Critical writing considers different viewpoints and forms its own conclusions. If a piece of work has issues with criticality and argument, tutors will often make comments such as:
- "Explain the direction of your argument."
- "More critical reflection and deeper analysis needed."
- "Too descriptive."
- "More evidence needed."
What to look for
If you receive this feedback, revisit your work and check that:
- you have drawn conclusions and not just provided information
- you have critically analysed and presented various arguments and weighed up the evidence for each
- you have developed your argument by considering all the evidence and drawing your own conclusions.
Analysis vs description
To make your writing more analytical and less descriptive, make sure you draw conclusions rather than just give information.
Descriptive writing states facts, explains a theory or lists details. Analytical writing identifies the significance of ideas, evaluates their strengths and weaknesses, weighs one piece of information against another or shows the relevance of links between them.
Thinking critically about information you find involves analysing all the arguments and weighing up the evidence for them. Can you spot any flaws in the argument? How does it compare with others? Does it contain bias?
Questioning the information in a critical way goes beyond asking: What? Where? When? Who? These questions will give you descriptive answers.
Instead ask yourself: How? Why? What if? So what? The “So what?” question, in particular, will help you to really evaluate the information.
Developing an argument
Your argument will develop from your responses to the ideas you are reading about.
Consider all the evidence and draw your own conclusions from it. Then present both sides of the debate along with your thoughts, linking together the different elements.
Work towards a conclusion by weighing the evidence and showing how certain ideas win out and why others are rejected.
Print out this table of tips on criticality and argument (PDF).
How to feed it forward
To improve the criticality and argument within your writing:
- Check the module handbook and marking criteria for guidance on how to critically appraise sources.
- Ask yourself "how?", "why?", "what if?" and especially "so what?" each time you read a text.
- Incorporate a range of views in your writing and say what you think about them.
- Make your viewpoint clear.
- Review your writing and ask yourself: does it only describe and explain, or is it really analytical?