PURPOSE: The purpose of exercise is to conduct a detailed, critical evaluation of the research design, methods and analysis of a study written up and published in a peer-reviewed journal.   Students will be using Wolfer’s (2007) critical questions for evaluating written research to evaluate an article; these questions are provided below. Tips on Finding a Peer Reviewed Journal Article may be found under Lessons>Course Materials>Resources.

Article selection tips:

  • select an article from a peer-reviewed Sociology Journal
  • the article should clearly be written about a study the author conducted
    • a meta-analysis of multiple studies is not appropriate for this assignment
    • secondary data analysis of an existing national data set is OK, but be sure you understand what you are reading


Your evaluation should include

  • ALL sections 1-5,
  • 1 section from 6-10 (based on design in your article), and
  • 1 section from 11-12 (based on analysis in your article).

APA formatting should be used throughout. Any time your paraphrase or directly quote a source (such as your article), in-text citations should be used. A full APA-formatted reference should be included at the beginning or end of assignment. See Course Materials>Resources for APA Tips.

1.Title (3 pts)

  • Is the title specific enough to differentiate it from other related topics?
  • Do subtitles, if present, provide important information regarding the research?
  • Are the main variables expressed in the title?
  • Are the terms in the title easily understood by most people?
  • Does the title avoid any reference to the study’s results?
  • Overall, is this a good title? Why or why not?
  1. Ethical Evaluation (2.5 pts)
  • Are the steps the researcher took to honor ethical responsibilities to individuals clear? Are they appropriate? Are they enough?
  • If there were any findings (based on your readings of tables or other means of data presentation) that refuted the researcher’s hypothesis, did he address these findings?
  • If any results were unexpected, did the researcher discuss any explanations for the unexpected effects?
  • Did the researcher adequately acknowledge the limitations of the research?
  • Overall, has the researcher adequately fulfilled his ethical obligations?
  1. Literature Review (4 pts)
  • Is the material presented in the literature review relevant to your research interests?
  • Is the special problem area identified in the first paragraph or two of the report?
  • Does the researcher establish the importance of the research problem?
  • Has the researcher been appropriately selective in deciding what studies to include in the literature review?
  • Is the research cited recent?
  • Is the literature review critical?
  • Is the researcher clear as to what is research, theory and opinion?
  • Overall, do you think this is an adequate literature review? Why or why not?
  1. Operationalization and Measurement (5.5 pts)
  • Is the conceptualization suitably specific?
  • Are the definitions productive?
  • How many different dimensions are being measured at once?
  • Are the various dimensions sufficient?
  • Are the actual questions (or a sample of them) provided?
  • Is the response format clear, or, when not already clear, does the researcher provide information on the response format? Is there any information on restrictions in respondents’ responses?
  • If the researcher is using a published instrument, does he or she cite sources where additional information can be found?
  • Has the researcher avoided overstating the preciseness of the measurement?
  • Does the researcher provide some measure of reliability? What type of reliability is established? Do the measures indicate adequate reliability for your purposes?
  • Does the research provide some measure of validity? What measures of validity are presented and are they adequate for your purposes?
  • Overall, is the measurement appropriate and adequate given the research purpose?
  1. Sample Strategy (3 pts)
  • Does the research goal lend itself to generalization? Is the broad sampling method appropriate for the research goal?
  • Does the researcher provide information regarding the study population? The sample?
  • Is the exact sampling method (e.g. simple random, purposive) specified? Remember, it is not sufficient for a researcher to simply state that a sample was selected ‘randomly.’
  • Is the sample size sufficient, given the research goals, the degree of accuracy the researcher desires, and the nature of the population studied? Given the nature of the research, is the sample size sufficient?
  • If the researcher uses a probability sample, does he or she generalize the findings to the appropriate population? If the researcher uses a non-probability sample, does he or she refrain from generalizing to a wider population?
  • Overall, is the sampling appropriate?

Your evaluation should include ONE of the following sections (6-10) (4 pts):

