At some point in your college career, you may be asked to respond to a critical, peer-reviewed article. Your response will need to be critical as well, looking for and pointing out flaws or strong areas in the author's argument and constructing an alternative hypothesis that may be better suited to the problem. Doing this effectively requires concentrated preparation.
Print off or copy the article
Print off or copy the article you will review and read it through one time.
Read the article through a second time
Read the article through a second time, making sure you've grasped the author's points and intentions and making notations in the margins that might help you in the writing process.
Highlight all of the arguments or quotations that you plan to focus on in your paper. This will save you the time and effort of having to search through irrelevant information during the writing process.
Formulate your argument
Formulate your argument. On what points do you agree with the author? On what points do you disagree? What is lacking or flawed in the argument?
Research peer-reviewed journals for other critiques of the same topic, as well as any direct responses to your author. Internet databases are great for this, as are educational library databases and card systems. Be sure and take notes and copy any pages with particularly important information or potential quotations. Be sure to document your sources thoroughly.
Take your notes
Take your notes and highlighted article and construct an outline for your essay. The outline can be rough, even bare-boned, but it should guide you through your argument with references both to your author and the outside sources from Step 5 of Section 1. Make notes of likely places for quotation insertions.
Draft your essay
Draft your essay. Use your outline as a guide, but be sure to have your references handy as well as your marked-up copy of the article. You should have a thesis, full argumentation and conclusion.
Review your draft
Review your draft and your notes and revise any places that seem loose in their arguments or support. Check for grammatical and syntactical errors as well.
Write a works-cited page
Write a works-cited page (or bibliography, depending on your professor's style preferences). Include any sources that you cited directly or indirectly. If you are asked to include a full bibliography, include every source that you referenced while researching for your essay.
Check with your professor for style guidelines.
Don't be afraid to go to your professor to ask questions about your essay. If you feel nervous about it after it's been drafted, make an appointment to go over your work with your professor or a teaching assistant.
If you have trouble deciding on a specific argument in Section 1, try reversing Steps 4 and 5. Research can sometimes help you find your own argument, but be careful -- don't plagiarize someone else's thesis or ideas.
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