Written Critiques of Assigned Reading


To give you the ability to extract deep understanding from original research papers. To teach you how to evaluate what you read.


You should expect to read for four or five hours each week and to write and think for an additional two hours to produce a critique for one of the assigned papers for the week. Some of these papers have great ideas, but are hard to understand. Some seem obvious in retrospect. Understanding how research progresses shows you how to stand on the shoulders of giants. We will emphasize the historical context in which the work was done to help us understand it.


A critique is due at the beginning of the class in which the critiqued paper is presented. You may choose which of the two assigned papers to critique. No late critiques will be accepted. If you are giving a presentation that week, you are not responsible for a critique.

You will write one to two pages that reflect on what you learned and thought about the paper. The critique includes a short summary, but most of it will contain your original thoughts about the paper and what you learned.

The following format is mandatory:

Note: the strengths, weaknesses, and additional discussion should not just summarize what the paper did. They should present your own thoughts after having digested the material.

Sample (courtesy of Kathryn McKinley)

Below is an example and more explanation about the structure of a critique and the required format. Please read it. I would prefer that you use the LaTeX template below, but if you do not you are still required to follow the formatting guidelines (12 point font, single spaced).


I shall evaluate critiques on a ten-point scale. You may earn one bonus point per critique. Most critiques will receive 10 points.

Late Policy

Critiques are due at 11:59pm the night before the class in which the critiqued paper is presented. No late critiques shall be accepted, except in the case of illness or other reasonable circumstance.


As a scientist, you are expected to maintain the highest ethical standards, do your own work, report on it accurately, and acknowledge any assistance.

Feel free to discuss lectures, reading, and assignments with me and other members of the class. You may discuss ideas. You may not copy text from your peers or other sources. Turning in any work that is not original may be reported to the university and you may even fail the course.

This guide for critiques comes courtesy of Antony Hosking