Critical Analysis | My Assignment Tutor

1Revised January 2011http://www.business.curtin.edu.au/communicationNo 13Critical Analysis: asking questionsTo analyse is to question, to think things through, to form an opinion, to make judgement.What is critical analysis?Critical analysis is a term used to describe waysof examining a situation, problem, document, oractivities in order to understand these, formopinions about them, and develop solutions toproblems associated with them.Critical analysis usually begins with the situationor item to be analysed being carefully examinedin terms of the following: What is being saidor what actionsare taking place?Who are the key participants andwhat are theirroles? What outcomescan be observedto be taking place(or to havealready takenplace)? What potentialoutcomes have been suggested by theparticipants or discussion in a document?We can start the process of analysis by gatheringfacts and factors that will help us to understandor make sense of a situation or document. Beginby asking questions about what is taking place,who is involved, and what problems andsolutions have been presented so far. Yourdescription of these in note form will form thebasis of your analysis which is likely to involve: categorising data, facts and eventsrelating these to known theoriesdetermining the causes and effects of eventsor actionsdeveloping an evidence-based argumentcomparing with similar situations oroutcomes evaluating actions and possible “what if?”scenariosmaking possible recommendations forfurther actions. Analysing documentsCritical analysis of a document involves usinganalytical or reasoning skills to find informationand develop understanding. Read the textcarefully to find key facts and influencing factorsthat convince the reader to see a particular pointof view.Critical analysis of a document seeks to determine,among other things: assumptions made by the authorsthe quality of evidence used – recent ordated researchthe point of view the writer has taken andwhywhether the reasoning leads logically to aplausible conclusionlimitations of the matter presented, itsimpact and generalisationsrelevance of the argument to the settingwhere the information is leading, and whywhether (from an objective point of view)the material is valid and reliable in thecontext of the discussion. Applying a critical analysis approach toevaluating a text or journal articleCritical reading involves taking a structuredapproach to analysing documents to discoverwhat is being said, how that is supported, andwhat meaning might be derived from thematerial. As you read, make brief notes to recordprincipal ideas, facts and your interpretation ofwhat it all means. Follow the steps overleaf:2Revised January 2011http://www.business.curtin.edu.au/communicationScanBegin by examining the title for key words thatset the subject and context of the document.Then take an overall view of the document byscanning through (beginning with the table ofcontents) to see how the document is structured.The main sections and headings will tell you agreat deal about what has been included andwhere key arguments and evidence may befound.Read key sectionsNext, carefully read the abstract (for a journalarticle) or introduction. From these, seek to gaina sense of what the author has highlighted as thecore subject matter, research methods used, andconclusions drawn. A quick look at therecommendations and conclusion sections willguide you in critically reading the main body ofthe document.Make notesIn reading the main body of the document, makenotes about how the author develops his/herargument, and what evidence is provided(references or research data). Be prepared toquestion what is said so that you have a sense ofwhether the document presents a valid argumentbased on reliable research methods or data.Your notes should show the following: what is going on – events, activitieswho the key players are, and what their rolesare in the events taking placein what context the situation is evolvingthe writer’s use of language: rhetoric orreason; emotive or impartial, to convince thereader to see his/her point of view the research approach taken and the rigorapplied to that processfindings, contentions or recommendationsthat emerge from the document (orresearch)evidence in support of the argument: qualitative, quantitative, referenced peerreviewed publications; and the quality of the work in terms of authorrecognition in the field of study. Other points to look forInterrogate the document to identify: generalisations‘facts’ without reason or evidencepoor research (unreliable websites, forexample)evidence of where the author comparesdata, applies appropriate theories, explorespotential outcomes from multipleperspectives (points of view). In the end you need to weigh up the strengthsand weaknesses in the arguments you arepresented with. You may not agree with what issaid sometimes, but you must be prepared toconsider it in the context of the argumentpresented in order to make an impartial,considered evaluation when forming your ownposition.CBS Communication Skills CentreCurtin Business SchoolRoom 407.202Email: cbs-comskills@cbs.curtin.edu.auwww.cbs.curtin.edu.au/communication

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