How to Critique a Dissertation

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Writing a dissertation critique sharpens your analytical skills and prepares you to write your own dissertation. Reading and critiquing dissertations provides information and resources that may be highly valuable in your own research and it also helps to demystify the dissertation writing process. Writing a critique requires careful attention to all the elements that make up the dissertation process--the form as well as the content. Dissertations obviously differ in shape, size and quality, but they share a general structure as well.

1 Scrutinize the Introduction

Scrutinize the Introduction. The Introduction introduces a specific problem that the dissertation addresses. The presentation should convince the reader that the problem is important and deserves the research and analysis that forms the substance of the dissertation. Consider whether the problem is presented in a clear and persuasive manner. Is there a strong thesis statement?

2 Analyze the literature review

Analyze the literature review. The second part of a dissertation critique concentrates on the quality and quantity of the literature researched and relied upon in writing the dissertation. Is the literature comprehensive? Evaluate the author's reasons for choosing the specific literature for the dissertation. For example, is the literature chosen for logical and analytical reasons that support arguments of the dissertation or does the literature seem to be arbitrary filler material? Think about additional works that the author neglected or failed to include.

3 Evaluate the methodology

Evaluate the methodology used in the dissertation. The methodology depends upon the particular discipline. The methodology and research design for a scientific dissertation differs in most cases from the methodology and research design for a dissertation in theology or literary criticism. Each discipline has specific criteria that sets the standard for academic research. In the case of scientific research, this involves forming a hypothesis, developing an experiment to test the hypothesis, a system of collecting data and so forth. A dissertation in theology or literary criticism usually relies on some type of hermeneutic, rather than empirical, methodology. Hermeneutics is concerned with the interpretation of texts and the construction of meaning.

4 Write a summary

Write a summary of your conclusions and overall evaluation of the dissertation. Make a list of the dissertation's strengths and weaknesses. Does the dissertation answer the problem that it sets up in the introduction? Why or why not? Does the dissertation make a significant contribution to the literature?

Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.