Thursday, 9 January 2014


  • To explore the meaning of critical analysis
  • To develop critical thinking and writing skills
  • To begin critically analysing some examples
What is it?
  • `In academic terms, critical analysis means considering the claims of theorists, governments, authorities and so on, what they are based on, and how far they seem to apply or be relevant to a given situation.  (Univ of Sussex Language Institute (1998) Critical Analysis, Argument and Opinion. [online]  [Accessed 28.06.04]
Why use Critical Analysis?
  • Critical analysis is a key skill for writing essays
  • it allows you to assess the various ideas and information that you read, and decide whether you want to use them to support your points
  • it is something we do everyday when assessing the information around us and making reasoned decisions, for example whether to believe the claims made in TV adverts
  • it does not always mean disagreeing with something; you also need to be able to explain why you agree with arguments
How does it work?

Critical analysis involves:
  • Carefully considering an idea and weighing up the evidence supporting it to see if it is convincing
  • Then being able to explain why you find the evidence convincing or unconvincing.

Bloom’s (1956) Hierarchy/Taxonomy of Thinking Skills

Differences between descriptive and critical analytical writing

Differences between descriptive and critical analytical writing

Also involves analysis of images.
Next image happened before 9/11.
Natural reaction is that it is referencing 9/11, when really it is very different.
If 9/11 didn't happen, the image probably wouldn't have been withdrawn.
Some considerations …
  • Date?
  • What was happening at the time?  
  • Historical, social, political, economic factors etc.
  • What is it?
  • What is it for?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Is it fit for purpose?
  • Who produced it?
  • Where was it produced?
  • Where was it designed to go?
  • Where is it now?
  • How was it produced?
  • Production techniques
  • Materials

Practicing critical analysis
  • It helps if you ask yourself a series of questions 
  • about the material you are reading:
  • Who is the author and what is their viewpoint or bias?
  • Who is the audience and how does that influence the way information is presented?
  • What is the main message of the text?
  • What evidence has been used to support this main message?
  • Is the evidence convincing; are there any counter-arguments?
  • Do I agree with the text and why do I agree or disagree?
How to get more critical analysis into your essay
  • Avoid unnecessary description – only include general background details and history when they add to your argument, e.g. to show a crucial cause and effect. Practice distinguishing between description (telling what happened) and analysis (judging why something happened).
  • Interpret your evidence – explain how and why your evidence supports your point. Interpretation is an important part of critical analysis, and you should not just rely on the evidence "speaking for itself”
  • Be specific - avoid making sweeping generalisations or points that are difficult to support without specific evidence. It is better to be more measured and tie your argument to precise examples or case studies.
  • Use counter-arguments to your advantage – if you find viewpoints that go against your own argument, don't ignore them. It strengthens an argument to include an opposing viewpoint and explain why it is not as convincing as your own line of reasoning.
Writing Critically
How do I criticise the work of established academics/practitioners? 
  • By reading other established academics/ practitioners that may have different views
  • By looking for practical evidence that may support or refute the established theory. 

How can I criticise other’s work?
  • Check for logical coherency of the arguments.
  • May the author be biased?
  • Cultural, gender, professional biases, etc. 
  • Does the author clearly outline his/her theoretical base?
  • Are the author’s arguments supported by relevant evidence and other people’s work? 
  • Are the author’s methods trustworthy? 

Is critical writing about criticising other’s work?
  • Yes but it is only a small part. 
  • It is also about:
  • Integrating different sources of information (books, articles, etc.) to provide a fuller picture of your topic. 
  • Giving an overview of your topic:
  • What are the key themes, arguments and conclusions?
  • How were they developed?
  • Do the authors in the area agree/disagree with each other?
  • What does the theory in your topic mean for practice? 
  • Providing practical evidence to illustrate and support your arguments. 
Critical Analysis at work
  • Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction’, 1936
‘One might subsume the eliminated element in the term “aura” and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art. This is a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art. One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition which is the obverse of the contemporary crisis and renewal of mankind’
‘Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.  This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence.’

Presence, Authenticity, Authority

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