How to Write Powerful Advanced Article Reviews

Template method empowers you. Drive Knol quality higher, promote the meritocracy

By trial and error, the Knol experiment is discovering new ways to reward quality articles with a simple star-based rating bolstered by a short question survey for subscribed users. We’ve prepared this Knol to bolster the system by presenting a structured method that encourages readers to thoroughly review Knols out in the open.

It’s our second “paint by the numbers” approach. Both our basic and advanced procedurals use a template to build each review. If reviews proliferate, they should motivate authors to improve their work (which in turn bolsters everyone’s reading and learning experience). An extension of our basic template (a top pick/top viewed Knol), this advanced version is more involved. And it’s worth it.

The Value of Advanced Reviews


We’re targeting novice and experienced article review writers. Although specifically developed for review of user content in online article communities like Knol, students and book reviewers in traditional roles will also discover benefits from this article.

Before starting, we strongly recommended reading How to Quickly Write a Basic Article Review,which demonstrates a simple one paragraph review template (about 100 words). It takes a few minutes  to complete (once you’ve tried it). Learn the basics and you’ll speed through this article.

We’re assuming that you’ve never written a thorough review. Intuitively, you sense that to be able to contribute more effectively to user-content communities like Knol, your work and the work of others will improve if reviewed in a fair and evenhanded way. You can take both praise and criticism, which is the real value of advanced reviews. And you can give both to encourage quality work. Perhaps you’ve just read a compelling Knol and wish to encourage the author to add content, consider other points, correct factual errors or write something else. Or you want to attack a thesis you find egregiously in error. You want to pen a first serious review.


As you complete of this procedural, you’ll learn:
  1. The steps toward understanding the message and messenger
  2. How to describe the impact of an article
  3. How to compile a review for presentation

What other values characterize reviews?


By showing you how to write your first serious review, you’ll be introduced to a world you might have thought falls outside of your skill set. Many people underestimate themselves and overestimate others. Becoming an effective review writer increases your value as a member of online user content communities and provides new avenues to build your reputation, even to link back to goods and services for improved monetization. The citizenship you gain by reviewing the work of others fits the adage “what goes around, comes around.” And on the Internet, it can happen quickly. If you are a student of Malcolm Gladwell, you know it can happen in a blink. If you Twitter, it can happen in a tweet.

How this article is set up

Three sections guide you towards completion of your first advanced reviews:

  1. Steps toward understanding the message and messenger.
  2. Describing the impact of an article
  3. Compiling and publishing your review
Each section provides ideas, knowledge and skills and delivers the opportunity to apply the knowledge to a review. External links to definitions are provided. Each part is wrapped by a summary to reinforce what you’ve learned.
A key reason for writing article reviews in online user content communities is to encourage article grading for meritorious efforts so that less-than-stellar work withers on the vine. An axiom of review is that it’s best to only review articles that strike you as having innate quality (although this can be hard to define). Why rant in a review about articles that are spam or have been plagiarized from another source? Where’s the gain if you take your time to tell an author that the effort is poor, misleading, incomplete, or just plain nonsense? Save your review efforts for high merit work that will only get better through review suggestions. Use the provided five star system, questionnaire, comment box and inappropriate content flag instead. Use them on every Knol you take the time to read, even if you plan to write a review.At minimum, any Knol you read in whole or substantial part should receive a star rating. For clearly poor work (in your opinion), one star (hated it) is a much stronger message than no stars.Some Knols are well written, supported by linked research, illustrated to a fault and yet still make your blood boil because they present a thesis that you deem egregiously in error. Should you avoid reviewing this kind of Knol? Should you merely give it one star, avoid the quick question review and perhaps leave a challenge comment? It’s a personal and ethical decision. If the Knol is gaining page views and stars, you may want to share your contrary view in a review. And this is an ethical way to recognize two important things:

  1. Quality Knols are not always going to be to your liking
  2. Next to presenting your point-of-view in a challenge Knol, a challenge review can be an effective countermeasure that improves the system
Since we live in a show-and-tell world, a complete review example is provided next. It demonstrates how a typical review might read. Additional resources and a glossary are provided to add greater depth to the learning experience.

