Stay Informed

Stay Informed is a series of hints, tips, guides and recommendations written by the Library Staff to help make using the library easier and more enjoyable.

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Critical analysis of source material

This post will look at the skill of critical analysis and how you can apply it to your choice of source material when writing assignments. The best pieces of writing are those that provide clear direction and contain valid and logical arguments supported by careful analysis of the current state of knowledge in your particular subject area. In order to fully form your own ideas and opinions, extensive and wide critical reading is necessary. With this in mind, there are some important points to consider.

Two skills that you need

  • Capacity to evaluate what you read
  • Capacity to relate what you have read to other information

How do I evaluate the source material?

You are expected to consult multiple sources of information and to show evidence of wide critical reading. In doing so, you need to exercise critical judgement. This means identifying relevant experts and theories and judging the value of their research in relation to your own. Wallace and Wray (2006, cited in Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009, p. 63) outline some very useful questions to consider when reading a piece of text:

  • Why am I reading this?
  • What is the author trying to do in writing this?
  • What is the author saying that is relevant to my needs?
  • How convincing is what the author is saying? (Is the argument justified by the evidence provided)
  • What use can I make of the reading?

The danger of not applying critical analysis is information overload. It is very easy to become lost in the literature and this may be reflected in your writing through weak arguments and a lack of clarity. By questioning and making judgements on what you read, you will only use the sources that really strengthen and support your argument and as a result, new findings may emerge that have not yet been considered.

 

Source:

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2009) Research methods for business students. 5th edn. Essex: Pearson Education.