Your critique must fit on two 8 ½ x 11” pages, double-spaced (12 pt font), with at least ½ inch margins to give readers space to write their comments. Points will be deducted for papers that exceed this length. Given this space limitation, it is important to be succinct, but write in complete sentences. Don’t waste words. Write a first draft, and then carefully edit out unnecessary material in subsequent drafts. Be sure to type the full citation of the paper (in Ecology format) at the top of the first page, along with your name.
You can organize your critique around the IMRAD format, evaluating each section in turn. Be sure to consider the following questions as you review the paper:
- What is the specific purpose/goal of this study?
- Do the authors clearly state their hypotheses? What are they?
- What general ecological or environmental issue is the study addressing? Do the authors make this connection in their Introduction or Discussion?
- Are you satisfied with the authors’ study design? Is it described in sufficient detail that you could repeat the study? Are all the elements of a rigorous experimental study included?
- Are the data/results clearly presented?
- Do the data and statistical analyses support the authors’ conclusions? Are there alternative explanations for some of the patterns they document?
- If you found fault with the study’s design, how specifically could it be improved?
- Given its faults, what valid conclusions can be drawn from the data?
One final point: you may find numerous faults with a paper, but some are more damning than others. Given the limited space we have allotted you, focus on the most critical problems, the ones that pose the greatest challenge to the author’s thesis. If you have room, you can simply add a list of the minor ones