The instructions below will give you a detailed, step-by-step guide for how to effectively read and
analyze academic research articles (and other scholarly outputs, such as books and book chapters).
This assignment should help you improve your capacity to effectively read, comprehend, and make
use of scholarly research outputs for LAWS 3908 and future courses.
STEP 1: Locate and Save the PDF version of the following qualitative research journal article
Sterling, Andrea, and Emily van der Meulen. 2018. “‘We Are Not Criminals’: Sex Work Clients
in Canada and the Constitution of Risk Knowledge.” Canadian Journal of Law & Society / La
Revue Canadienne Droit et Société 33 (3): 291–308. https://doi.org/10.1017/cls.2018.13.
– Follow the “doi” link or search for it on Carleton’s MacOdrum Library website, using the Omni
search tool (we will discuss this during Workshop 2)
– Make sure to read the PDF (not HTML) version. This will allow you to cite page numbers.
STEP 2: Read the PDF version of the article and Take notes
– Pro tip 1: Begin reading any academic journal article by scanning it to find its title and headings
or subheadings. These items usually give clues about the topic, themes, and sections of the article.
– Pro tip 2: Next, read the abstract (if present), keywords (if present), introduction, and
discussion/conclusion sections. These sections usually contain direct references to what motivated
the author(s) to write the article, what the author(s) want to show, and what the article’s thesis
(main argument) and data are.
– Pro tip 3: Finally, read the entire article one section at a time and write notes about the main
points and key phrases of each section. A good strategy here is to highlight one or two important
sentences per paragraph and then write a short note/statement summarizing the main idea of the
paragraph in your own words on a separate document. Include page numbers in your notes to ease
the process of citing later on. Most readers (including your Instructor!) will not fully understand
an article the first time they read it. Give yourself enough time to read the article more than once.
STEP 3: Analyze and Evaluate the article
– Analyzing means reflecting on the purpose, main points, methodology, and findings or
conclusions in the article. Evaluating means that you are making judgements about the value (both
positive and negative) of the article. To do this, review and expand your notes.
STEP 4: Write your Critical Analysis
– Begin by consulting an excellent resource prepared by the Writing Center at University College
– Write your essay by employing the following structure:
An Introduction (1 paragraph) featuring the following elements in the order that makes most
– Identify the title of the article, the author(s), where it was published, and date of publication
– Provide context for the article: What is the topic of the article? How is that topic explored?
– Describe the purpose of the article and its main argument(s) — this should be done in one or two
– Clearly state your overall impression/evaluation of the article — this is your own thesis statement
An Analytical Summary (1 body paragraph) that features the following elements in the order
that makes most argumentative sense:
– Provide a summary of the findings/arguments/conclusions of the article
– You must do so in your own words. It is not sufficient to paraphrase the abstract or another section
of the article. Build your summary from your notes.
-Your summary should be concise and to the point (one paragraph maximum)
A Critical Evaluation (3-6 body paragraphs) featuring the following elements in the order that
makes most argumentative sense:
– Discuss the strengths and applicability of the material presented in the article
– If pertinent, also discuss the article’s possible weaknesses, limitations, and problems
– There are various criteria commonly used to critically evaluate scholarly outputs. For your
Critical Analysis, please evaluate the article by using the three (3) criteria listed below and
grounding your evaluation on what you have learned in course Modules:
• CRITERION 1: the appropriateness of the methodological approach used for the topic
and objectives of the study, in contrast to one (1) other possible methodological approach
(e.g., doctrinal, legal comparative, quantitative)
• CRITERION 2: the ethical issues linked to the research and whether or not the author(s)
acknowledge and address these ethical issues effectively
• CRITERION 3: the appropriateness of the theoretical framework used and of the
literature cited (we will discuss this in Module 4)
– Pro tip: You do not need to write anything overtly negative or harsh about the article to produce
a strong Critical Analysis. Keep in mind that articles in proper academic journals must go through
a process — called “peer review” — of rigorous evaluation by research experts before publication.
This means that it is unlikely that you will find egregious flaws in the article.
A Conclusion (1 paragraph) featuring the following elements in the order that makes most
– Summarize what your body paragraphs said
– Make a final judgement on the overall value of the article (this should involve restating your
thesis statement and expanding on it in light of the contents of your essay)
– Conclude with a final thought-provoking insight (for example, comment on the article’s
implication for future qualitative research, describe your views of the topic or method employed,
express why the research was important (or not), etc.)
STEP 5: Complete your bibliography and Review your Critical Analysis
– Make sure to properly cite the author(s) and the materials presented in the article and to indicate
the page or range of pages you are referencing — but ensure that your assignment is written in
your own words. Put differently, it is strongly advised for you to paraphrase as much as possible
and to avoid using any direct quotes. Cite appropriately, with page number, when you are
paraphrasing specific segments or sentences from the article.
– I encourage you to support your arguments/points by properly citing materials from the course
(textbook or other readings) when pertinent — but, here again, do so in your own words. To cite
lecture content from videos or Workshops, simply indicate in a parenthesis which lecture or
Workshop you are referencing, as per the following example: (Module 3, Lecture 1). Again, you
are strongly encouraged to draw from such materials in your own words. Please review Carleton’s
policy on Academic Integrity, and especially its sub-section on Plagiarism, if you have any doubts
about this: https://carleton.ca/registrar/academic-integrity/
– Include a bibliography and use a consistent citation style (e.g., APA, McGill, Chicago, MLA).
– Take the time to edit your essay. You must employ proper capitalization, punctuation, sentence
structure, and grammar. Write full sentences and review your text for typos before submitting.
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