Critical Analysis Assignment #3


This assignment requires you to write a Critical Literature Review (CLR). A CLR differs from a typical literature review in that you are not only interested in what the research says about a particular topic, but also how well the research says what it says about the topic.


(Critical Analysis Assignment #2 included in uploaded Documents)

In Critical Analysis Assignment #2, you identified the research question and at least eight references for your chosen topic. These will be the foundation for your CLR.

  • You should have a summary of each article at your fingertips. The abstract does not provide adequate information for judging the quality of the article.
  • You also should use the Quality Rating Protocol (QRP) with each primary research article to identify strengths and weaknesses of the studies and determine your numerical ratings. For secondary articles it is most important to summarize what the authors consider to be the strengths and weaknesses in the studies they review.
  • Neither summaries nor QRPs will be submitted for grading; but the effort you put into these processes will pay off when you write your paper.

Parts of the CLR

The CLR will include three parts:

  1. An outline of the research literature
  2. A critical analysis of the research literature


Length: 2-3 pages

The outline you present will provide the reader with an overview of type of research being reviewed, and the main patterns or themes that exist across the body of articles as a whole. Essentially, it is an outline for a typical literature review. The primary goal of a research review is to establish the groundwork necessary to justify pursuing a research question. It provides the background and context for the research, and alerts the reader to key concepts and theories in the research area. Think of it as telling the reader a story about your topic, highlighting what has come previously in the research literature in logical fashion.

This part of the CLR should be formatted as follows:

I.          Introduction

                        a. Topic: Are Adverse Experiences in Childhood more likely to Predict                                                        Adult Incarceration for Men than for Women?

                        b. Definitions: [key variables or concepts; cited]

                        c. Issue: [Your research question]

                        d. Thesis: [One or two sentences stating your position on the issue, your                                       hypothesized “answer” to the research question. The essence of                                         each main idea below should be incorporated into the thesis.]

II.         Main Idea #1

                        a. Supporting Article 1: [type of study, purpose and key                                                                       findings/arguments]  

                        b. Supporting Article 2: [type of study, purpose and key                                                                       findings/arguments]

                        c. Supporting Article 3: [type of study, purpose and key                                                                       findings/arguments]

                        d. Etc.

III.        Main Idea #2

                        a. Supporting Article 1: [type of study, purpose and key                                                                       findings/arguments]

                        b. Supporting Article 2: [type of study, purpose and key                                                                       findings/arguments]

                        c. Supporting Article 3: [type of study, purpose and key                                                                       findings/arguments]

                        d. Etc.

IV.       Main Idea #3

                        a. Supporting Article 1: [type of study, purpose and key                                                                       findings/arguments]

                        b. Supporting Article 2: [type of study, purpose and key                                                                       findings/arguments]

                        c. Supporting Article 3: [type of study, purpose and key                                                                       findings/arguments]

                        d. Etc.

V.        Conclusion

                        [A 3-5 sentence narrative of your conclusions drawn from the research                              outlined and related to your research question and thesis for your topic                             area.]

NOTE: The number of main ideas, as well as the number of research articles supporting each main idea, will vary. Keep in mind the following:

  • You want to synthesize across articles. Therefore, attempt to use the same article to support more than one main idea. Look for “themes” or commonalities among all of your eight articles—major ideas that are reflected in more than one article. These themes become your main ideas. Therefore, each article will never be the main idea and stand alone.
  • When an article is used as support more than once in your outline you can repeat the purpose statement, or report only that aspect of the study purpose that relates to the main finding. But for the key findings/arguments, you should include ONLY those key findings/arguments from the article that are related to the corresponding main idea.
  • The Supporting Articles in the outline should begin with the citation (IN APA FORMAT), followed by the brief description of the study purpose and key findings/arguments. The description needs to be only 2 – 3 sentences.
    • ExampleNewsom and Schulz (1996) – This article was a quasi-experimental study of older individuals and the mediating role of social support between physical functioning and depression or life satisfaction. They found that fewer friendship contacts, fewer family contacts, less perceived belonging support, and less perceived tangible aid explained the association between impaired physical functioning in older adults and lower life satisfaction and increase depression.
  • Your finished product should provide the reader with a clear understanding of the hypothesized answer to your research question and the evidence supporting the answer. Organization is critical! The flow from introduction to conclusion must be logical.


