Critique Writing Guide

Your Assignment

Your challenge is to write a review/critique of some “publication” pertaining to this course—namely the relationship between food, health, and diet. It can be an article or blog post from a website, newspaper, or magazine; it can be a video, movie, or food documentary; science research article, historical scholarship, or whatever you like. Feel free to find these via Google, UNM Library databases, or whatever (you’ll have more fun with Google).

Don’t choose something that is super long or complex; that creates way more work for you than is necessary here. Also, don’t choose anything that is super short and trite; it simply won’t give you enough material to work with. Make sure the article is trying to tell you something about how to eat or be healthy.

Assignment Goals

This assignment shows that you’re able to apply the course discussion and activities in the real world by critically analyzing some source that you might read even outside of this course. This is the goal of the entire course—see the learning objectives on the syllabus!—to help you think carefully and historically about diet and health. In terms of the writing itself, the assignments encourage/force you to focus on the clarity and concision of your thinking and expression. It’s a super useful skill that you’ll frequently employ in your future career, whatever it is.

Assignment Format

Your essay must be around 1000 words. This restrictive format is very deliberate, to force you to think about quality over quantity. The challenge isn’t to meet the word count, but pack as much analysis and course synthesis into that space as you can, and to make your writing as concise as possible.

Organizational advice

You should begin your essay with a quick summary of the source—no more than a few sentences—so that your readers have an idea of what the point is (assume they have not read it themselves).

Then, comment briefly about the evidence used to make the point. Maybe there are “scientific” studies, maybe anecdotal evidence, maybe nothing.

You might want to mention something about how the author establishes expertise or authority (or doesn’t).

Are you convinced by the evidence? What is problematic or missing? What are the assumptions of the author about the nature of diet and health?

Use the history of diet and health (as we’ve discussed it so far) to provide insight into what the article is talking about. For instance, you might discuss (thinking about the early part of the course in particular) how your source balances common sense and medical advice. Why does this article look like it does? If it talks a lot about calories, you might mention Atwater. If it talks a lot about vitamins, you might mention McCollum and fear of nutritional deficiency. Is the article simply jumping on the correlation bandwagon?

References and Citations

You should cite passages from the readings with author-date notation.

An example: Although Cheyne appealed to his personal experience with diet, he himself was extraordinarily large (Shapin, “Trusting,” 276). Note that I’ve used an abbreviated form of the article name since we read two things by Shapin. You can omit that if there is only one source by the author, like (Cowan, 15).

If you cite something from outside the class, you need to provide a foot- or endnote with a full reference to that source (either a URL or regular bibliographic citation). You can use any format you want, but be consistent.

General formatting checklist

Tips for success

In the process of getting your ideas on paper, you might end up with something like: “This article does not cite any research. The lack of research means it is difficult to understand if it should be trusted.” (22 words)

During revisions, you should rephrase this to: “The article’s lack of research compromises its authority.” (8 words) This gives you much-needed space for more analysis!

Note: Revisions are hard! But they are the only way to make your writing shine.


If you are not pleased with your grade, you can revise and resubmit them within 2 weeks of getting them back. You get an average grade between the two, though I tend to count the second one a bit more. I encourage you to meet with me about your essay before revising it to make sure you have a clear plan for revisions.


Please email me anytime with questions or concerns, including whether a particular source will work with the assignment. It is always worthwhile to talk about these things in class, too. Don’t hesitate to ask.