CSC290 Communication Skills for Computer Scientists

Fall 2019

Blog Posts
Critical Reviews

Critical Review Articles

In this assignment, you will be critically evaluating a peer-reviewed article, and assess the soundness of its methodology. The critical review should be 700-850 words in length. The reviews should be written in a more formal style than the blog posts, and you will be required to cite one additional source.

See More information will be discussed in lectures and tutorials.

Your TAs will provide detailed feedback on your critical review article. You will be required to make edits to your work based on the feedback, and submit your edits. Your ability to learn from feedback will be evaluated.

Critical Review

The article we will review depends on the tutorial section that you are registered in


Submit your work to Quercus (not MarkUs!) before the deadline.

Your submission must be a MS Word document. We will be using the "track changes" feature for the critical review edits portion of the assignment. If you do not have MS Word, you can download the software from here.


Do NOT assume that the person reading your review has read the article. Part of the exercise is to demonstrate your ability to summarize key information.

Remember that you are writing a critical review of the text, not arguing the topic of the article.

The target audience for your paper is the informed public including your instructor, your TA, and your peers.


You will need to use at least one additional source to support your analysis. Please cite any sources, including the text that you are reviewing, in the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) format. Refer to The article you are reviewing uses IEEE reference format, which is also acceptable, since IEEE and ACM formats are very similar.

Include an in-text citation when you refer to, summarize, paraphrase, or quote from another source. For every in-text citation in your paper, there must be a corresponding entry in your reference list. The article you are reviewing contain many examples of in-text citations. Here is one example:

According to Kamin, soft skills are interpersonal skills that demonstrate a person's ability to communicate effectively and build relationships with others in one-on-one interactions as well as in groups and teams. For this author, the practice of soft skills aids in communication and promotes problem solving, negotiation, conflict resolution, and team building [1].

Where [1] appears in the list of reference, and refers to an article titled "Soft Skills Revolution: A Guide for Connecting with Compassion for Trainers, Teams, and Leaders."

Avoid using the citations as nouns in your paper. For example, the article you are reviewing contains the following text:

In Section VI we compare the findings of this study with the results of the previous one reported in [5].

You should instead include the author and year of publication, like this:

In Section VI we compare the findings of this study with the results of the previous one reported in Matturro 2013 [5].

If there are more than three authors, include the name of the first author plus the phrase "et al."

Another related work is Ahmed et al. 2013 [4].

You can also consult your TA, the Librarians, or the Academic Skills Centre for additional assistance. If you do, bring a copy of the ACM Reference Format link, since the ACM citation style is unique to Computer Science and Engineering disciplines.


Please following the formatting guidelines below:

  • Use Arial font size 11, single-spaced.
  • Do not include a title page.
  • Include at least one additional source to support your analysis
  • At the end of your critical review document, you must paste the following declaration and type your name in the blank to signify your agreement:
    I, NAME, declare that the attached assignment is my own work, except where I have appropriately cited the original source, in accordance with the UofT academic code of conduct as linked on This assignment has not previously been submitted for assessment in this or any other course.
    Critical review submissions that do not include the above declaration will receive a minimum deduction of 10%.


You should carefully read the rubric before starting.

Critical Review Rubric (pdf)


Why are we writing a critical review?

A critical review shows that you:

  • understand main points of text
  • can effectively summarize information
  • can evaluate information using valid, clear and interesting criteria
  • can write in a clear and focused manner
  • can read “critically” and recognize bias

In industry, you may find yourself attending a meeting on behalf of your manager. After the meeting you would likely have to report to your manager with a summary of what the meeting was about, the highlights of the important points of discussion, and your thoughts on the meeting or the issue the meeting was about.

You can be tasked with researching a product/solution for a less technical manager. You would have to summarize what the solution does, and the key functionalities of the solution along with how each of those key functionalities meets or does not meet the company's identified needs.

The critical review helps give you practice for these tasks while working on your writing skills.

What happens if we go over or under the word limit stated in the assignment?

The 700-850 word length specification gives you a sense of how much work is required; it is not a strict limit. Your critical review can be somewhat shorter or longer than the specified length, but should not be too far off; falling very short or going on at great length tends to mean you’ve done either too little or too much, or have failed to be succinct. The TAs will therefore peanlize reviews longer than 950 words, using the word counter they choose to use.

Critical Review Edits

Your TA has identified some specific areas of improvement for your paper. Review your Critical Review feedback and correct/improve your writing based on your TA’s comments.

You can download your marked assignment with the TA's comments from MarkUs.

Possible comments for improvement include:

  • You often use the wrong verb tense (subject-verb agreement problems). Find these problems and correct them.
  • Many of your sentences are too long and wordy. Improve your sentence composition.
  • Your explanation of argument x is weak. Revise this argument so that it is clearer and stronger.


Use the Track Changes feature on MS Word so that the TAs can easily identify what you changed. Do not remove your TA's comments. They will help your TA evaluate your edits.

For Mac user only: The Track Changes feature works slightly differently on the Macintosh such that when you replace words that have been highlighted and commented by your TAs, the words disappear and the comments disappear. Don't worry about it. Looks like this is just how the feature works on the Mac. Please just make sure that you have Track Changes ON. When we download your submission for the edits, it will clearly show me the changes you have made. (Please don't try to fool us by using this message as an excuse to "not use" the Track Changes function.)


We will not be able to grade your work if you do not turn on "Track Changes" and your mark will be set to 0.

To earn the 2%, we want to see evidence that you have gone through your paper and edited it as suggested, correcting or improving specifically those areas that were pointed out to you by the TA. If the TA identified that you have many verb tense issues and you only corrected only 20% of those errors, then you will not earn a high mark for this assignment.


Submit your work on Markus before the deadline.