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Critical Reading at University

Why do I need to learn it?

Critical analysis is a skill that each student should come away from university knowing. It's one of the key skills that employers expect from a graduate. Critical analysis or evaluation is all about asking questions of the sources you discover and want to use in your assignments and helps you identify the key pieces of reliable evidence you want to use to support your own argument.

This may involve you developing an understanding of the different types of resources you could use; their strengths and weaknesses, credibility and reliability, for example.

How do I do it?

How you are critical depends on the context you might be using it in.  At a university level you are expected to include critical analysis in your writing. When you are critically analysing the sources you read and use you might be looking at:

  • Strength or weakness in the author's methodolgy
  • Strength or weakness in their application of theory
  • Comparing and contrasting a selection of authors (who may support or dispute your own argument and standpoint)
  • Grouping authors with similar standpoints (also called synthesis)
  • Constructive suggestions for future research

Evaluating Sources of Information from our Skills guide.

Thinking Critically Podcast with David Richardson, Sally Forrest and Alex Hudson - 33 mins

Alexander Wood interviews three guests from across the university to highlight how you can develop your critical thinking skills. David Richardson discusses examples of how you are already thinking critically; Sally Forrest explains methods that you can use for applying your critical thinking to your secondary research and Alex Hudson advises on how you can be critical when writing your assignments.

Writing the Assignment: Critical Analysis, Flow and Paragraph Structure - Audio Podcast - 49 mins

Alex and Francoise McKay discuss how to write an assignment. Fran outlines how to structure paragraphs, be critical in your writing and how to make your essay flow. Their advice is supported by the voices of students.

The Critical Questions - 3 mins

Critical Analysis is a jargon term that on the surface appears daunting and complex, but actually being critical is something that we do in our everyday lives, from choosing how we get to university, to what food we eat. In every decision there is some form of justification. All you have to do is apply the questions you ask in everyday life to your academic work. In this video we show you the key questions you can ask to apply critical analysis to your assignments.

5 Tips for Critical Analysis - 5 mins

Alex from the Skills team outlines his 5 top tips for applying critical analysis to your work.