Guidelines for Writing a Critical Review Paper

Comparing the Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter

 Task Example

Write a 1000-word critical review engaging with pp. 448-463 of this article:

Dewey Clayton, ‘Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement: A Comparative Analysis of Two Social Movements in the United States’, Journal of Black Studies, Volume 49, Issue 5, pp. 448-480. Article first published online: March 21, 2018; Issue published: July 1, 2018.


The article uses theories of collective action and draws on concepts of collective identity to engage in a comparison of the twentieth-century US Civil Rights Movement and the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement.

Your answer should contain the following:

  1. Summary: What are the author’s arguments and how does he use comparative politics theories and concepts to make them?
  2. Evaluation: How well does he make these arguments? Are they convincing? What else would you propose could be added to this analysis?

Think about what we have covered on theories of identity and particularly nation and race – how do either/both of these operate in the two movements, according to this article and to what you know?

Think about what we have covered on social movements – what kinds of roles do they play in advancing their cause, as compared with other factors?

Further Resources on Writing a Critical Review

A Review of a journal article examines a scholarly article’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of what the article is attempting to accomplish. Your review should include description, paraphrases, and your own analysis. Any analysis included should help readers to assess the article’s value without having to necessarily read the articles themselves. To write a Review properly, you first need to read the article twice, at the very least. The assignment begins even before you write it.

Pre-Reading Exercise. Things to consider:

  • Initial assumptions based on the title
  • Assumptions based on the sub-titles
  • Read the abstract. Initial thoughts?
    Look over the References. Have you read any of the sources? Should you? What do they indicate?
  • Search the Web for the author of the article. Is the author established in his/her field? Does the author speak with authority?

First Reading Exercise. Things to consider:

  • The article’s audience
  • The author’s purpose in writing
  • The author’s thesis or main argument

Second Reading Exercise. Things to consider:

  • What information is fact? What information is opinion?
  • What opinions are supported? How well are they supported?
  • Is there a gap in information? In logic?
  • Can you find instances of bias?
  • Is the author successfully persuasive?

The Writing Process

Outline. Write out your main argument in full. Your thesis should be the argument you are making about the article, typically an answer as to whether or not the article is successful at what it sets out to accomplish and whether the article is valuable. The thesis should be a succinct summation of your opinion on the article.


The review begins with a complete citation of the article at the top of the page in whatever style stipulated by an instructor. Here is an example in APA:

Vargas, N., & Schafer, M. H. (2013). Diversity in action: Interpersonal networks and the distribution of advice. Social Science Research, 42(1), 46-58. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.08.013.

The first paragraph should contain:

  • A thesis statement. An opinion about the article, backed up with evidence and well- reasoned analysis.
  • The author of the article’s purpose in writing
  • Background information on the author
  • Brief overview of other, relevant scholarship

The body of the review should contain:

  • Points of argument to support your thesis
  • A logical development of ideas
  • quotes and paraphrases from the article as pieces of evidence

The final paragraph should contain:

  • A restatement of your thesis
  • A summary of your review

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