What exactly is critical analysis? Your tutor may have told you to be more critical in your essays. This does not mean that you have to be nasty or rude about anyone or another writer’s point of view. What it means is that to succeed at good essay writing you need to be assessing the facts and making your own mind up about what it all means.
Good essay writing: look at the question
To begin with you need to make sure you understand what the question means and why it has been chosen. The tutor set that question in the way that they wrote it because they hoped you would think about particular issues and read certain texts. What do you think these might be?
Writing tips: express your opinion
Then decide on your point of view. This is key and is one of the reasons for essay writing. Your tutor wants to know that you have an opinion and that you can express it clearly. By the time you start to type you should know where you stand. Imagine that you are a barrister going into court. You would be going to defend your client. You wouldn’t turn up not sure who you were going to support. For the purposes of your essay, during your reading you may change your opinion several times, but by the time you start writing an essay, your argument should be fairly clear to you. Without an opinion, your writing will lack conviction.
Persuasive essay writing
Next, you need to use all your powers of persuasion to bring your reader round to your way of thinking. You do need to show awareness of different viewpoints, but tackle each and knock those arguments down by using good evidence.
Primary and secondary research: critical reading
To write in a critical way, you need to read critically too. This means that you don’t accept every word that you read. Question everyone’s argument. This approach should be the same for primary research documents as well as secondary reading material. Do you know anything about that author? Are they known for holding a particular political view or is their research funded by a company (so they will not criticise that firm’s products)? Good academic writing always has an axe to grind, so don’t just accept what you read without questioning. Is it true? Why do you think so? What evidence has the writer supplied you with? Can you see any problems with the evidence or loopholes in their argument? Some academic writing tutors suggest that you approach every text with an attitude of “So? Prove it to me!”.
These skills will be of benefit to you throughout your academic career, so it’s worth spending some time now getting these things right before you get to the stage where you start dissertation writing. Have you found any resources that helped you with critical reading? Please post your comments below.