  1. Experiments
  • Can you identify a treatment variable that indicates that an experiment is the method of observation?
  • How many groups were studied?
    1. If there were two or more groups, did the researcher use random assignments
    2. If the researcher did not use random assignment, did the researcher present evidence that the groups were similar regarding key variables at the beginning of the study?
  • Is the treatment and any pre- or posttests described in sufficient detail that facilitates replication?
  • Is deception necessary?
    1. If so, is the deception within the parameters of the research topic?
    2. Have the participants been debriefed so they know the true nature of the study (and can enact their right to privacy by declining to participate after the fact?)
  • Based on the description of treatment and experimental procedure, do you see any red flags regarding ethical issues?
  • Did the researcher use assistants?
    1. If so, did the researcher state that they were properly trained?
    2. If so, did the researcher specify any special measures to make sure that the assistants administered the treatment properly?
  • Is the setting natural or artificial (in a laboratory)?
    1. If it’s in a laboratory, does the researcher recognize that external validity may be weak?
    2. If it’s in a natural setting, does the researcher recognize that there may be some differences in the environments of the various groups?
    3. Overall, do you think the experimental design is sound?
  1. Survey
  • Is the research topic worded appropriately for survey research?
  • Did the researcher specifically state which type of survey method was used?
  • Do the survey questions adequately address the topic?
  • Are the survey questions constructed correctly?
  • Did the researcher provide any information about the response rate? Did the researcher provide any information about follow-up mailings or other ways of increasing response rate? What are the implications of the response rate?
  • Did the researcher explain how he or she guaranteed anonymity or confidentiality?
  • Overall, is the survey methodology effective and appropriate?
  1. Field Research
  • Does the research describe the selected site? Does the research provide some explanation as to how that site was chosen?
  • Did the researchers explain how they addressed gatekeepers?
  • Did the researcher address how he developed field relations? If conflict arose, did the researcher make any comment about how personal or research problems in the field were addressed?
  • Did the researcher adequately protect the identity of the respondents? Did the researcher address other ethical considerations?
  • Did the researcher describe, at least in passing, his method of note taking? Does the method seem adequate?
  • In the analysis, does the researcher present general patterns of behavior and support those patterns with data such as quoted comments? Does the researcher use quotes selectively?
  • Does the researcher make any mention of issues of validity and/or reliability?
  • Overall, is the research adequate?
  1. Unobtrusive Measures
  • What is the researcher’s research purpose or hypothesis? Is content analysis an appropriate method of observation?
  • What are the researcher’s units of analysis? What are the units of observation (if they are different than the units of analysis)?
  • Is the researcher studying a population or a sample of these units? If the researcher is studying a sample, is it a probability sample? If so, was it correctly drawn? If the researcher is not studying a population or a probability sample, is he or she appropriately cautious about the nature of any conclusions?
  • Does the researcher identify the characteristics and level of content being analyzed? Does the researcher explain how material is coded, especially for issues of latent content?
  • Did the researcher do any type of pretest with other coders to test for reliability? Where they any tests for validity?
  • Are the conclusions consistent with the units of analysis?
  • Are the results clearly presented and the conclusions appropriate?
  • Generally, is the method of observation done appropriately?
  1. Evaluation Research
  • What is the purpose of the evaluation presented?
  • Is the nature of the program described in detail?
  • Are the goals presented and can the goals that the author presents be evaluated?
  • What type of observation method is used? Is it appropriate, given the real-life restrictions of evaluation research?
  • Is a control group used? If so, how has the researcher tried to show that it is equivalent to the experimental group? If not, does the researcher adequately explain its omission?
  • How are people selected for program participation? Does this affect the interpretation of findings, and, if so, does the researcher discuss this?
  • Are the results clearly explained?
  • How does the article address the other areas of evaluation discussed in earlier chapters?

Your evaluation should include ONE of the following sections (3 pts):

  1. Qualitative Analysis
  • Is the results section a cohesive?
  • Does the researcher connect the results to any general research questions or goals?
  • Is the perspective of the results presentation appropriate? Does it match the research technique?
  • Has the writer presented enough examples to support the conclusions? Do the examples make the readers ‘believe’ the researcher’s points?
  • Do you have reason to believe that the presence of the researcher influenced the actions or statements of other group members? If this is possible, has the researcher addressed it in the research?
  • Especially in field research (although this may be an issue to a lesser degree in other forms of qualitative data gathering), does the researcher discuss how he or she interacted with subjects in the field, what problems arose, and how the researcher addressed them?
  1. Quantitative Analysis
  • Is the results section a cohesive with the important findings highlighted?
  •  does the researcher tie the results to the research hypotheses or goals stated in the introduction?
  • If there are tables or graphs, are they clearly presented?
  • Does the researcher present any descriptive statistics?
  • Are the statistics appropriate for the level of measurement?
  • Are the conclusions the researcher draws appropriate for the statistical information?
  • In the discussion section, does the researcher briefly summarize the research purposes, methodologies, and key findings (in a non-statistical manner)?
  • Does the researcher acknowledge any methodological or statistical weaknesses?
  • Are the implications of the research or suggestions for future research discussed?
  • Overall, is the results section adequate?
  • Overall, is the discussion section adequate?