How to Review a Research Paper

Video description: How to Review a Research Paper

In this article, we will talk about reviewing a research paper. There are certain aspects of our search paper that you expect to see in the manuscript. Let’s go over what those are so that if you’re reviewing a research paper, you know exactly what to look for.

An introduction problem statement

First of all, the paper should begin with some introduction problem statement that sets the tone significance of the problem, why it’s even important to study. Our research paper must have a review of the literature section. Professors are very disappointed when a student a student submit work with absolutely no review of the literature.

The review of the literature section provides the reader with a synopsis:

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  • of what is known about the topic
  • what is not known about the topic
  • how this research fills the gap in the literature.

When you’re looking at the review of the literature, consider the following aspects.

  1. It should be adequate.
  2. It should be up-to-date.
  3. It should be relevant.
  4. It really should help the reader know how this research that’s being reported fits into the body of literature

Next in the paper after the review of the literature, there should be the purpose, the aims, and the hypothesis for the study. They should flow from that literature search. They can be stated as hypotheses with a relationship in a direction or as a null hypothesis. They could be stated simply as review questions or as research aims or research questions.

Methods section

Next is the methods section, and here we want to have first to be assured that the research was approved by an institutional review board. No research paper can be published for which IRB approval has not been obtained. Sometimes teachers have to return and reject research papers because the researcher never obtained the proper approval through their university or their institution.

The purpose of that approval is for the protection of the human rights of the subjects. Do not even bother to submit a research paper if you cannot provide a statement in the paper that you had the institutional review board approval for your research.

Next, in the methods section, you want the author to describe their sample:

  1. What was the inclusion criteria?
  2. What was the exclusion criteria?
  3. How was the sample obtained?

As a reviewer, you need to make sure that the sampling method is appropriate for the research question.

  1. Is the sample size adequate?
  2. Does it reflect the appropriate population?

Next, you critique the research design:

  1. Is the design the appropriate design to answer the research question?
  2. Is this a pilot study?
  3. Is this a regular research study that should be clarified right from the start?

In the design, the author should tell you about the variables that are being studied, that independent and dependent variables and any confounding variables. All of this should be laid out clearly in the methods section.

Also, data collection procedures should be clear. And if a reader would want to replicate the study, the collection process should be so clear that they would be able to replicate if needed.

Look at the instrument section

The next step in the review of the research article is to look at the instrument section of the paper: “Are the instruments described adequately?”

The author should tell the reader:

  • the purpose of the instrument;
  • the content;
  • the type of instrument;
  • information should be provided about the reliability and validity of the instrument.

It’s important as a reviewer when you critique the paper that you assure that the instruments are appropriate to measure the variables in the research questions. The author needs to describe how clearly the instrument was administered to the subjects:

  1. Was it a survey?
  2. Was it an interview?
  3. Exactly what were the procedures done to administer the instrument to the subjects?

Data Analysis

In this section, you want to be sure that the appropriate statistical tests were used based on the level of measures and based on the variables that were being studied. The author should have set a level of significance for their study. Each table and figure that they provide in the paper should be clearly labeled, easy to follow, correct and accurate.

You want to be sure that the researcher and author have not violated any of the assumptions for the statistical tests that they used.

Finally, the paper should conclude with a discussion section. Here is where most of the problems arrive. For example, the researcher told us that they had an adequate sample size, they were using instruments that were reliable and valid, but the results did not support the hypothesis. The researchers predicted that there would be a significant relationship between variables but, in reality, the results show there was no significant relationship at all.

The mistake is making the discussion section they pretend they found what they wanted to find. They write and say: “Well if my sample had been bigger, I would have found what I wanted to find. If my instruments had been better, I really would have found that significant relationship. You can’t do that in the discussion section. You have to discuss what you found. Why didn’t you find a significant relationship?

You must provide the reader with some explanation for your true findings, not an explanation for the findings you wished you had that you don’t have at all. So, the major reason for rejection of research papers is when the discussion section does not flow from the results and doesn’t match the results.

Also, in the conclusion section of the paper, there should be a part that describes the limitations of the study and a part that describes areas for future research.