Students typically perceive essays at the easiest assignment type they have to face throughout their academic career. Unlike common and reflective essays, critical appraisal essays are the trickiest ones as they require developing elaborated critique on a single article, book or phenomenon. Hence, you are supposed to go far beyond presenting a few superficial criticisms, which is impossible without examining other literature sources and understanding the subject as a whole. We are glad to share 10 important truths about writing a critical appraisal essay we have figured out.
1. Focus on one source, read many…
Even though a critical appraisal essay is limited to the analysis of your target article or book, you have to support critique with a bunch of other credible sources. Don’t present ungrounded assumptions and a citation-free manner of writing. If you identify some aspect as a limitation, who has encouraged this idea in your mind? What other scholars shared similar arguments before? The reference list of a critical appraisal essay should be as long as the reference list of a common essay.
2. Don’t read in fragments
It is ultimately important to read a full version of your core article or book. Even if you understand the content in general, important details will slip away from your attention if you decide to read only the abstract and conclusions. A wise observation is that knowing only a part is more dangerous that knowing nothing.
3. Make notes while reading
Making notes is a valuable habit for any type of academic assignments. Print a physical version of your main article and feel free to use highlighters, sticky notes, and margins for comments. Any system of cloud notes will be fine for further organisation of your critical remarks and observations (e.g. Evernote, Bear, or iCloud notes).
4. Add a summary section after the introduction
Everyone knows that a decent essay should start with an introduction, but around 70% of students forget to include a summary section after it. In most cases, your reader will be unaware of the content of the target source, and it will be reasonable to comment on the key ideas, methodologies, and conclusions in the beginning.
5. Evaluate the source against its aim
The author you are trying to appraise definitely had an objective, which they shared with their readers. Your task is to recognise this objective and give arguments regarding how well it was achieved. It’s an absurd situation when students attempt to evaluate the core source against the aims it has never established or claimed to achieve.
6. Express your opinion
The previous point doesn’t mean that you can’t have your own expectations about the article or book. Critical appraisal essays without a personal opinion look dull and synthetic. Therefore, don’t be afraid of sharing your impressions. It is absolutely fine if they are negative, but you need to present a grounded opinion.
7. What could be done differently by the author?
Answering this question, you will show that you are ready not only to criticise but also to come up with alternative solutions. Your suggestions should be specific, reasonable and realistic. Imagine that the author of your reviewed article will read them, are they strong enough to start a scholarly debate?
8. Go beyond in conclusions
In good appraisal essays, writing a concluding section is more than just summarising the key points. You should effectively answer the question ‘what is going to happen next’? Develop implications for all those who might be interested in the core literature source and your review. Are you motivated to contribute to this area in the future?
9. Estimate your bias
Everyone is biased including yourself! High-quality critical appraisal essays seek to develop an objective and sound line of argument. Have you managed to remain neutral while completing your essay? If a certain degree of bias was involved, don’t be afraid of admitting it honestly – this will make the essay even more critical.
10. Find a second pair of eyes
You may sound convincing and reasonable to yourself, but another person (better without specialised knowledge in this area) can fail to understand your arguments. Ask someone to read your final draft before the submission and make sure to leave a margin for minor corrections.
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