How to Quickly Write a Basic Article Review

Summary

Online article communities suffer from spam, plagiarism and low quality content. An effective countermeasure is an article review system in the hands of trusted contributors. Although subjective by definition, such a system can augment reliance on the math of the algorithms used to rate articles.

Few participants in online communities have learned basic and largely intuitive review skills. You may be among them and don’t know how or where to start.

Start here. This article provides a “paint by numbers” approach for those that have never written an online review but wish to improve content quality for all. For the authors in this group, giving as good as they get is a key motivation. For everyone else, participation yields the reward of helping build an increasingly worthwhile web destination.

Overview and Example

“C’mon, people now. Smile on your writers. Everybody get together, review one another, write now”.1
Article reviews can be written quickly and efficiently by using a simple impressions table together with pre-formatted but editable sentences. This method produces a unique review of ~100 words. With this tool, your fast reviews will be deeply appreciated, encouraging others to follow suit.
And even if you prefer to roll your own with review messages as simple as “loved it” or “hated it,” we encourage your participation. You will no doubt get as good as you give.
The easy process we advocate is targeted primarily at online article reviews. Our method covers the key areas that article readers find most valuable. Whether you are simply an appreciative reader or an author who wants to get as good as you give, our method speeds reviews and therefore should increase the quantity as it promotes quality work.
A key point to make in our advocacy of article reviews is that we don’t recommended reviewing poor articles. The key idea is to invest review efforts on worthy articles, the ones you’d gladly recommend to friends and colleagues.
Although we employ a standard phrasing or pre-formatted sentence approach as a key accelerator, our article review system still has the capacity to produce over 60,000 unique reviews. And, you can break away from standard phrasing with your own choice of adjectives.
Here’s an example of how a completed online article review looks, right out of our method;

“The article titled ‘Pricing Tips’, written by the Small Business Coach John Smith, sets out to show that there are a lot more strategies than the conventional mark-up on cost that a small business can adopt to determine selling prices. The author’s position and argument was easily understood and it was an invigorating read. Moreover, while there were some spelling mistakes they did not detract significantly from the reading experience. Smith engaged a smooth writing style with witty inclusions, bringing a real effervescence to the reading experience. I am knowledgeable about this subject and believe that the content was without fault and the author made some good points that others might find useful. Overall, I would rate this article as a great read of high merit.”

If this falls short — you want to produce a more in-depth review — proceed to the Knol entitled How to Write an Article Review – Advanced

Article Review Purpose – Academic vs. Online Communities

The key purpose of an academic review is to summarize and evaluate an article based on other related texts. The reviewer presents a fair and reasonable judgment of quality and accuracy (e.g., excellence) in a workmanlike, scholarly way. This process requires asking question of the author’s statements and opinions and then passing judgment on the content, structure and strengths/weaknesses of the text and how each of these areas relate to the text’s purpose and intended audience. An academic review is scholarly, rigorous, and supported by research. It’s fair and balanced
.

Online communities, which is an open online writing and publishing website, use review systems for academic and other purposes. However, the chief aim is the determination of basic quality rather than academic excellence. Key aims of the article review process in online communities include weeding out spam, plagiarism, and low quality content. The rationale is this: while these low value and undesirable articles find easy entry into open source sites, they should never find a place in a community that adheres to a review and rating system for acceptance.
Low quality articles may slip through the entry gate and (too) often get the undue attention of search engine spider algorithms; but these articles will never be acknowledged or rated by an active human reviewing community of identified, respected authors. Human review assures that low value articles will eventually fade from view. However, when human review is voluntary, many on-line communities (like Scribd, Hubpages and many more) encounter fading that is too slow. Because voluntary reviews are disappointingly slow to develop at these sites, taking out the trash is not the priority task it should be.
For these reasons, it’s best to only write article reviews for quality articles. The response to spam, plagiarism, and low quality content should be via another mechanism, something fast like a rating or flagging system together with an appropriate comment entry about unacceptability. Each of these response techniques is provided  to a greater or lesser degree, in the single click structures that appear around articles at many other publishing sites. For example, the five-star Rate this applet is becoming an Internet-wide standard that all of us should use as a first step toward superior quality content at the websites we regularly use. The second step, an actual written review, is our topic here.
Since our review recommendation is to only deal with quality articles in the first place, the Impressions Table below only provides the more positive article ratings of Excellent, Great, Good and Average. The lowest rating, Average, still send the signal that the article is worth reading.

