Article Review

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: Article Review

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In order to explain and give good guidelines for this next assignment, I’d like to break down and explain what an Article Review is, what an article is, why this is a crucial step in analyzing literature, and what you need to do to succeed in this assignment.

What is a scholarly article?

The word “article” can be confusing because it tends to be associated with journalism. In university, we use this word to refer to a published essay that is a piece of academic research and scholarship. While there can be some very good articles about literature published in newspapers, magazines, or on online publications, generally scholarly articles are found in scholarly journals, which are published by university presses a few times a year. The authors are not paid for these articles in money, which is important—a good article should not be influenced by corporation interests, industry interests, or potential popularity with an audience. Instead, authors are paid in reputation and intellectual currency. (It helps that these authors have teaching and research jobs to pay the bills.)

A scholarly article tends to be aimed at other scholars, which can be anyone from an undergraduate to a professor. How the author pitches the article depends on the publication and its expected audience. This is important: Don’t be intimidated by some of the writing. Some writers have a denser style, some have a more accessible one. Meet the article from where you’re at and take from it what you can. If you have trouble with a concept and you feel it’s getting in your way, get in touch with me and we can work it out. I’m very good at translating English jargon into regular English.

Why work with a scholarly article?

One of the expectations when you write a paper in any discipline is that you are familiar with the intellectual conversation that is happening around a subject. This is the same in literature. These articles, even one of them, give you an idea of the questions that scholars are asking about a particular story. They also help guide you with approaching a story or poem, formulating your own questions in your head, and looking for things you might otherwise have overlooked. This is a crucial part of academic work; without it, you’re presenting opinions with very little intellectual support and, therefore, less of a reason for your reader to accept what it is you’re writing.

What is an Article Review?

This is sometimes called a literature review, especially if you are working with more than one article. You’ll find that a literature review might be an assignment in a more advanced class, so this exercise will familiarize you with the process.

In an Article Review, you summarize a scholarly article; in the case of this assignment, it should be about 2 pages long. (In more advanced courses, you might have to condense a summary to a paragraph or increase it so several more pages.) I will show you how to do this below. Then you offer your considered assessment as to the value of the argument and whether or not it helps clarify aspects of the story or poem. In this assignment, the assessment will be about 1-1/2 pages long.

Here is the process:

Step One: Pick Your Scholarly Article

Because we’re online and doing a full library how-to session would be really difficult, I am posting a sampling of scholarly articles for each of our readings. (You can find it under Course Content in the Articles for Review folder.) Some may overlap between 2 readings. A couple may look at the cultural context of some of the horror. You can choose from any of these articles.

You can select an article for a story or text that you are thinking of writing a final paper on. (You will be able to use this article for a secondary source for your final paper.) You can select an article that you might have worked with on your passage analysis. If you haven’t thought about a text for the final paper, don’t worry and just pick one of the articles listed. Just make sure you will have read the appropriate text before reading the article, otherwise you won’t be able to review it.

If you would like a different article from the ones posted because you have a topic in mind and you would like something directed to your interests, let me know, and we can find one that you are interested in. If you are comfortable with searching any of the following databases—MLA Bibliography, JStor, Project Muse—then you can also find an article on your own.

Warning: Your article must be scholarly and therefore must come from a scholarly database. Do not use Google for this assignment. If your article is not a scholarly article, your assignment will be sent back to you and you won’t pass.

Step Two: How to Summarize

The most effective way of summarizing is to trace the argument. This is how you do it:

In the margins of the article, or on a separate screen or sheet of paper (however you want to do it), write down the main point for every paragraph of the article. Because articles can run up to 25 or more pages, you may end up with a number of sentences.

Take the sentences and organize them. Don’t just copy them in order, because you will see that your writing will neither look nor sound very good. Instead, group the sentences first according to topic (they will likely form clusters in a kind of order) and then, in your own words, write out the main points of the author’s essay.

You don’t have to include every little thing. The point of a summary is for your reader to get a good sense of the author’s argument, how they analyze the story or poem, and any important contexts, whether that’s another story or history or current events.

If you encounter an article that is split between a story you’re familiar with and one that you haven’t read, concentrate on the part about the story you know. You can indicate that you are not reading the irrelevant sections in your summary.

Quoting is good. Try to incorporate one or two quotes from the article itself in your story. Please refer to the author of the article when quoting and use their last name.

Step Three: Assessing

Your summary should take up most of your paper. Assessment is the place where you guide the reader as to the article’s potential helpfulness on a particular topic or reading.

Don’t include readability or ease of understanding. Most of these articles are not particularly easy to understand at first—some of them require rereading or some deep thinking about their arguments. Sometimes the easy article is the one that gives you the least to work with. Often it takes only a paragraph or two for an article to be extremely helpful.

Take time to include your own interpretation or assessment of some of the points the author is making. Remember that you’re not just transcribing an article, you’re giving your reader your own understanding of what the article is saying.

You can either write your summary first and then your assessment. Or, as many reviewers do, you can include your assessment in your summary and then finish off with an overall assessment in the concluding paragraph.

Here are some questions to think about when you are assessing the article: do you agree with the reading of the text? Do you think that the author missed something or over-emphasizes something that they shouldn’t? Does this article help you understand the text better and, if so, how? (You don’t have to answer all of these questions in your assessment. Try focusing on whether the article helps you understand the story or poem better and include the other questions if you feel comfortable answering them.)

Step Four: Proper Citation

I would like to see the article cited properly according to MLA Style. The library webpage has a helpful link for MLA citations. In addition, I will post the link to OWL at Purdue University, which is the gold standard for citing according to the various style manuals out there.

The information about the article that you will require will be in the article itself, either on the first page that is the library information page or, as in the case of page numbers, embedded throughout the article.

Double-check your citations. MLA and APA are only a chromosome apart, but I’m sure many of you are aware how one different chromosome can result in some substantial changes.

What I Will Be Looking For

I am the reader, and let’s assume I have great familiarity with your story or text, not such a great familiarity with your article. So, can I understand what the article is about from your summary? Do I have a sense that your assessment is based on careful thought about the article and its applicability to the story or poem it’s discussing? Is it written clearly without grammar or spelling mistakes? From your Works Cited entry, would I be able to access the paper without much of a problem?

Final Thoughts

This is a lot of instruction for a short assignment, because I’m assuming that this is new to many of you. Don’t overstress. Pick your article, read it, take the notes tracing the argument and highlight a quote or two you can use. This is a standard way to take notes on scholarship anyways, so we’re just putting this into practice here. Then take care that your assignment sounds coherent and that it flows in the way you like your papers to flow.

If something confuses you, or you want to bounce certain questions around, please contact me. Sometimes just a small clarification can make a huge difference.

And please check the outline for the due date.

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