Critical Review Guide for Historical
Review Guide is a lean and mean review guide or abstract.
It is designed to force you to distill the essentials of a book or journal
article and state them economically and precisely in direct, simple prose.
A critical review assesses the purpose, thesis, main
points of argument, and evidence/explanation to make the main points clear.
- The purpose
and thesis are different, and you must understand the difference and
be able to articulate both with precision and clarity. The purpose
defines the subject, issue, or topic that the writer is investigating
and his reasons or agenda for doing so. Start your “purpose”
sentence simply and directly as follows: "The author’s purpose is to investigate/examine/
explore ___________ in order to highlight/draw attention to/ revise previous
interpretations of ___________."
- The thesis
states the author’s interpretation of, or conclusions about, the topic
of study." The “thesis” sentence should read as follows: "The
thesis argues that _______," or "the author argues that ________."
Make sure that you understand the difference between an author’s purpose
and thesis and that you articulate the two clearly on your CRG.
- The main
points indicate the coverage of those topics that the author emphasizes
to demonstrate his/her thesis, or argument, and each should be stated in
a simple sentence. The main points, or issues, in a book-length study
generally coincide with the chapter topics, while the subjections of a
journal article lay out the main points of a scholarly article. The
or evidence, refer to the information and explanations that the author
provides to make his/her main points clear. List the main details/evidence
under the appropriate main point.
- Your assessment of the author’s purpose and thesis should indicate specifically
if the author has convinced you or satisfied you with his/her coverage
of the topic and the arguments presented to prove the thesis. The
gives you the opportunity for editorial comment. You may want
to raise questions about the author’s coverage or omission of certain issues,
main points, and evidence. You may want to compare his/her treatment
to similar works. But whatever you do, you must be fair and thorough,
and, in general, judge the author in terms of his/her own purpose and thesis.
You also so should evaluate the organization, clarity of argument, and
clarity of prose.
finished written review should:
- State the purpose of the work in one sentence.
- State the thesis of the work in one sentence.
- Identify each of the main issues or points of argument (or claims) that
the author uses to achieve his/her purpose and demonstrate his/her thesis.
- Identify the specific details and explanations that are used to illustrate
the main points? List the details under the appropriate main point.
Each new point should begin with a new paragraph and draw on direct examples
from the text:
Point 1: "The author(s) shows/states/demonstrates the
the point by coverage/details/evidence. . . ."
Point 2: (etc.)
- Conclude with a summation and your personal assessment of the
author's success--give your editorial opinion on the work as it does/does
not fulfill the author's purpose and support the author's thesis.
Maintained by Jana Russ.
This page last updated, Oct. 2002. © 2000 by The University
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