Preparation

Look at the questions below. You’ll answer these in the Impressions Table in (Step 4). Keep them in mind as you read articles and you will increase the number of reviews your write:
        1. Was the article clearly written?
        2. Was the argument/message easily understood?
        3. Was it an interesting read?
        4. How did the spelling and grammar mistakes affect the read?
        5. What was its readability speed or flow characteristics?
        6. Did the author successfully introduce some sharp, witty or clever bits?
        7. How accurate was the content?
        8. How useful was this content to you?
Of course, these questions pre-suppose some expertise, but the standard is not so tall that well meaning readers should avoid doing reviews. Many of us are innately equipped to spot poor grammar, spelling and punctuation; to detect jerky flow and difficult-to-understand expressions; to recognize wit or the author’s skill with metaphors and similes, both of which add interest and insight to the writing. We may be less skilled to detect inaccuracies, yet the last question, usefulness, often overcomes this insofar as a fair review is concerned.

Step-by-step instructions

These instructions begin with the creation of a document that will house your review as you build it. Any capable word processor is suitable (there’s a free word processor at Google Docs with the further benefit of on line storage and access). The instructions presuppose that you have an interest in the article’s topic, your motivation for reviewing it.

1. Step One – Open a Review Document

Open a new document and position its window to capture your keystrokes. Save the empty document with an appropriate name, like Review-PricingTips. Scan the chosen article and author’s profile to identify and enter the following in your review window;

  • The title (i.e. Pricing Tips)
  • The author’s stated role (i.e. Small Business Coach) if available
  • The author’s published or username for this article (i.e. Peter Baskerville)

2. Step Two – 1st Read “Absorbed”

You may have already done Step Two and now wish to review the article because it’s worth it. On the other hand, you’ve not yet read the article. However, you suspect the article is going to be good and you read it for the first time as the interested and absorbed reader that you are. The impressions you gain on the 1st read will help you complete the table we offer in Step 4. Read now to enjoy and to learn because you are interested in the topic and want to benefit from this author’s work on the subject.

3. Step Three – 2nd Read “Detached”

The 2nd read will be approached in a different manner. You’ll remain “detached,” continually asking questions of the author as an arms-length observer. The eight primary questions are listed above, under Preparation. Reading “detached” is not always easy because a skillful writer continually draws you in. Resist! If you do it often enough, you’ll soon figure out how to switch from “absorbed” reader for enjoyment purposes to “detached” reader for review purposes. In fact, with time you may become capable of simultaneous absorbed and detached reading, which is the standard for newspaper and movie critics who only get one pass.

4. Step Four – Theme and Impressions

Based on your 1st and 2nd readings, write in your document a single sentence that describes the author’s central theme, argument or message. Then look at the Impressions Table below. For each row determine the word/phrase that you feel best answers the question. Take note of the Question Number (A to H) with the corresponding answer grade (1 to 4). To help out, we provide a copy and paste version below the table. You’ll highlight the section, then CTRL-C to copy, CTRL-V to paste into your document.
 Impressions Table  Excellent 1  Great 2  Good 3  Average 4
 (A) Was it clearly written and easily understood?  Crystal clear  Easily understood  Orderly  Sufficiently
 (B) Was it an interesting read?  Invigorating  Absorbing  Interesting  Satisfying
 (C) How much did the spelling and grammatical mistakes affect the reading?  Undetectable  Only one  Evident but OK  Should be corrected
 (D) What was its readability speed or flow?  Graceful  Polished  Smooth  Acceptable
 (E) Was it sharp, witty or clever  Effervescent  Delightful  Pleasant  Adequate
 (F) How accurate was the content?  Without fault  General agreement  No real issue  Raised some questions
 (G) How useful was the content to you?  Totally relevant  Useful for many  Some useful points  Just one thing of value
 (H) OVERALL  Highly recommend  Meritorious  Worthwhile  Acceptable

