Monday, February 19, 2007

Analysis and Critical Thinking

Do you have assignments asking for a "Critical Review," "Critical Reading," or "Analysis Paper"? Confused about what these "academic" terms really mean and what the Prof. wants? The process of analysis is not so much simply summarizing the subject, but to evaluate what that material means.

You may be thinking,"How can I possibly evaluate something when I'm not an expert?" You don't have to be an expert. If you are in a class and the Prof. has asked you basically to "think" about the material you are reading, you already have all the skills you need to engage with the text. In other words, most of the time the Prof. is probably looking for how you think about the text. Terms like "critical," "analysis," "evaluate" simply mean to think about how something is working and why.

Some things to think about when approaching texts from an "analytical" or "critical" perspective.

• What do you think the text is trying to “say”? What seems to be the main idea?

• What are the points or ideas that the author uses to convey his/her main idea?

• How do these points work to show the main idea?

• Is there anything in the text that seems contradictory?

• If so, is this intentional? How does it possibly further the main idea?

• Are there any passages that stand out? How do these seem important to the main idea?

• What is the author’s point of view?

• What are other possible perceptions? (i.e. how does the text fit a context or a larger cultural perception? (If applicable))

• What is your perception? How is your view influenced by society and/or the text?

• Why does this subject seem important? Why or why not?

• How is this subject possibly relevant to other ideas you have been discussing in class?

You need not answer all of these questions, but they may be some things to think about if you get stuck. If all this seems too complicated, try this.

*What do you find interesting or important in the text?
*Now explain the "why" through examples in the text.

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