Essay writing is an integral part of any university curriculum. Every coursework assignment involves an in-depth level of analysis. Students often find themselves in a fix when trying to evaluate a topic critically.
There is no right or wrong way to approach a topic. Academic research gives you the freedom to choose one side of any argument. A critical analysis is meant to stimulate your intellect. It keeps you mentally engaged with the subject.
Do you have an assignment due next week but have no idea where to start? Well, I got you covered. Read onto know more about how to evaluate a topic and ace your assignments critically.
1} The crux of critical evaluation
People usually confuse critical analysis with criticism. Let’s clear this dilemma before we move any further. Critical appraisal is quite different from criticism. In the former, you consider the good and bad aspects of the subject.
Critically analyzing a topic involves collecting all the information, sorting it and then figure out its practical usage. The crux or central point of any critical analysis is questioning the facts presented to you. Try to check the credibility and relevance of the data you find.
2} Analyzing the topic
Most universities give students the liberty to pick their area of research and expand upon it. You can choose a text or theory to discuss and pose your arguments on. However, picking the right topic is easier said than done
In simple words, there are five main factors to look for in any research topic you select.
- The relevance of the topic
- Source materials you find
- Scope of the research
- Key assumptions made
- Your understanding
Pick a question that is unique and yet researched upon. This would give you enough references but also better scope for new findings. Pick a topic that makes you curious. Research becomes a lot more fun when the subject piques your interest.
3} Identify the context
Setting the issue into context is one of the most important things for a research paper. Understand the background and purpose of the text/theory. In my opinion, there are four different ways to look at a piece of work. I will talk about some of them below.
Method 1- The central reading
This is your first encounter with the topic. For instance, if you have an assignment on Victorian literature, you need a text that represents the times. A book/novel from this era should highlight the main socio-political issues of the people.
The first reading tries to decode the text most conventionally. Here you consider the central themes of the book and correlate it with the topic at hand. The preliminary study is the first step to critically evaluate a text. It opens new avenues of research and questioning for the reader.
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Method 2 – The personal reading
The personal reading is when you put the private life of the author into the equation as well. Frequently, a text is autobiographical. It includes episodes or sections that draw from the author’s issues.
This can give you a chance to look at the topic from a personal angle. The private reading is suitable for descriptive literary essays. It provides an exciting contrast of what the author means and how scholars interpreted it.
Method 3 – The modern reading
The new reading is one where you try to figure out the contemporary relevance of the text. If you have a marketing assignment, talk about the significant marketing theories used in a specific industry.
Here you don’t have to discuss the background or the personal history of the author. With modern reading, the reader gets a clear idea about the application and usage of your research.
Method 4 – The practical reading
With the practical reading, you take a very mathematical approach with the text. This would involve a lot of scientific studies, graphs and numbers. You can then analyze these findings and arrive at a definitive conclusion
Research is not limited to merely stating facts on paper. It is more about comparing the said facts and look at the results from different perspectives. Your assignment should always try to present an unbiased, holistic picture of the situation.
4} Collect all the information
Every research project is based on certain assumptions. The critical evaluation of the topic must acknowledge these assumptions and build upon them.
A comprehensive reading of the topic involves multiple references. A quick online search or a trip to the library can give you all the data you need. Consult your peers and professors about credible sources.
Also, explore research platforms like JSTOR that catalogue hundreds of journals in alphabetical order. Other media formats like documentaries, blogs etc. can also be inspiration sources.
5} Assessment of details
Once you have all the information, you need to arrange it in a rational order. This is where structuring the essay comes into play. Every piece of academic writing follows a specific format. There has to be an introduction, a middle and a conclusion.
I also recommend that you add an abstract at the beginning of your paper. This section explains the purpose of your essay and the topic in brief. The introduction then sets the tone of the assignment.
The main body of the essay expands upon the central themes and arguments. It states all the information you have about the topic. Ensure that you approach the subject with an open mind
To critically evaluate an issue is to look at it from all perspectives. Don’t let your personal opinion or judgements colour of your research. Also, it’s okay to keep the conclusion open-ended.
6} Find your niche
Back in school, the essays you wrote were very generic. Students back then picked standard topics that did not require any additional reading. All that changes when you enter university.
The academic essays in your curriculum usually demand an in-depth study. You cannot stick to the general topics and expect a good grade. I encourage my students to find their niche, an area of specialization.
Don’t try to cram in a lot of details in your essay. Instead, pick a small section and discuss it in detail. Dive deep into the topic, understand its background and implications. Keep an objective approach and question everything you encounter.
Don’t straightway believe every piece of information you come across. Check the authenticity of the source before you add it. An excellent critical analysis shows you all sides of the story.
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7} Structuring the paper
Follow a chronological structure for your essay. Start with a broad introduction and then explore organically. This makes your article readable and comprehensive. And always write in the third person. Don’t use pronouns like “I” or “you” as it is not in place of the academic language.
Start the essay by stating all the information you gathered from your previous references. You can then discuss your arguments for or against these details. Weigh each of your cases with counter-evidence as well for a more holistic picture.
Consult your professor about the structuring styles to follow. There are three major styles you can explore- MLA, APA and Harvard referencing formats. Each of these come with specific rules that you can find online.
8} Issues with critical evaluation
Now, that you know all about critical assessment, let us discuss some problems that students face. There is no checklist for how to think and evaluate a particular topic critically. Organize all the facts and list down the possible questions and contradictions you might encounter.
Some students also find it difficult to dissociate their personal biases from their research. The entire point of critical evaluation is objectively assessing the topic. Your job doesn’t end with merely presenting the facts. You have to discuss it and build an argument for/against it.
Critical analysis, though interesting, can also be distracting for some. Students can sway from their central argument and try to include details not relevant to the topic. If you have an exciting tidbit that doesn’t fit in the essay, add it as a footnote. You can even insert a few annotations in the bibliography section.
9} Concluding the critical analysis
This is the last part of the critical evaluation process. The conclusion is where you can reflect upon the findings of the essay and put in your two cents. It is a section where you reinstate your points to remind the reader of the central questions raised in the article.
End your assignment with a bibliography and proper citations. Check out the referencing guide on your university website for more assistance. You can also explore online citation generators like CiteFast to save time.
10} The bottom line
Finding a topic and planning a paper on it is no child’s play. It requires meticulous research and sorting of ideas in a systematic order. With critical analysis, you learn how to put forth your arguments in a logical way.
The analytical study also broadens your perspective and gives the reader more food for thought. Unlike a standard essay, an analysis discusses the topic from all possible angles. It objectively presents the facts.
I hope this guide helps you evaluate the given topic critically and write a detailed assignment on it. All the best!
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