Article Review Example

This review was built using the “paint by numbers” template detailed in this Knol:
 A perceptive article from an emerging small business management sphere.
The knol, Small Business Coach, written by Lisa Murray, analyzes the role and contribution of the coach in enhancing small business performance.
The author presents a rationale for small business managers and those wishing to engage the services of a small business coach, which the author believes is beneficial for both the successful establishment and management of a small business. The author is keen to point out that a Small Business Coach can add value in multiple ways and can deliver benefits many times greater than the costs of engagement. My overall impression is that the author has documented the line of argument in a helpful way whilst employing a tidy, relevant and logical methodology.
In this article, the author has relied on the research involved in completing an MBA from a internationally recognized university, her years of coaching experience and her own “hands-on” insights gleaned from the establishment of her own business. The author contends that whether you are already a small business owner or want to be one – you don’t need to go it alone.
Small business owners will find this article useful for understanding the role and contribution that a business coach can add to the performance of their enterprise as would small business intenders who would benefit from the services of an experienced companion as they undertake the challenging journey of working for themselves.
Though lacking informative depth in any particular area, the article does clearly define the differing roles of coach, mentor and consultant. It lists 45 strategies that small business owners can adopt to revive their business. And it sets out five value-added ways that a business coach could be engaged (project based; direction-setting regular checkup; stretch targets; modeling; and mentoring)
The author nicely articulates the benefits of engaging a Small Business Coach, and this gives support to the author’s key claim:
“Ask your coach for support – a good business coach will have a range of mindset techniques, tools and tips that enable you to move past these paralyzing emotions and into a space where anything is possible!”

In summary, I believe that the author’s position — a Small Business Coach can add value to small businesses — has been effectively supported. Small business owners and intenders may be encouraged to engage the services of a small business coach after reading and understanding this article. Lisa has provided her own contact details for those so motivated, and gives insight on how to find a coach in your locale.

# # #

What’s needed to proceed?

Time to begin preparing an advanced article review. Here’s what you need:

  • An article worth reviewing (picking a topic that ignites your passion or intellectual curiosity can help). Be sure that the article offers a Review This Knol button (Knol authors have the option of hiding the button, thus turning off unsolicited reviews)
  • An open blank document in a word processor like Word, Google Docs or OpenOffice.
If you have these ready, here we go.

PART 1 – Understanding the message and messenger

Read first to enjoy and to learn. Relax and let the author’s Knol do its work. You may be impressed by the content and style. You may be put off. Angry. Delighted. Make notes. If you find well-stated points, write them down exactly (for use as outquotes, described later). Do the same for mis-stated points. In Step 3, you will read or scan the article again, at least in part. Going forward as a reviewer, a single reading is all you’ll need because you’ll know what, why, when and how to gather review information.
Step 2
Study the questions below. They help you frame more appropriate questions to ask and answer in your review. The questions lubricate the review process.
With your writing document accessible, copy and paste the following questions, then provide answers based on your initial read. The key to success is to adapt these questions to the article. You don’t need to answer all of them. Nor do you need to treat them as the only questions. For example, if you feel the article is high quality overall but you oppose the views and conclusions expressed in a small portion, focus your questions and review on the small portion, providing positive general commentary on the balance. You might say something like “This is an important and powerfully-presented article in the main, but the author’s arguments about XYZ are faulty and misleading. The balance of my review focuses only on the misleading section. Otherwise, I highly recommend this article.”Many first-time reviewers struggle with questions like the ones below. When people exiting a theater are asked what they thought about the movie or stage production, most affirm like or dislike but cannot articulate why, beyond vague yet obvious responses like “exciting,” “dramatic,” “boring,” “too long,” “wow, what a chase scene,” etc. Overcome this by discussing the work with another person. If no one’s available, self-reflective and fair consideration helps. A cup of your favorite palliative beverage and a quiet room is conducive to good answers. And, we’ve tried to frame the questions to elicit clear answers. Copy and paste time!