5. Step Five – Copy & Paste

Copy & paste the complete standard phrases (those between the red cut marks) list below into your document. Using your question and answer notes, delete the question headers as well as the three answers responses that you did not select.
————————— start copy & paste below here ——————————–

(A) UNDERSTANDING

  1. EXCELLENT – The author’s line of reasoning was crystal clear
  2. GREAT – The author’s position and argument was easily understood
  3. GOOD –  The author presented an orderly explanation of the concepts
  4. AVERAGE – The author presented sufficient information to understand the concepts

(B) INTERESTING

  1. EXCELLENT – and it was an invigorating read.
  2. GREAT – and it was an absorbing read.
  3. GOOD – and it was a interesting read.
  4. AVERAGE – and it was a satisfying read.

(C) SPELLING AND GRAMMAR

  1. EXCELLENT – Moreover, if there were any spelling or grammar mistakes they were undetectable to me.
  2. GREAT – Moreover, it was well constructed and presented apart from one [spelling/grammar] mistake.
  3. GOOD – Moreover, while there were some [spelling/grammar] mistakes they did not detract significantly from the reading experience.
  4. AVERAGE –. However, I believe that the spelling and grammar should be corrected.
(D) SPEED
  1. EXCELLENT – [Author’s surname]’s engaged a graceful writing style
  2. GREAT – [Author’s surname]’s engaged a polished  writing style
  3. GOOD – [Author’s surname] engaged a smooth writing style
  4. AVERAGE – [Author’s surname]’s writing style was acceptable
(E) CLEVER
  1. EXCELLENT – with the [sharp/clever/witty/graphical] inclusions bringing a real effervescence to the reading experience.
  2. GREAT –  with the [sharp/clever/witty/graphical] inclusions making for a delightful reading experience.
  3. GOOD –  with the [sharp/clever/witty/graphical] inclusions adding significantly to the reader interest.
  4. AVERAGE – with the [sharp/clever/witty/graphical] inclusions being satisfactorily handled.
(F) ACCURATE
  1. EXCELLENT – I am [very, reasonably, quite] knowledgeable about this subject and believe that the content was without fault.
  2. GREAT – I am [very, reasonably, quite] knowledgeable about this subject and I am in general agreement with all the Author’s stated positions.
  3. GOOD – I am [very, reasonably, quite] knowledgeable about this subject and find no issue with the content.
  4. AVERAGE – I am [very, reasonably, quite] knowledgeable about this subject and some question remain concerning some of the Author’s statements.
(G) USEFUL
  1. EXCELLENT – [and/but] it was totally relevant and applicable to me.
  2. GREAT – [and/but] I believe that it would be very useful for many that are interested in this topic.
  3. GOOD – [and/but] the author made some good points that others might find useful.
  4. AVERAGE – [and/but] the author makes a good point about [………….].
(H) OVERALL
  1. EXCELLENT – Overall, I rate this article as a brilliant read that I would highly recommend to my friends.
  2. GREAT – Overall, I would rate this article as a great read of high merit.
  3. GOOD – Overall, I would rate this article as a good and worthwhile read.
  4. AVERAGE – Overall, I would rate this article as an acceptable read.
———————- stop copy and paste just above here —————————

