To analyse is to question; to think things through, to form an opinion, to make judgement.
Critical analysis is critical thinking. Critical thinking is an evaluating technique that can be applied to reading texts, and can be learned. Critical thinking uses analytical or reasoning skills to question information in a text. It is reading a text and looking for influencing factors that the writer may have used to convince the reader to see a particular point of view.
Therefore, critical thinking is ways of looking at a text; to question what has been written, by whom, and in which journals; to question the evidence used to convince the reader to see that point of view.
How critical thinkers approach a text
Critical thinkers carefully evaluate the information before them. They look at points of view, limitations, impact, generalisations.
Critical analysts examine the evidence (research), produced by the text’s author, and ask: is this relevant, is it old, what is it really saying? Why has the writer used this? How does it affect the overall argument? Where is this information leading to and why?
Critical thinkers question:
– assumptions by authors
– quality of evidence used
– the point of view the writer has taken and why
– reasoning. They ask: does the reasoning lead, logically, to a plausible conclusion?
Critical analysis begins at the active-reading and note taking stage. Critical analysts or thinkers stand back, question, evaluate and analyse readings as objectively as possible to form an opinion on the validity of the argument within the context.
Critical thinkers (analysts) ask a range of questions
Carefully read a text, for example a journal article, making notes in the margin or on a separate page. As you read, make judgements about how the text is written or argued.
• Ask questions of the text as you read.
• Assess the point of view taken.
• Examine the language used: is it rhetoric or reason?
• Is the writer using emotive language to convince the reader to see his/her point of view?
• What is the result of this use of language?
Other points to look for
Critical thinkers look out for the following:
• ‘Facts’ without reason or evidence
• Poor research (unreliable websites, for example)
• Points and possible counterpoints (points of view).
Critical analysis does not simply explain or regurgitate the information from the text read: it goes further with its analysis. It evaluates, compares, applies the theories read, and examines outcomes.
Critical analysis examines, in depth, what is read and makes: educated decisions comments evaluations new theories.
Critical analysis questions a text. It uses healthy scepticism to penetrate assumptions by
applying evaluative and reasoning skills to it.
Critical analysis is an exploration of what is read.
Other processesinvolved when evaluating a text
• Weighing up strengths and weaknesses
• Agreeing or disagreeing with the information and giving reasons for these
• Seeing information from a variety of perspectives (points of view)
• Considering the consequences expected from these and other perspectives
• Acknowledging ‘grey areas’: that not everything is black and white.
How to analyse
• Actively read the paper; make notes as you read
• Highlight important points
• What do these points say?
• What do these points mean?
• What or whom do they affect?
As a critical analyst, you are at liberty to pull the research arguments apart and examine the language the authors have used to influence. Ask: Is the author biased in any way? . Analyse the evidence: how has this evidence been used to influence the reader? Can you see another argument? Is there another pathway that could be taken? Are there any flaws in the author’s argument? Is there a pattern emerging? How does the argument compare to another theorist’s argument? What qualifications does the author have?
Avoid making quick judgements. Ask: has the writer gone far enough with explanations or theories? Is the writer simply blinding the reader with science?
Evaluate carefully but be sure to give credit where credit is due.
Answering the above questions in your own writing creates a forum for your voice and a pathway for deeper understanding and analysis.