Length: 2-3 pages

After a brief passage to transition from the outline to the critical analysis section of the paper, provide a summary of the strengths and weaknesses in the body of research articles as a whole (all eight articles), uncovered by your quality review. Point out methodological issues, in particular issues that occur in more than one article (i.e., patterns), and any evidence of significant deficits or strengths. Consider each component of the QRP as you summarize strengths and weaknesses, such as:

  • Consistencies or inconsistencies in conceptualizations of concepts and theories
  • Sampling procedures that could lead to sample bias and the lowering of external validity, or those that strengthen external validity, and sample sizes that might impact power or effect size
  • Strengths and deficiencies in studies around operationalization of dependent variables, validity and reliability of measures, and reliability of scoring procedures
  • Strengths and deficiencies in aspects of the design that threaten internal validity, such as control of variables, assignment of groups, demand characteristics, IV manipulation or IV construct validity, etc.
  • The clarity of results, consistency of results with the hypothesis, explanations for handling missing data or excluding data from the analysis, and use of effect sizes and/or confidence intervals
  • How well authors place the findings of their study in context and giving them meaning, provide alternative hypotheses (explanations), address any lack of significance, discuss the limitations of the studies, and the generalizations the researchers make
  • Strengths and deficiencies in the writing of articles, highlighting any articles of particularly high or low quality in this area
  • Any egregious flaws (e.g., ethics) from the Other component of your QRPs

Separate your discussion of strengths and weaknesses by using headings. Also, keep in mind that you are NOT reporting your critique for each individual article, which would read as a list; instead, you must address the body of research as a whole, identifying patterns across all articles. However, you must provide specific supporting examples from the research articles that will clarify the strengths and weaknesses you identify. It is acceptable when critiquing an article to include direct quotes.

You may wish to provide summary descriptions to convey important context information that was not included in your outline in Part A. For example, before discussing samples and sampling, you might describe common participant characteristics across articles, and use of probability vs. non-probability sampling techniques. Or, you might wish to describe the different ways in which data was collected (e.g., “three studies used questionnaires, five used memory performance tasks….”). Be sure to clearly articulate whether any components stand out from the other components as being overly weak or strong. Also, make note of any studies that are of critical value to the field, providing a unique contribution.


Length: 1.5-2 pages

Concluding Remarks

This part of your paper should be a discussion of the current evidentiary state of the research based on your review of the eight articles. It should clearly convey two conclusions:

  1. How well the research answers your research question in terms of the overall research findings; and
  2. How well the research answers your research question in terms of the strength of the research evidence.

Be sure to provide supporting evidence from your research articles to bolster your arguments. You may wish to look at your total numerical ratings for your quality reviews of each article. In terms of percentages, what percent of the articles reviewed are of high quality overall (Strong), what percent are of low quality overall (Weak), and what percent are of average quality (Moderate)? This gives you some information about the overall strength of the evidence you reviewed. You will need to balance the information from primary studies (which can be rated quantitatively with the QRP) and the information you glean from the secondary research articles. Overall, this discussion should demonstrate insight into the relationship between your research question and the field of psychology at large.

Future Research

Discuss the implications for future research drawn from your concluding remarks. Where should this area of research go next? Also, if you were to design the next research study to answer your research question, what would it look like? Provide a brief proposal as an example. Be very specific. It should be clear that you are attending to the best practices for quality research.


Your paper should be approximately 6 to 8 pages in length, and adhere to all APA formatting requirements, with the exception that you do not need an abstract. Be sure to use proper headings to delineate the different sections and subsections. Include the following components in the order specified:

  • Title Page—a title reflecting your topic
  • Introduction—one paragraph providing a brief overview of the paper
  • Part A—the outline of the research articles using proper outline format
  • Part B—the critical analysis of the research articles; two subsections, strengths and weaknesses
  • Part C—the concluding remarks and future directions discussion; two subsections, concluding remarks and future research directions
  • Conclusion—one paragraph closing the loop from the introduction; providing a logical conclusion to the paper
  • References (cited in APA format)
  • 6-8 Pages in Length