6. Step Five – Compile: Complete/Remove/Make/Link/Adjust

Now turn the individual components of an article review into a complete paragraph by doing the following:
      • Complete the opening sentence “This article titled ‘[Article Title], written by the [Author’s stated role] [Author’s published name or username], sets out to show [Central theme, argument or message]
      • Remove the NUMBER and GRADE from the front of the ‘standard phrase’
      • Make the applicable choice in the [square brackets] when asked
      • Link the ‘standard phrases together to form sentences and then complete the paragraph
      • Adjust the grammar and phrasing to suit your style of expression (if required)

7. Final Step – Place and Publish

Now copy and paste (CTRL-C and CTRL-V) from the review document into the comment or article review section provided at the online writing community.  At sites like Scribd.com and Hubpages.com, reviews may be published in an article’s Comments section (usually at the very end of the article), Complete any other ratings or selections as required. Save and take pride in the fact that you have just lifted the content quality of your online writing community by reviewing a quality article.

And, it’s highly recommended that you use the other rating tools provided. For example, at Scribd, you can Like and article (and unlike it if you later change your mind); you may also Add to Favorities (creates a mini-database that makes finding the article a snap in the future); and Download it in native format (e.g., a Scribd presentation won’t have active links, but the downloaded actual PowerPoint file will).
Congratulations, you’ve made a start, a contribution toward higher quality content for your community. You are armed with the tools to do more good by quickly reviewing quality articles for your online publishing communities that are adding value to your life. You are helping accelerate the taking out of the trash.

Examples

This article titled “Review of How to Write a Great First CV (Resume)”, written by the Lecturer in Computing Norman Creaney, sets out to detail the steps you will need in order to write an effective CV in the most efficient way. The author’s line of reasoning was crystal clear and it was a interesting read. Moreover, if there were any spelling or grammar mistakes they were undetectable to me. Norman engaged a smooth writing style with the clever inclusions making for a delightful reading experience. I am reasonably knowledgeable about this subject and I am in general agreement with all the Author’s stated positions. I believe that this article would be very useful for many people that are interested in this topic and overall, I would rate it as a great read of high merit.

Advanced Techniques

This article has been written as a “Paint by Numbers” guide to help encourage first time reviewers at least make a start. If continued, this helps online writing communities weed out spam, plagiarism and low quality content by a process of ONLY reviewing quality articles. Once you’ve used the standard phrasing a few times, you will want to customize to suit your language style and expression. After several reviews, you’ll be a natural.
If you wish to become an even more valuable member of your writing community and a greater supporter of your article writing friends and peers, then you will want to continue to develop your article review skills, possibly becoming a respected and sought-after critic. Listed below are some sites that can help.

Going Forward

Your authors have benefited from a dose of creative juice in the preparation of this article. One of the ideas — a genuine light bulb of an idea — is to make the Impressions Table into an article quality value generator. By assigning numbers to each box in the table’s matrix, an article can receive a numerical rating normalized to global education systems (where 100 = A+). If you love, like or hate the idea, please chime in with a comment.

Another idea is to come up with a reward system for reviewers, to encourage readers like yourself to generate reviews ranging from the simple five-star vote, to quick and simple narrative as we advocate in this article, to more advanced and scholarly. Make a noise in comments about this, please. Tell us what constitutes a reward? Is it recognition of citizenship in our meritocracy? Is it an i-Pod or G-phone or Starbucks coupons?

Acknowledgements

[1] Adapted from the Youngbloods “Get Together”, whose refrain goes:>
C’mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try and love one another right now
The original draft was prepared by Peter Baskerville. Co-author Murry Shohat came aboard to provide copy editing and add expanded content to help extend the article’s metaphor about quality to just about any Internet publishing site that empowers readers to rate content. Together, Peter and Murry strongly support an open source publishing environment that encourages users to participate in voluntary content validation. Although Peter and Murry are oceans apart (Peter in Brisbane, Australia is 18 hours ahead of Murry in Roseville, California), their collaboration is testament to the web’s cybernetic power.
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