to apply?
  • Can you specify what further work would be needed to choose between the accounts?
  • If you identify a limitation in someone else's research, can you explain how that limitation might be addressed in future studies?
  • Can you identify assumptions in your own studies and reasoning?
  • Can you discuss objectively weaknesses in your own findings?
  • Can you identify when further work is needed to substantiate your findings?
  • Do you contribute to seminar discussions with constructive criticism and with informed questions?

Evidence of this skill

These are examples of documents you can collect. Each implies a piece or work, which may be a good way for you to develop this skill.

  • The literature review component of your probation assessment.
  • A table critically comparing a set of studies in your area.
  • A published review of research in some aspect of your field.
  • A record of presenting and critically discussing a paper in a reading group, journal club, or equivalent.
  • A record of presenting your own findings and your interpretation/analysis of them, and of defending them in response to questions.
  • A record of raising pertinent questions at research seminars.
  • A written 'gap analysis' of a research paper or group of papers.
  • Examples of data analysis carried out and critically interpreted.

This page is based upon material produced by The Open University’s research school to support doctoral students.

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