The Short Paper – Writing a Critical Analysis

The Short Paper – A Critical Analysis

A critical analysis relies on research into what has already been written on a topic which can then be used to analyze the author’s argument. It is not a mere report on what has been said. It requires critical thinking to present a developed argument to support your evaluation of the author’s work. While this is an individual assignment, the research needed can be incorporated in the final group project.

When critiquing an article, which will usually address a specific point or issue, it becomes important to have an idea of the complexity of the topic and the relationships between component issues. When evaluating an article, it is important to also have an idea of the philosophical or theoretical foundations of the author. Consider who supports the different POVs of an issue – think about the stakeholders (sometimes called players or actors), their positions and the values underlying these positions. A value is the comparative worth a person places on something but this is rarely clearly stated. Exploring an issue from these perspectives can help you read between the lines. It is often in the area of what is being valued that contention arises and is fertile ground for critical review.

Source Use and Limitations
1) The article to be critiqued should be from a peer reviewed journal and be approximately 10-15 pages long. It must be submitted for approval prior to beginning your paper. Digital copies preferred. E-mailed it directly from the database if you can clearly identify yourself as the sender. To be approved the article must be a positional paper from a peer reviewed journal that argues for a specific point of view or solution. It cannot be merely informational and should be a primary source.
2) You will need to have 2-3 additional sources used as evidence in your own arguments. These articles need not come from peer reviewed journal but must be academically justifiable.
3) The number of quotes from the article being critiqued is not limited but you can use no more than one quote from any of your other sources. You will have to use paraphrasing and summarizing to incorporate most of your source material.

Explanation of a Critical Analysis
A critical response comes in many guises and has a variety of names with the most familiar being a book or movie review. The structure is straight forward: a summary followed by the reviewer’s opinion about the content. When done well this opinion is backed up with reasons supported by evidence. This basic pattern is followed in an academic critical analysis/summary-response -- the focus being an assessment of the author’s argument. Any element of argument may be critiqued – issues of predicate influencing vision, (To keep straight who is doing what since everyone is writing opinions, it will is helpful to assign specific words to specific actors: The author wrote the article. The writer produced the analysis.)

This requires an in depth analysis of the author’s argumentation structure as well as the evidence used to support the points based on an understanding of the topic, and the various points of view generated by its issues. The writer can agree or disagree with the author on any point in this analysis but the paper requires choosing the most salient to discuss in the responses. This is what can be difficult: A critical response is an argumentative form that requires the writer to support her opinion about the author’s work but when this is about the content the writer must use support showing an understanding of the topic (in this is where the additional sources come in) but is not about the topic itself.

1. Be careful! This last point is where most students stumble-- it is easy to slip off into a discussion of the topic. It is important to always keep in mind that in this type of assignment the paper’s focus is an assessment of the author’s argument not the topic/issue itself. Yet, an understanding of the topic/issue may be required as part of the writer’s support.
2. It is often more difficult to agree than it is to disagree with an author because the writer must support his opinion with completely different evidence, i.e. agree with point but for different reasons.

Additional Information:
1. The short essay should contain a thesis that is neither a question, nor a statement of purpose. The thesis should indicate the points that will be evaluated with a clear statement of the writer’s opinion. This will probably be too complex to write in a single sentence. Remember that the contributing arguments should be in or before the thesis.
2. Your response should be and use neutral vocabulary. Use formal voice and third person only.
3. Integrate ideas brought up in class from readings and during group discussions if appropriate. Incorporate source material as evidence using APA style for in-text citations. Most source material should be integrated as a summaries or paraphrases.
4. Your analysis should be presented in a logical order. Use appropriate transitions, and other linking devices to enhance the strength of your logic and help the reader understand your points. Notice the “enhance.” Do not overuse these devices to pad word content or as a substitute for a clear logical relationships between ideas.
5. Word length is more about the level of analysis being requested than a specific number of words. No empty phrases – make every word count.
6. The paper should be formatting should be in APA style. Refer to the Harbrace, for specific details. Note: No abstract is required for a paper of this length. An abstract will be required as part of the final project.
7. As with all academic writing assignments, use the standards of good writing, including punctuation, grammar, usage, and spelling. To ensure this standard is met, a minimum of two drafts are required. The first draft should be subjected to a peer review for content. Make needed changes. This second draft should then undergo editing for clarity and grammar. Incorporate needed changes and corrections. Run a final spell and grammar check to produce your polished draft for submission. If you use digital editing tools for these revisions, be sure to save a version of each that shows the reviewers comments.
8. On the due date, you need to submit all drafts of the essay, along with the final draft of the paper itself at the beginning of class. Make sure you turn in a digital copy of the final draft to TurnItIn the same day by 12:00 PM (noon = the sun’s out unless covered by clouds). These requirements must be met for an assignment to be awarded a grade. No late submissions accepted.
9. Self-Evaluation due the following class. The evaluation should include answers to the following questions: What did you do well? What did you struggle with? What do you think you would do differently next time? What aspects of critical thinking did you use to analyze this issue? Give specific examples and explain how they illustrate your point. Were you able to successfully integrate source material as evidence? 300-350 words (1 -2 pages double spaced).

