ETAP 777: Methods of Qualitative Research in Education (Fall, 2004)

Guidelines for Critical Review Assignment











Submission Guidelines



For this assignment you will select an article that reports on a qualitative study and write a review of that article. You will also lead an informal roundtable discussion in class in which you will discuss the article and your review of it. The primary purpose of this assignment is to help you develop a sophisticated understanding of qualitative research so that you can read published research reports with a critical and informed eye.


This assignment has three main parts:

(1) selecting an appropriate article for review;

(2) writing a review according to the guidelines described below;

(3) leading a roundtable discussion of the study you reviewed.

Each of these requirements is discussed in detail on this page.

A sign-up sheet will be distributed during the second week of the semester.

Selecting an Appropriate Article. The article you select for this assignment should be related to the research question or problem that you are exploring in this course. Ideally, this same article will be part of the literature review you write for your final project in the course. In addition, the article you select should be an example of qualitative research that meets the following specifications:

  • It should be published in an established journal (or book) in your area of educational inquiry.
  • It should be current--published within the past 5-10 years. (However, important studies that were published more than ten years ago are acceptable.)
  • It should be relevant to the question or problem you are exploring for your final project.

In selecting your article, please be sure it is a report of a qualitative study and not a philosophical or theoretical discussion of an issue related to your chosen topic or to qualitative research in general. That means that the article you select for this assignment should describe a qualitative study and should include, in some form, a discussion of the research problem or question and the methods of data collection and analysis. Obviously, in order to meet these specifications, you should become familiar with some of the major journals and with some of the most important studies and researchers in the area you are exploring.

Writing the Review. Your review of your selected article should be a concise, thoughtful discussion of the main features of the study described in the article and of important questions that the study might raise for qualitative researchers. Your review should have four main parts:

  1. A brief overview of the study in which you succinctly describe the study and its relationship to important issues, trends, or questions in the area of educational research you are exploring.

  2. A description of the methodology of the study, including the research question; the subjects, population, setting, or activity being studied and how they were selected; the methods of data collection and analysis; and the results. This section should also include discussion of the major assumptions or theoretical perspective(s) informing the study design.

  3. An evaluation of the study in which you discuss whether the design of the study adequately addresses the problem or question being addressed by the researcher(s) and in which you identify aspects of the study that are especially effective or problematic. Your evaluation should be guided by the following questions:

    • Does the author adequately establish the significance of the research question(s)?
    • Are the methods of data collection and analysis appropriate to the research question(s)?
    • Are the study's conclusions reasonable, given the methods of data collection and analysis?
    • Are there any significant methodological weaknesses in the study?
    • Do you see any ethical concerns with this study?

  4. A discussion of implications of what you learned from this study regarding qualitative research methodology and educational research in general.

Keep in mind that the primary goal of your review is not to judge whether the study was good or bad but to examine it carefully in order to understand better the complexities of educational research.

Leading the Roundtable Discussion. On the assigned day, you will lead a roundtable discussion involving approximately four classmates in which you discuss the article you have selected for your review. The purpose of this discussion is to raise significant questions about your specific article and about qualitative research in general. In other words, you are not simply presenting your review; rather, you are posing questions you encountered in reviewing your article for your classmates to consider and discuss. You should expect the roundtable discussions to take approximately 45-60 minutes.

Additional Requirements.

  1. Please note that you will have to submit a clean, readable copy of your selected article to the instructor two weeks in advance of the due date.

  2. In addition, please bring four copies of the article you are reviewing to class one week prior to the due date. These copies will be distributed to classmates who have signed up for your roundtable discussion.

  3. Also, you must post your review to the course WebCT discussion board one day prior to your class presentation.

  4. A final version of your review is due by Friday of the week you lead your roundtable discussion. (This will allow for any revisions you wish to make to your review on the basis of the discussion.)

Submission Guidelines

Your written review should be approximately 1000-1200 words. Your writing need not be strictly technical or overly formal, but keep in mind that this is an academic assignment that should follow the general conventions of academic writing. Moreover, your writing should be clear, accurate, and relatively error-free.

Please submit your review as a Microsoft Word file. Generally, you should expect to submit your assignment via email.


This assignment is worth a total of twenty points.

Twenty points will be earned for a critical review that satisfactorily meets the guidelines for the assignment as described above. That is, your review should

  • include the main components describe above
  • accurately and succinctly summarize the study you have selected for the assignment
  • evaluate the study according to the questions listed above
  • be characterized by clear, readable prose.

In addition, you must submit copies of your article on the scheduled days, as described above; the assignment will not be considered complete (and no points will be earned) if you do not lead your roundtable on the scheduled day.

A Final Note. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about this assignment. Don't hesitate to contact me if you are not sure about the article you have selected (or the journal it is taken from), or if you want to discuss other aspects of the assignment, including the writing of the review and the class presentation.