105 Questions to Ask When Reviewing a Research Article

Poring over the pages of a research article can feel like navigating a labyrinth. You’re in pursuit of the truth, but the path is winding, and each choice of direction is pivotal. As a critic, a peer reviewer, or simply an inquisitive reader, you understand the potential impact that a well-conducted study can have on the world.

Unlocking that potential begins with a meticulously critical review guided by questions—questions that cut through the data like a surgeon’s scalpel, revealing the heart of the study’s validity and value.

Let’s prime your inquisitive mind with essential inquiries to illuminate the strengths and shortcomings of any research article.

Understanding the Research Foundation

  1. What is the primary research question the article is addressing?
  2. Is the literature review relevant and comprehensive?
  3. How does this study contribute to the existing body of knowledge?
  4. Does the research address a significant problem in the field?
  5. Are the research objectives clearly stated?
  6. How well does the study formulate its hypotheses or research questions?
  7. Are the theoretical framework and background context well articulated?
  8. Does the article sufficiently justify the relevance of the research?
  9. Are there any apparent biases in the way the research question is framed?
  10. How does the research build upon or challenge existing theories?
  11. Is there a clear connection between the research question and the methodology?
  12. Does the article clearly state its aims and scope?
  13. Are any assumptions made in the research explicitly stated?
  14. Is the importance of the research question evident to non-specialists?
  15. Are there areas within the research foundation that could benefit from further clarification?

Assessing the Research Methods

  1. Are the methods appropriate for the research question?
  2. Is the study design clearly explained and appropriate?
  3. Have the instruments used for data collection been adequately described?
  4. Are the methods of data analysis suitable for answering the research question?
  5. Were any controls used to prevent bias, and are they effective?
  6. Is there a clear explanation of how participants or samples were selected?
  7. Does the study acknowledge and account for any limitations in the methodology?
  8. Are procedures described in enough detail to replicate the study?
  9. Is the choice of statistical tests clearly justified?
  10. Were all methods ethically sound?
  11. Does the author explain the steps taken to ensure data reliability and validity?
  12. Have the methods been presented transparently?
  13. Does the article discuss the generalizability of the methods to other contexts?
  14. Are there any potential confounding variables, and how are they addressed?
  15. Is the sampling method adequately justified and explained?

Analyzing the Results

  1. Are the results presented in a clear and organized way?
  2. Do tables and figures effectively communicate the findings?
  3. Are all claimed results supported by the data?
  4. Does the study appropriately discuss any unexpected or unusual findings?
  5. Are the results contextually interpreted with sufficient caution?
  6. Is there evidence of data saturation in qualitative studies?
  7. Does the author distinguish between correlation and causation where applicable?
  8. Are percentages and numerical results given with appropriate precision?
  9. Have the results been discussed in relation to the research question?
  10. Are any findings that do not support the hypotheses adequately acknowledged and discussed?
  11. Is the variability in the data acknowledged and explained?
  12. Has the study reported the effect sizes where relevant?
  13. Are the results consistent with the results from similar studies?
  14. Does the author avoid overgeneralizing the findings?
  15. Are all the results derived from the methodology described, or are there unaccounted-for results?

Evaluating the Discussion and Conclusions

  1. Do the discussion and conclusions logically follow from the results?
  2. Are the implications of the results clearly spelled out?
  3. Does the discussion acknowledge the study’s limitations?
  4. How well does the article relate the findings to the broader context of the field?
  5. Are all findings integrated into the conclusion, including those that don’t fully support the hypotheses?
  6. Are the conclusions well-reasoned and supported by evidence?
  7. Does the discussion consider alternative explanations for the findings?
  8. Are recommendations for future research made?
  9. Does the author overstate the significance of the results?
  10. Has the study’s contribution to new knowledge been articulated well?
  11. Do the conclusions address the aims stated at the beginning of the paper?
  12. Is there evidence of reflexivity in acknowledging the researcher’s role?
  13. Are conclusions kept within the bounds of the research design and data?
  14. How does the research advance the field or influence practice?
  15. Is there a call to action or practical application identified in the conclusions?