First Steps—Think and think and research, then think and analyze and think some more: Many of these will be applicable to your final project if you choose to use this assignment as a foundation in the team assignment.
1. Brainstorming, and research into what has been written will help you discover a variety of issues for a particular topic. (While not an acceptable academic source, Wikipedia and other general sources are a good place to look into what others say about a topic and its issues and who is saying what where.)
2. Identify a wide range of issues and possible positions within those issues before settling on a point of view to explore in more depth. Questions you may need to ask: How do the various issues in a topic come into conflict with each other? What are the most substantial positions for the two or three core issues?
3. Do any of these key issues have positions that oppose each other? What are the supports for these positions? What beliefs/values are in conflict in this issue? It is here that you will start to find specific articles and authors to use for this assignment.

Guidelines on how to write this paper:
Introduction: Introduce the topic but very little to no background is required in this style. Place the topic and issue in context by very briefly defining it and offering an explanation about why it is important. Define any specific vocabulary needed to understand your discussion. Identify and summarize the article you will critique.
• summary of the article - after reading the summary, the reader will have a good idea about the article’s content even if she did not read it. If you use the exact words from the article, they must be surrounded by “quotation marks.” However, your summary should not contain many quotes from the article – use your own words.
o author’s name – in the first sentence. Use the full name the first time you use it; after this use only the last name.
o “Title of the article” – again it should be in the first sentence. Notice the punctuation and the capital letters.
• Transition to your opinion – use a transition word to let your reader know that your opinion is coming. Notice this is the FIRST time your opinion about the article appears!

Put the ideas you will analyze in the correct order – (the same as the body sections/paragraphs). State the points to which you will respond. Your thesis should clearly indicate your opinion of the author’s work. Offering this information might require two paragraphs. (Yes, in a paper of this length you can have two introductory paragraphs if they are needed)

Body: Fully develop your own argument to support your evaluation. Note: This is not a five paragraph essay. You will have sections not very long paragraphs. How many paragraphs in each section (from one to ?) depends on your material. If you are not sure how to write an extended paper, talk to me.
A Section summarizes one element of the author’s argument then analyzes it providing support for the writer’s opinion.
Body paragraphs will develop this support and it is important to always keep the same pattern to help your reader understand whose opinion is being discussed.
• main point to be analyzed – This should be information from the article, Explain the author’s argument/CT element. Credit the author by using his family name. Paraphrase the author’s opinion and DO NOT include your own opinion yet.
• optional – a quotation from the article Use a quotation if the author has a great sentence which perfectly fits into your summary of her argument. Do not substitute quotes for paraphrasing the author’s point and its support.
• topic sentence which states YOUR OPINION of the author’s idea (agreement or disagreement) – Use a “turn/flag phrase” to alert the reader that this is your opinion. Remember do not use first person or third person pronouns – no I thinks or In my opinions. This topic sentence will be the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th sentence of a body paragraph.
• supporting evidence for your opinion – State why the author’s argument is effective or ineffective. Use specific details--facts, examples descriptions to show that your opinion of the author’s opinion is well-founded. Prove YOUR opinion (not the author’s) using YOUR own points and details (not the author’s). Use source material to provide this evidence.
• explanation of why/how your specific details prove your opinion – just what it says – explain how the evidence proves your point.
• concluding sentence- Emphasize your main idea (why the author’s argument is good/bad)
Notice that additional source material is used only in evidence position within the paragraph. It cannot substitute for your own analysis or explanation.

Conclusion: The usual: Summarize the paper, restate the thesis and end with something that will keep the reader thinking. It is always short, sweet and to the point.
Reference Page: APA format is required. Every source used in a paper must be on the reference page and all references on the reference page must be used as sources in the paper.

The basics of in text citations in APA are similar to those in MLA. A citation will appear after the source material if the author is not included in the material (Lastname, year). If Lastname (year) is given credit as part of the sentence, the year is indicated in parenthesis immediately following. There is a selection of crediting verbs categorized by strength in your course pack. According to gets very tedious.

Note that year not page number is indicated. The exception is when the source material is quote.