When given assignments, students often panic when they read the words ‘critically analyse’, because they are unsure what this means. Our aim is to clarify this and give you some tips on how to critically analyse to achieve the best grades.
Defining critical analysis
The term critical analysis refers to the detailed examination and evaluation of other people’s ideas, theories, and studies. The aim is to highlight both positive and negative facets of the work, using a critical thinking approach. In other words, being sufficiently intellectually disciplined to actively conceptualise, apply, analyse, synthesise, and evaluate information to arrive at a reasoned conclusion. It is an important skill in both academia and in professional working environments, so it is vital that students learn how to undertake critical analysis effectively.
How to critically analyse
There are some key skills that need to be developed to ensure that you are able to critically analyse in your essays, reports, and dissertations. These include:
Observation: Being able to identify and predict opportunities, problems, solutions, and themes.
Analysis: The ability to gather, refine, understand, and interpret data, both qualitative and quantitative.
Inference: The ability to draw accurate conclusions from datasets using both analysis and personal experience and understanding.
Communication: The ability to share ideas gathered from analysis and inference with others so that they understand your perspective.
Problem Solving: The ability to identify an issue and come up with solutions through analysis and communication.
Developing these skills and applying them to critical analysis work will ensure that your works are well-structured, your arguments are well-informed, and your analysis is beyond reproach, making you an effective critical thinker. The next stage, once you have developed these skills is to understand how to bring all of this together to effectively write a critical analysis essay or assignment.
The foundation of a good piece of critical analysis is having a good understanding of the work to be evaluated. For example, critical analysis of a film or book means watching or reading it several times. In the case of journal articles or other academic research, the work should be read through once for an overview before reading it objectively to identify key ideas and themes and how effective their presentation has been. Once you have these key ideas and themes, producing a critical analysis should start with the writing of a plan or outline.
Planning the analysis should commence with bullet points of the key points you want to make about the work. This ensures you stay focused and on topic and also ensures your analysis has a clear and logical flow of ideas and a defined structure. Once your plan is defined, you can progress to writing the final critical analysis piece.
The introduction to a critical analysis work should first of all tell the audience which work you are analysing and your initial opinions and perspectives of the piece. There should also be a definition of the author’s main aims or theories so that the reader is clear what your work is about. A good introduction is one which engages audience interest and makes them curious to read more. It should not be overly long as the main focus of your analysis will be covered in the main section. The introduction is just that – an opening statement on what you will be discussing.
Based on your outline or bullet points, the main body should be separated into multiple paragraphs. Each paragraph should address one point only, with the structure being to state the idea being discussed, followed by supporting or refuting statements about the work. Quotes from the original work can be used, but only to emphasise your own thinking, which should be backed up by references or proven counter-arguments as much as possible. In other words, the main body of the work is the meat of your critical analysis where you clearly state the outcomes of your evaluation and analysis, backed up by proof and concrete, referenced arguments that either support or debate the ideas put forward by the work(s) being analysed.
Conclude and make closing remarks
The conclusion of a piece of critical analysis should be, like the introduction, clear, focused, and concise. By drawing together the statements and observations made in the body of the work, the conclusion will restate your perspectives, and confirm that you have said what you intended to say. Conclusions should not bring in new ideas but sum up what has already been said.
Following these stages of a critical analysis will ensure your work is well-presented, logical, and coherent.