A critical review describes an author’s hypothesis or conceptual model based on key literature in their field of study.
One of the aims of the critical review is to demonstrate that the reviewer has a commanding understanding of the literature to the point where they can extrapolate hypotheses on the topic of review. This type of review goes beyond the level of detailed description of the existing literature.
While conducting a critical review, the reviewer identifies the most significant research in the field and evaluates the literature based on its contribution to the field (as opposed to a formal quality assessment). This review type is usually narrative or conceptual.
Like a literature review, there are not the same prescriptive steps to follow to conduct a critical review as in other types of reviews. However, there must be a degree of mastery of the field to derive new theory from existing literature.
Given that the primary literature for review in critical reviews are cornerstone studies in the field and the reviewer is usually very familiar with the field of study, you may already have all the literature you require for this type of review. However, librarians at the Health Sciences Libraries are always happy to help patrons with formulating effective search strategies for their literature search. They can also provide valuable insight into citation management and assistance with accessing library materials.
This article is a part of the HSL News series Understanding review types. For more information about this series, read the series’ introduction.
Grant, M. & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91-108. DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x