Critique Guide

The goal of writing critiques is to give you the ability to extract deep understanding from original research papers. To train your critical thinking skills. To teach you how to evaluate what you read.


You should expect to read for one to two hours for each paper and to write and think for an additional one to two hours to produce a critique for the assigned paper. Some of these papers have great ideas, but are hard to understand. Some seem obvious in retrospect. Understanding how research progresses shows you how to stand on the shoulders of giants. We will emphasize the historical context in which the work was done to help us understand it.


A critique is due at the beginning of each class. Please print the critique and hand it to me. There are three public printers in Wegmans Hall free of charge to use. If you are giving a presentation, you are not responsible for a critique.

You will write one to two pages that reflect on what you learned and thought about the paper. The critique includes a short summary, but most of it will contain your original thoughts about the paper and what you learned. The following specific format is required.

  • The document will be in 12 point font, single spaced.
  • Set the stage. Begin with no more than a quarter page that states the problem the paper addressed, the solution, and the meaning.
  • State the strength(s) of the paper in one to three sentences.
  • State the weakness(es) of the paper in one to three sentences.
  • The remainder of your critique will include two of the following:
    • How did it impact the field?
    • What questions remain open?
    • What experiments are missing?
    • How does it really relate the previous research?
    • Future directions.
    • Some examples for which it will or will not work.
    • What impact did it have on the field?
    • Could a similar paper be published today?
    • Ideas or thoughts it provoked.
    • Other interesting commentary.

The format is credited to Kathryn McKinley's CS395T at UT Austin.