With a critical eye and Google by my side…
To be critical is not to criticise (it is not a negative process), rather it is the rational examination of ideas, assumptions and conclusions drawn within a text or piece of research. Achieving such a postion requires us to both subjectively and objectively analyse and evaluate it. To deconstruct an article, breaking it down into its constituent parts; analysing the relationships between these parts and their relationship to the whole.
To do this effectively it requires you to approach reading curiously. Do not take what you read as a given. You must question what you read; assume nothing; explore everything. Read deeply within and around the text, seeking clarity and truth.
There are a range of ideas about where to begin but what is important is to get a sense of the whole text. Look for the conclusions that have been drawn by the author to add clarity to your reading. What is their thesis?
Two useful responses at this stage are to:
- Summarise the text drawing out the key points. This reinforces your understanding of the whole text and identifies key points of interest, while maintaining your objectivity.
- Write down your initial thoughts about the article; what is your position? This is a more subjective approach but is important in helping you to engage actively with the text.
Do not be a lazy reader. Use the web and investigate words, concepts and references you do not understand. It is imperative that you form a full and accurate understanding.
Now you can begin to deconstruct the text. Critical analysis is made up of a number of specific tasks:
- Analyse references, sources, data and evidence – considering their credibility (validity and reliability)
- Ask questions. Does the evidence support the thesis? Has it been presented in a critical way, free from bias?
- Ask more questions! Take the key quotations and drill down on them. Critique them, break them down, open them up and investigate.
- Consider the appeal of the article. Why has it been written? What value does it have?
- What else has been written about the topic? Are there other points of view?
Writing a critique is as challenging as doing the reading in the first place. Treat it like your own argument. Establish a thesis about the article you have analysed. What do you think about the article. What do you agree with; what do you not agree with?
Be logical and thorough in the writing of your critique. Address each point that you wish to make and offer detailed analysis. Explore references and points of view in great depth; do not simply offer a string of quotations.
Throughout continue to ask questions.
- Question your own assumptions and biases as much as you do the authors
- Why have you used a certain example, what are you trying to argue, where is the theory to support your argument?
Do not describe. Description is merely an account; it demonstrates limited skill. Do not explain. Explanation is similar to an argument but it is not critical nor is it persuasive. Instead offer a critical analysis. You are offering a judgment of the article or research you have investigated, providing evidence and analysis to support your thesis.
Finally, conclude well. Make sure that you end your critique in a clear and precise summation of your findings.
- James Michie: Becoming an active, critical reader [Blog Post]
- Bradford University: Critical Analysis [Resources – PPTs, PDFs, Video]
- Ayers, Phoebe (2008) How to evaluate a Wikipedia article [Handout]
- University of Leicester: What is critical reading? [Guide]
- University of Leicester: What is critical writing? [Guide]
Archive – Wednesday 3rd April
1. In pairs, read and critically analyse a given article. Write a 750 – 1000 word critical review of the article (in Google Docs).
- Wikipedia contributors, (2013) Chicken or the egg, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia.
2. Complete a blog post reflecting on the week’s assignment and your progress (include a link to the published article)
- How has this week’s assignment improved your skills of reading and analysis?
- Discuss how you and your partner worked together to complete the task.
- How is the course helping you to become a more in(ter)dependent learner?
3. Read and comment on the blog posts of the 3-4 members of your comment group. (Discuss their responses to the questions and share your learning from the week)