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7.1: Choosing a Source

Skills to Develop

  • Identify and apply the criteria for finding an academic journal article to critique
  • Identify key terminology on your topic to guide your article search

In the next chapter, you will learn more about the details of what makes a critique and how to write one. For a description of the critique requirements, refer to the Assessment Descriptions as part of the course overview in your syllabus.

How Choosing a Source for a Critique is Different

Most essays focus on a topic–one you have narrowed down–and require a number of sources to back up the points or ideas. A critique, on the other hand, focuses on onesource of information. Soon you will learn more about critiquing, but at this stage, it is important to know this is the key difference between a critique and a research paper because it will have an impact your choice of base and supplemental sources. However, you first need to choose a topic that you will then narrow in your search for an appropriate academic article to critique. Simply stated, then, a critique is typically a discussion centred around one primary source. However, just as with any other essay, you may need to bring in supplemental sources to support the ideas you present in your discussion. While your next assignment stems around the one source you choose, you will need to look for other sources on the same topic in case you need them for background or supporting information or to even present opposing points of view.

For the critique you are required to write for your next assignment, the original source you will base your critical response on needs to meet the criteria outlined in Table 7.1: Source Selection Criteria.

Table 7.1 - Source Selection Criteria
It should: It should NOT:
  • Be on a topic interesting to you. It is better if it is something you react to strongly (positively or negatively) because it is easier to generate ideas of what to critique when you have more of an emotional response.
  • Be on a topic on which you have no opinion or background information.
  • Be from an academic source/journal–even though you may use an academic database to find your article, you may come across non-academic sources.
  • Be from a website because this makes it difficult for citations and referencing.
  • Be from a newspaper (print or online) because these are often biased.
  • Contain language that is relatively straightforward–some challenging vocabulary would be all right because you can critique this.
  • Have a lot of challenging vocabulary forcing you to constantly refer to a dictionary–you may get bogged down in doing that and miss the main points the author is presenting.
  • Be 5 to 10 pages in length, giving you enough content to choose a few points to discuss in depth.
  • Be closer to 3 or as high as 20 pages–this will either provide you with too little content, and you will be stuck for ideas, or it will give you too much and you will only cover the points superficially.

Exercise 7.1

Take a few minutes to brainstorm ideas on a topic you find interesting. This may be the same one you used for your expository essay, or it may be another one entirely. Try to come up with preliminary ideas and different key words or specific areas within that topic. Once you have brainstormed, write the key words below for easy reference. You will later use these key words when you are conducting your article search.

Key words:

Table 7.1 gives you an idea of the technical criteria you need to meet when choosing a source for your next assignment. The next section will help you ensure you find a credible source, and one that meets the requirement to use an appropriate academic source. 

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