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Primary Review Questions

Record the full title of the Knol and name of the author. “Anonymous” is a name.

OUTQUOTE: Are there text quotation(s) from the article that captured the key essence of the author’s message or a point you wish to challenge? Write them down exactly when you find them during the first reading, or make a note to record them during the next reading.

  1. In what field of study does this article fall? i.e. business, management, entrepreneurial, life, education, health, religion, auto maintenance, marriage, dating, technology etc.). Sometimes this is hard to pin down. A useful way is the high altitude method: from 30,000 feet, what does this Knol seem to be about?
  2. What is the author’s stated occupation or point-of-view? (You may need to visit the author’s Knol page and bio, if available, to get this). Another version of this question: Where is the author coming from? If not available, the answer to the question is “not available.” (This question suggests a Best Practice for Knol writers: include a short bio at the end of your Knols, linked back to your longer Bio page)
  3. What is the central theme of the article?
  4. Who is the primary target audience of this article?
  5. What is the author trying to convey to this target audience?
  6. What activity of the target audience will the information in this article effect?
  7. Out of the central theme (#3), what are the chief point(s) of the article?
  8. What research or experience has the author relied upon in this article?
  9. Who or what else in the article supports the author’s position?
  10. What is the major finding or conclusion that the author reaches in this article?
  11. What changes or actions will the primary target audience take or do better after reading this article?
  12. Who else could benefit from this article?
  13. If you sense a secondary audience, what change or actions will the secondary group take or do better after reading this article? (for example, an article about child behavior directed at parents has grandparents as a secondary audience even if the author does not acknowledge this).
  14. What are the article’s major weaknesses? (for example, failure to acknowledge the role of grandparents and close friends in the prior question).
  15. How does the article cover or make up for this weakness?
  16. Is there a major positive outcome from this article? What is it?
  17. Does the author advance a primary position in the article? What is it?
  18. What key understanding, insight or improvement has the author introduced in this article?
  19. What could or should this article lead to in terms of future research, other articles or author contact?
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Step 3
You probably have unanswered questions. And you have answers that may be weak or unfair. It’s time to read or scan the article again, more critically this time, to bolster your answers and re-evaluate sensitive or incomplete elements. You may be surprised at how efficient this can be. Reason? The questions above have lubricated your mind. Now you are in teacher mode, searching for inconsistencies. But you are also the student and your effort during the second reading is to establish stronger and more balanced answers to present to others.Your action in Step 3 is to modify your answers through fair and balanced re-review. And, toss inappropriate questions. Keep questions you are unable to answer if they remain pertinent to the Knol or article.
Summary of Part 1By reading, answering the questions, re-reading and refining your answers, you’ve determined the chief or key message(s) that the author endeavors to convey. You’ve also identified the key elements and mindset of the messenger. Dual reading bolsters your integrity as a reviewer and trains you to accomplish the same in a single reading going forward. Now, let’s do something with your answers.

PART 2 – Describe the impact of the Knol?

Image source #2 – 

Take a moment to reflect on the two readings and try to characterize the impact. This is YOUR review so there is no wrong or right in relation to your impressions. If others don’t agree, they are free to write their own review.

The act of describing is a search for appropriate descriptive words. Finding the best adjectives for your impressions won’t be a struggle when you employ our compilation. We’ve prepared lists of descriptive words to speed the process. These words may match your impressions or stimulate better adjectives The lists are identified with the letters from A to I. We encourage you to add your own.
The core purpose behind these lists is another series of questions, a more “mature” series intended to reveal Metaimpressions (information about and beyond the Knol itself). This is another copy and paste effort that you should do now. Paste these questions into your document ahead of the Q&A from Step 2.Note that each question is tied to our List of suggested adjectives, below. For each question, write your answer as a single word or series of adjectives that resonate for you. (For one of the questions, you’ll add ly to the word(s), which usually makes them adverbs). The selected words best sum up your impressions. Don’t be concerned if you can’t generate words for each question. As the compilation process takes place later in our procedural, your recursive mind will fill in some of the blanks.
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Meta Review Questions

1 – What type of article or Knol are you reviewing? (List A)