Considering the Practical Implications

  1. Are the practical implications of the research clearly outlined?
  2. How does the research address real-world issues?
  3. Are recommendations for practitioners or policymakers discussed?
  4. Is the impact on society or the environment considered?
  5. Is there potential for the research to influence public policy or regulations?
  6. How might the results be applied in the field?
  7. Does the study provide insights that could lead to technological innovations?
  8. Are ethical considerations in applying the research findings addressed?
  9. Is there a clear audience or beneficiary of the research implications?
  10. How can the findings be used to inform future research or professional practice?
  11. Does the research suggest new areas for practical experimentation or implementation?
  12. Are the financial or economic implications of the research evaluated?
  13. Does the article suggest any changes to current standards or protocols?
  14. How accessible are the implications to stakeholders outside of academia?
  15. Do the practical implications take into account diverse contexts and populations?

Reviewing the Structure and Presentation

  1. Is the article structured logically and systematically?
  2. Does the title accurately describe the content of the article?
  3. Are all sections of the paper, including the abstract and keywords, effectively presented?
  4. Is the writing clear, concise, and easy to follow?
  5. Does the paper avoid unnecessary jargon and define essential terms?
  6. Is there a smooth flow and transitions between sections?
  7. Are any graphs, charts, or images appropriate and clearly labeled?
  8. Does the paper meet the scholarly standards for formatting and style?
  9. Is the quality of English language usage appropriate for publication?
  10. Are all necessary acknowledgments or disclaimers included?
  11. Does the introduction effectively set up the importance of the research and outline the paper?
  12. Is the conclusion concise and does it summarize the key findings?
  13. Are the table of contents and/or index clear and correct?
  14. Is the overall presentation appealing to the journal’s readership?
  15. Does the paper adhere to the targeted journal’s guidelines for authors?

Checking for Ethical Compliance and Citation Integrity

  1. Are the sources of funding and any potential conflicts of interest disclosed?
  2. Is evidence of informed consent or IRB approval mentioned for studies with human participants?
  3. Are raw data and materials available as per ethical guidelines?
  4. Is proper attribution given to all sources and previous research?
  5. Are the citations up-to-date and relevant to the content of the article?
  6. Is there any sign of plagiarism or self-plagiarism?
  7. Does the article adhere to ethical standards regarding animal research if applicable?
  8. Have the authors been transparent about their contribution to the research?
  9. Are the limitations regarding the ethical aspects of the research acknowledged?
  10. Are quotes and figures from other works properly cited?
  11. Does the work avoid undue harm in the presentation of graphic or sensitive material?
  12. Is there a declaration of any data manipulation or image enhancement?
  13. Are citation practices consistent throughout the document?
  14. Has the article avoided sensationalism or overstating research findings?
  15. Are appropriate permissions documented for copyrighted material?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to review a research article critically?

Reviewing a research article critically is crucial because it ensures the integrity, reliability, and impact of academic work. It helps to identify strengths and weaknesses within a study, improve research quality, and foster scientific progress.

What should I focus on when assessing a research article’s methodology?

When assessing methodology, focus on whether the methods are suitable for the research question, the study design is solid, and the procedures are meticulously described and ethical. It’s also vital to consider the data analysis, selection of participants, and the method of reporting results.

How do I know if the results of the article are credible?

Results are credible if they are clear, logically presented, supported by the data, and statistically validated. They should align with the methodology and address the research question effectively.

What if I find ethical issues in the research article?

Ethical issues should be addressed by evaluating the transparency of funding, conflicts of interest, adherence to ethical research guidelines, and whether there is informed consent if applicable. If ethical issues are present, they should be reported to the journal or relevant authorities.

Final Thoughts

Evaluating a research article is not dissimilar to assembling a jigsaw puzzle, where every question you pose helps piece the narrative together, giving clarity to blurred lines and bringing context into sharper focus.

Remember, the right questions don’t just lead to answers—they challenge assumptions, push boundaries, and pave the way for innovation and improvement. With this list of questions, you’re equipped to traverse the intricate layers of any research work and emerge with insights as powerful as the studies they scrutinize.

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Bea is an editor and writer with a passion for literature and self-improvement. Her ability to combine these two interests enables her to write informative and thought-provoking articles that positively impact society. She enjoys reading stories and listening to music in her spare time.