Psychology: How To Write Critical Essay? - Portsmouth - Essay

2284 words - 10 pages

Palgrave Macmillan (2006)
Critical analysis
“Be more critical! More analysis needed! That’s what my tutors say about my
essays. I’m not really sure what they mean.”
“I thought I had written a really good assignment this time. I did so much
reading and preparation for it, but my tutor’s feedback is ‘not enough
argument.’ I’m not sure what to do now. I mean, I’m not an argumentative
person - and I don’t really want to be.”
One of the most important skills you will need to learn as a student, whatever your
discipline is the ability to think critically and objectively about an issue and to present
a well-constructed argument. Critical and analytical-thinking skills such as these will
be essential to most aspects of your study, whether you are listening to lectures,
contributing to seminars, or reading about your subject. Here, we will be focusing
mainly on critical analysis for written work, as nothing gains or loses marks more for
most student assignments than the quality of your written argument.
Argument here doesn’t mean disagreement or unpleasantness. It simply means
presenting a strong case to support a point of view. You don’t have to be an
argumentative person to do this: on the contrary, good critical writing means using
reasons and evidence to support your stand point.
The first rule is: Identify the focus of the assignment
Good critical analysis isn’t simply about writing. Before you start any assignment,
you need to be clear about your focus. At university, this usually means thinking
critically about the requirements of the essay, report, or of the seminar or workshop
“I always ask myself why the lecturers have set this particular essay? Why
this particular wording? What is it that they are expecting us to read? Usually,
Palgrave Macmillan (2006)
there is an underlying set of ideas or theories or problems or texts that they
expect us to cover as part of our background reading for the essay.”
The essay title or assignment brief will have been written with certain expectations in
mind. You can try asking your lecturers about these expectations- and they may
even give you some clues. However, at this level of study, you are usually expected
to demonstrate that you can think these through for yourself.
“For me, critical analysis begins with the essay title. I try to work out which key
debates or conflicts of opinion it refers to. I check through the main journals
for my subject for any relevant academic debates that have been running over
the last few years. That way I know I am up to date.”
The second rule is: Identify your own point of view
The second consideration for critical analysis, and which is especially important for
preparing student assignments, is to be clear about your own perspective. What
exactly is your own position on the subject? This may change as you work through
the assignment, but you should keep asking yourself this question as you study for
the assignment, to help clarify your thinking and direct y...

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