Wednesday Writing Workshop – Criticality

Today I went along to a Wednesday Writing Workshop, the topic this week was on the subject of Criticality and using critical thought/writing in our written work. There were about 12 people in the class today. Chris Dennis who gives the workshops provided us with a series of examples that were good critical pieces of writing. They were writings on architecture, specifically on the Porte Rouge of the Notre-Dame in Paris. We worked through the examples looking for the examples of description and analysis in the writing, how those two things were layed out in successive paragraphs and the critical parts of the writing punctuated the descriptive parts. We learnt that criticality is suggested by phrases, words and the overall structure of presentation of data, description, evidence and then the analysis, questioning and probing of the latter. Critical writing must show control of the material and should contain evaluative sections that present opinions that are contemplative not opinionated and the bringing together of arguments to conclusive points that allow the writing to develop and progress.

So, some of the notes I jotted down that I think are useful I shall list below.

  • At appropriate moments refer back to and reiterate to key points and arguments this is one of the elements of a strong dissertation.
  • After longer passages of description and presentation of facts and ‘data’ (try to break this up with sentences of analysis) a longer section of analysis and critical thought/approach is necessary to show your skill in really thinking about an idea and questioning it laterally.
  • In the examples given in the workshop the writer measures what she is saying against other writers.
  • Succinctly and clearly summarise an argument! This is important to do frequently, especially if you have been writing for a while. Doing this will give the writing sort of check points and help to keep the interest of the reader. It is a critical technique that shows the consideration of the writer for their argument and how it is developing.
  • Summarise briefly and clearly the main points of past work and then a few points that suggests what is coming or where the writing is to head next in its discussion or line of inquiry.
  • Clearly articulated arguments.
  • Take what you have amassed and written and communicated or express it in another way – it should challenge conventions or cross examine – holding the work up to scrutiny.
  • What in the ideas and opinions you have assembled is clear and really thought out? What isnt? Which areas does the author/writer underplay or not write much about? How does that area affect their point or argument?
  • Transform and Extend the knowledge/work you are working on/writing about!
  • Bringing together opinions – analysis and breakdown, then stand back and pull out the key points and arguments and themes. Scrutinise, do they hold up? use them to make an informed opinion or evaluation.
  •  Good criticality emerges out of well written knowledge and analysis. The questioning and ‘taking forward’ of the knowledge and ideas.
  • Evaluation calls for a broad view of a topic to justify focusing on specific things. The relative importance to what the specific context is.
  • Dissertation is about supporting your opinions convincingly.
  • What is the overall argument? THINK!
  • Summaries should be structured with juxtapositions, comparisons and consideration for each part.

Chris suggested we look at Socratic Thinking/Questioning as a way into topics or as a method of becoming unstuck if writing becomes stagnant. There are is a guide on the CSAD website.

Some further research into critical writing this evening came up with this really good concise guide from the University of Leicester website.

Another good one I found which is a bit more lengthy and involved is from the University of Worcester website.


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