2 – What is the significance of the topic in your opinion? (List B)

3 – What words best describe the area covered by the Knol? (List C)

4 – What does the article attempt to do? (List D)

5 – What line of reasoning does the author seem to take? (List E)

6 – How successful is the author’s argument? (List B)

7 – From your overall impression – what has the author achieved? (List F)

8 – What word(s) describe the author presentation of the case or chief argument (List A)

9 – Select up to three words that best describe this author’s effort (List H)

10 – What voice has the author used? (List I)

11 – How has the author presented the argument (List A, adding ly to form an adverb)

34 – How would you characterize the author’s success with the Knol? (List F)

…………………………………………. END copy here …………………………………………
List AAuthentic, Inspirational, Reactionary, Conservative, Ironic, Realistic, Controversial, Liberal, Credible, Romantic, Cultural, Mystical, Satiric, Didactic, Scholarly, Objective, Significant, Orthodox, Spiritual, Expressionistic, Philosophic, Subjective, Plausible, Symbolic, Pragmatic, Utilitarian, Humorous, Profound, Impressionistic, Radical, analytical, well articulated, authoritative, balanced, candid, clear, commendable, competent, concise, creative, decisive, disciplined, dynamic, engaging, enlightening, enriching, entertaining, expansive, explicit, expressive, extraordinary, fascinating, forceful, genuine, helpful, imaginative, impressive, ingenious, inspiring, intriguing, knowledgeable, masterful, noteworthy, opportune, orderly, organized, perceptive, persuasive, plausible, pointed, praiseworthy, precise, professional, progressive, rare, realistic, reflective, relevant, remarkable, significant, skilled, stimulating, symbolic, sympathetic, systematic, thoughtful, timely, unique, useful, valuable, well versed, warm, worthwhile

List B

core, foundation, fundamental,  topical, contemporary, important, significant, vital, key, essential, critical, crucial, major, central, necessary, pivotal, principal, beneficial, basic, weighty, emerging.

List C

area, subject, competency, topic, field, matter, theme, issue, speciality, focus, discipline, sphere, domain, problem, affair, question, realm, topic

List D

Questions, probes, queries, explores, looks into, investigates, searches for, surveys, seeks, examines, delves into, researches, enquires into, interrogates, argues that, confronts, scrutinises, casts doubt on, reviews, assesses, analyses, considers, appraises, charts, maps out, offers advice,

List E

Argument, case, line of reasoning, claim, contention, defence, rationale, basis, an explanation, the grounds, the motivation, belief, opinion, line of argument, view, assertion, declaration, statement, allegation, principle.

List F

Developed, explained, fleshed out, advanced, progressed, expanded, described, defended, rationalised, validated, explained, justified, supported, interpreted, clarified, represented.

List G

Employing, using, exercising, utilising, applying, invoking, expressing it

List H

Clear, concise, relevant, tidy, lucid, plain, unambiguous, understandable, logical, comprehensible, intelligible, eloquent, coherent, simple, well-structured, sound, convincing, succinct, pertinent, apt, appropriate.

List I

Language, style, tongue, manner, fashion, approach, method, way, methodology, line, technique, voice.

Summary of Part 2
Here we have looked at the descriptive elements of an article or Knol review, focusing primarily on your impressions. A new set of Meta questions helps record those impressions, bolstered by lists of adjectives to aid the descriptive process. As in most human endeavors, an ability to clearly state what we think and why we think it builds durable relationships and advances helpful agendas and missions. Here, our mission is to alert others in a fair and balanced way so they can read quality Knols. A secondary mission is to encourage writers to do a better job even as we praise or fault them.

PART 3 – Compile your article review

Image #3 –
Note: this section is undergoing revision to make it easier to use

Step 1

Copy the template identified below into the word document already opened and with data from Part 1 and Part 2..
Step 2
Leave the ‘black’ text but change the ‘blue‘ text to reflect your answers from Part 1 and Part 2. Refer to the question number in Part 1 and 2, to find the matching place in the template.
Step 3
Read the compiled review and make sure it ‘reads right’ and that it accurately describes your impressions as well as the facts of the message and the messenger.
…………………………………………. START copy here …………………………………….

