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BEING MORE CRITICAL IN YOUR WRITING

C chris.mcmillan@brunel.ac.uk

A


Student: 01115673

Grade: C Whilst this essay demonstrates some knowledge of the essay question, it is largely descriptive and thus the discussion is quite superficial. The essay is reasonably well structured, but it is difficult to identify a main argument and there is little critical analysis of the evidence used to support the ideas being presented. In addition the writing is not particularly academic.


This afternoon 

What does it mean to be critical?

Translating your opinion into academic arguments

Integrating evidence into your writing

Expressing your ideas academically


Academic writing is‌ ‌ a critical response to an academic debate Universities, as specialist institutions of research, attempt to live up to the highest possible standard of knowledge and truth


Academic debates and you 

Academic debates are never finally settled

Assignment questions and research projects are always based on these debates

To write critically, you must construct your own response to this debate


Being critical Academic writing requires you to go beyond describing what has been said into analysing and evaluating the literature and beyond

Describing

Analysing, Evaluating and Synthesising

Writing critically means demonstrating your contribution to the debate through the analysis, discussion and evaluation of evidence


Taking a Stand 

Ultimately, academic writing is about expressing an informed and authoritative opinion objectively and concisely

Academic writing is what you think, but it isn’t your simply your opinion

Your opinion becomes an academic argument because it is defended with evidence and analysis


The critical writing process 

Read and research with the goal of finding your response to the assessment/research question

Articulate this response as an academic argument

Organise your writing to defend this argument through a logical structure and the integration of evidence

Express your ideas academically so that the reader can follow your argument


Building arguments


Creating reflections 

Critical writing begins with critical research

Avoid reading just to record what is being said: try to develop your ideas as you read

Do record important moments in the text, but take time to develop your thoughts


Developing ideas 

You will never know more about a text than when you are involved in it

If you have ideas or reflections, write about them – it only takes one moment of clarity to build an idea

By developing extended notes you are able to expand your thinking and link to previous ideas – the building of an argument

These extended notes can often be the basis for your writing


Don’t stop yourself from thinking!


Organising ideas 

Writing can become descriptive when we focus on re-writing our notes into your formal writing: describing your research

Instead, ensure you have identified your primary purpose before you begin to formally write

Along with a more detailed note-making process, it may be valuable to use mind-maps or free-writing


Asserting your argument


Thesis Statements 

In essays, your argument is previewed at the beginning of your work: the thesis statement



Thesis statements contain your justified response to the assignment question



Thesis statements contain a claim, a justification and are often supplemented by a qualifying statement.


Asserting your Position Hook the reader and tell them what they need to know about the debate

Context

Preview

Thesis Statement

Tell the reader your process for responding the question

Tell them what you will be arguing


Question: Critically evaluate the impact of fee increases on student satisfaction in higher education Thesis: As fees rise, students’ satisfaction is likely to decrease as they demand stronger services from universities that have not been provided with extra funding to offer that support. Conversely, there may be other ways, such as an increased focus on teaching standards, to maintain satisfaction levels without extra funding.


Make sure your position is clear to the reader


Defending this position 

Your primary argument is the basis of the structure of your writing

What do you need to discuss to convince the reader?  This

will include the integration of counterarguments

To convince the reader we need to incorporate evidence into our work


Integrating Evidence


Evidence 

In order to move our position from opinion to argument, we need to integrate relevant evidence into our work



Here it is vital to go beyond describing this evidence into critically analysing it, particularly if it contrasts with your main point



The way you discuss this evidence is vital for making your writing more critical


Using evidence: The common errors ‘Working class mothers smoke much more than others.’ ‘Working class mothers smoke much more than others. “Low income people are often stressed, which leads to an increased desire to smoke” (Daily Mail, 2014). As a consequence we can see that poorer mothers take less care of their health.’

‘According to the NHS (1991), working-class mothers are 25.2% more likely to smoke than other mothers.’


Separate and not equal 

Whilst evidence is required, different forms of evidence have different levels of authority



Your role as a student is to be able to evaluate evidence and decide what is appropriate to justify your ideas



Make sure you extend your explanation to demonstrate the significance of the research


Don’t let the evidence speak for itself

Always ask, so what?


