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Study guide For a printer-friendly PDF version of this guide, click here It is common for feedback on student writing to focus on the need to engage more critically with the source material.
Typical comments from tutors are: This study guide gives ideas for how to improve the level of critical analysis you demonstrate in your writing.
Other study guides you may find useful are: What is Critical Reading? Using Paragraphs and The Art of Editing. What is critical writing?
The most characteristic features of critical writing are: What is descriptive writing? The most characteristic features of descriptive writing are that it will describe something, but will not go beyond an account of what appears to be there. A certain amount of descriptive writing is needed to establish for example: The difference between descriptive writing and critical writing With descriptive writing you are not developing argument; you are merely setting the background within which an argument can be developed.
You are representing the situation as it stands, without presenting any analysis or discussion. Descriptive writing is relatively simple. There is also the trap that it masters level academic writing be easy to use many, many words from your word limit, simply providing description.
In providing only description, you are presenting but not transforming information; you are reporting ideas but not taking them forward in any way. An assignment using only descriptive writing would therefore gain few marks. With critical writing you are participating in the academic debate.
This is more challenging and risky. You need to weigh up the evidence and arguments of others, and to contribute your own. You will need to: A much higher level of skill is clearly needed for critical writing than for descriptive writing, and this is reflected in the higher marks it is given.
Finding your academic voice When you engage in critical writing you are developing your own academic voice within your subject. They suggest that the academic voice will involve: Succeeding with your doctorate. Try to get into the habit of writing critically, by making sure that you read critically, and that you include critique in your writing.
Stringing together of quotes It can be tempting to string together quotes to support an argument, feeling that the more quotes you include, the stronger your argument.
It is important, however, to remember that you also need to interpret the quotes to the reader, and to explain their relevance, discuss their validity, and show how they relate to other evidence. Strategic use of paragraphs There are several ways in which you can use the paragraph to enhance your critical writing.
You can use paragraphs to make a clear and visual separation between descriptive writing and critical analysis, by switching to a new paragraph when you move from description to critical writing, and vice versa.
This can help in: A paragraph break can provide a brief pause for your readers within a longer argument; giving them the opportunity to make sure they are keeping up with your reasoning. Paragraphs that are overly long can require readers to hold too much in their mind at once, resulting in their having to re-read the material until they can identify the point you are making.
You can also use paragraphs to push yourself to include critical writing alongside descriptive writing or referencing, by considering each paragraph almost as an essay in miniature. Within each paragraph you would: Beyond that, however, there is a danger that too much descriptive writing will use up valuable words from your word limit, and reduce the space you have for the critical writing that will get you higher marks.
A useful habit to get into is to make sure that, if you describe some evidence relevant to your argument, you need then to explain to the reader why it is relevant. The logic of your explanation contributes to the critical component of your writing. So, a sentence or two might describe and reference the evidence, but this is not enough in itself.
The next few sentences need to explain what this evidence contributes to the argument you are making. This may feel like duplication at first, or that you are explaining something that is obvious, but it is your responsibility to ensure that the relevance of the evidence is explained to the reader; you should not simply assume that the reader will be following the same logic as you, or will just work out the relevance of the quote or data you have described.
Line of argument So far this study guide has considered the detail of what you write.At Masters level, originality is more routinely expected. A key aspect to this – the most challenging element of academic work – is confidence in your intellectual acuity. Lay the foundations through mastery of the more prosaic elements, then develop the confidence to speak with a new voice.
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In most cases, your writing will have to meet certain requirements in a number of fields: Style. It should correspond to the academic level of the author and follow the rules of the style of scientific prose.
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