Article Review Template

A(n) (1 – List A) article on a (2 – List B) (3 – What field of study? i.e. business, management, entrepreneurial, life, educational) (List C)
This knol, (4 – “The full name of the article”) written by the (5 – The author’s stated position) (6 – The author’s name), (7 – List D) (8 – What is the central theme of the article?) . The author presents a(n) (9 – List E) for (10 – Who is the primary target audience of this article?) to (11 – What is the author trying to convey to this target audience?) which the author believes is (12 – List B) for (13 – What activity of the target audience will the information in this article effect?) (3 – In what field of study?). (6 – The author’s name) is keen to point out (14 – What is the one major theme of the article?). My overall impression is that the author has (15 – List F ) the (16 – List E) in a (17 – List A) way while (18 – List G) a (19 – List H), (20 – List H) and (21 – List H) (22 – List I).
In this article, the author has relied on (23 – What research or experience has the author relied upon in this article?). (6 – The author’s name) sites (24 – Who else in the article, supports the author’s position?). The author contends that (25 – What is the major finding or conclusion that the author reaches in this article?).
(10 – Who is the primary target audience of this article?) would find this article useful for (26 – What could the primary target audience do better after reading this article?) as would (27 – Who else could benefit from this article?) for (28 – What could the seccondary audience do better after reading this article?). Though lacking (29 – What is this articles major weakness?) the article (30 – How does the article cover or make up for this weakness?).
The author has been able to (31 – What is the major positive to come out of this article?) which gives support to (6 – The author’s name) key claim that;
“(QUOTE – What quote from the text of the article captures the key essence of the author’s message)”
In summary, I believe that the author’s position that (32 – What primary position has the author taken in the article?) has been (33 – List A)ly (34 – List F). (10 – Who?) and (27 – Who?) may find (35 – What key understanding, insight or improvement has the author introduced in this article?) by reading and understanding this article. (36 – What could or should this article lead to in terms of future research, other articles or author contact?).
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Step 4

Pre-publish your Review.

Get back to a palliative mode and slip into the job of editor. Now you want to read and burnish the review, making it pleasant for others. If you have access to a trusted companion, get a pre-publish opinion. When satisfied, go ahead and copy and paste the review into the Knol’s review window by clicking Review this Knol. This produces a standard Knol creation window.

Step 5

Publish your review. The process is like writing a new Knol. The tools invite you to desktop publish your review using available fonts, text sizes, bold and italic — the full features set. You can even import YouTube videos. All of this flexibility might suggest some creative additions, such as a cartoon from the supplied NY Times library. When complete, you click the Publish button.

Also provided is a unique Beta set of Google questions. These appear after the editing window. We recommend answering these by adjusting the slider under each. This information may prove useful in the future as Google develops metrics around the slider positions for articles that receive several reviews.


Here we took the answers from Part 1 and Part 2 to compile an article review and then reworked it to ensure a smooth reader experience. Your review should now be published! Congratulations.


Additional Resources:

1 – For an introduction to providing a review for the Knol Project see: Knol Review 

2 – For another approach to the topic of ‘write an article review’ see the site: University of South Australia 
3 – For a glossary of writing terms see the Academy of Art University: Glossary of writing terms 

Conclusion – How to Write a Powerful Advanced Article Review

The key lessons we endeavored to impart to you are:
  1. The answers required to understand the message and the messenger.
  2. Ways to describe the impact an article has.
  3. The method used to create an article review
The key outcome from this training session is to learn how to write an article review so that we can contribute appropriately to online user-content communities. While initially employing a ‘paint by numbers’ approach, it is hoped that participants in this training session will go on to develop their own article review style while independant of the template but still adhering to the key principles.
Reference & Image Source

Image source #1 by takomabibelot Attribution 2.0 Generic – 28 Feb 09

Image source #2 by Sudhamshu Attribution 2.0 Generic – 28 Feb 09

Image source #3 by Brian “DoctaBu” Moore Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic – 28 Feb 09

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