Beyond Description 

Academic writing is always a mix of description and critique

Key ideas are established, but need to be expanded on in detail and the implications drawn out

Not just what is being said, but why and what are the consequences

Ask, ‘So What?’


The ‘Washington Consensus’ of the early 1990s gave way by the late 1990s to the ‘post-Washington Consensus’ and the new humanitarianism of ‘soft neoliberalism’ (see Fine, 2001), including the World Bank’s initiation of a threepart study of poverty titled Voices of the Poor for the World Development Report 2000/2001. STATEMENT

This study sought to highlight regional patterns of global poverty while providing the world’s poor with a platform through which they could speak about their plight in their own words (see, for example, Narayan et al., 2000). Uniquely, this study was built on interviews with the poor around the world and sought to understand the everyday feelings and relationships of what it means to be poor. EVIDENCE AND EXPLANATION

So what? This heralded, as Pupavac (2005) rightly notes, a more psychological and intangible way of studying poverty; one that highlighted the importance of ‘tacit knowledge’ in the shape of individual stories, narratives and feelings about what it means to live in hardship and deprivation in order to build a definition of poverty based on first-hand accounts.


Boyland, E.J. et al. (2013) Food Choice and Overconsumption: Effect of a Premium Sports Celebrity Endorser. The Journal of Pediatrics, 163 (2). This study demonstrates the effects of exposure to celebrity endorsement in TV food advertising on ad libitum intake of the endorsed product and a perceived alternative brand of the same food item. STATEMENT Our data show that experimental exposure to a TV commercial for potato chips featuring a celebrity endorser commercial significantly increased children’s caloric intake of the endorsed brand of chips compared with exposure to commercials for an alternative snack food and a non-food item. Moreover, viewing the same celebrity endorser in a different, non-food context (presenting a soccer highlights TV program) also significantly increased intake of the endorsed brand of chips relative to exposure to a different snack food or non-food commercial. EXPLANATION AND EVIDENCE

So what? Although previous studies have linked celebrity endorsers with children’s beliefs about food,16 this study is this first to quantify the powerful influence of celebrity endorsement on children’s brand preferences and actual consumption (p.340)


So, what next?


Establishing Connections 

Create links to ‘drive’ your reader around your argument

These links can be developed within paragraphs through signposts

Alternatively, links are established at the beginning and end of paragraphs


Drive your reader around Globalisation‌

However

Moreover


Signposting


The domestication of students is accomplished through what Freire (1970) famously referred to as the "banking method" of education. In the banking method of education, teachers treat students as empty vessels to be filled with information through didactic lectures based on commercialized texts (Shor, 1992). Students are primarily involved in memorizing and regurgitating facts, while the teacher is the central focus. She or he has ultimate authority in passing on knowledge and is not interested in student input. In this approach, students experience education as something done to them, not something in which they are actively involved. In the banking method, students may leave with a stockpile of deposited knowledge but they are often left with a sense of disengagement from the learning process and alienation from their social world (Johnson, 2005). Critical pedagogy, on the other hand, is a student centred approach that assumes that informed individuals can (and do) intervene and change their worlds. Critical pedagogy‌ Conversely,


Develop an academic vocabulary Smith believes

Smith (2014) argues

It is proven that

Evidence suggests that

Smith is wrong

Smith’s (2014) approach is problematic

We might think that students… Although students may…

In my opinion students Students


Using sources: Varying verbs 

Whilst academic writers tend avoid descriptive language, subtle changes in meaning can be added, and varied, through verbs e.g. In order to control classroom behaviours, teachers must X confidence

1. 2. 3.

Possess Generate Obtain


Stuck for words?

www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk

www.visualthesaurus.com


Summary 

Academic writing is always what you think

Critical writing begins with the research process

Make an argument and make your defend this with a logic structure and clearly integrated evidence

Demonstrate your contribution to the debate through your writing style


Further assistance Contact ASK at ask@brunel.ac.uk or see http://www.brunel.ac.uk/library/ask Watch our writing videos Come by our drop-ins, Mon-Fri 1 – 6 pm (From next week) Friday: ASK Writing Drop-In 11am-3pm in the Workshop Room

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