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What does being 'more critical' mean?

Basically, being more critical means ensuring your discussion expresses a position in terms of the particular subject and discipline area, and supports this with an analysis of the evidence, material and/or perspective.

See What is critical thinking?

Click the highlighted text to see criteria and feedback for History and Politics, Psychology and Social Welfare.

Here is an example of feedback provided on a History and Politics assessment proforma for a second year subject. In this case, the student has clearly analysed the key issues, evaluated them, and mounted an argument. She has recognised the importance in this discipline of using evidence and of supporting her approach, step-by-step, throughout the essay.

Here is an example of feedback for criteria set for a third-year literature review in Psychology. In this case, being more critical refers to a combination of the content elements and, significantly (worth 50% of the mark), critique (or analysis and evaluation) of the literature, and a line of argument well-supported by some kind of rationale. The student in this case has recognised the importance of recent appropriate literature and critique but hasn't addressed the need for a clear line of argument.

Here is an example of feedback provided for a second year subject in Social Welfare. In this case, the student has recognised the importance of the relationship between the personal and professional, between theory and practice, and has demonstrated a critical awareness of these issues within the context of this discipline.

Expectations: questioning and contesting

All three examples reflect disciplinary differences in expectations about what it means to look below the surface considerations of an issue. Being more critical means demonstrating you can assess strengths and weaknesses, problems and advantages, and acknowledge the contested nature of knowledge in your discipline. It means that description and analysis aren't quite enough - you also need to provide a line of argument.

You can improve your appreciation of 'being more critical' by focussing on the assessment criteria for your subject, by reading broadly on your topic, by reading examples of others' work, and by discussing your ideas with others.

The topic: Critically examine the importance of compulsory voting within Australia's electoral system and its impact on political parties.

Question Analysis: This essay adopts a direct, focussed and structured approach to the topic. Its engagement with the topic and its key issues is thorough.

Development of thesis: This essay establishes a clear substantive argument at the outset that is subsequently developed and sustained. The argument developed is logical, cohesive and well presented.

Assessment of the debate or theories: This essay demonstrates a clear awareness of a broader context of debate and locates itself within this context.

Use of evidence: This essay utilises an excellent range of materials which are well integrated into the development of the argument and thoroughly acknowledged throughout.

Level of understanding of the topic: This essay demonstrates a comprehensive and detailed understanding of the importance and impacts of compulsory voting in Australian political life. Well done.

Grade: HD 90%

Aspect of review Not attempted Poor Fair Good Excellent

Inclusion of critical elements: should include discussion of target group, epidemiology, aetiology of the health problem and the health promotion strategies reviewed.
(20/30)

good

Evidence of critical consideration of material: should include a critique of the literature as well as a description
(16/25)

good

Structure and organisation of review: should be logical and well-developed with an introduction, rationale and conclusion. The line of the argument should be clear.
(15/25)

fair

Relevance of background reading: recent peer-reviewed research literature
(8/10)

fair

Correctly referenced: APA style (5th ed.)
(4/5)

fair

Presentation, spelling, grammar & punctuation
(3/5)

fair

Final Mark

Comments: After a slightly disjointed start your paper flowed quite well and was an interesting read. You picked an important topic which is relatively neglected. A good effort!

Content Excellent
(6 marks)
Very good
(5 marks)
Good
(4 marks)
Fair
(3 marks)
Needs work
(0-2 marks)
Articulation of personal theories fair
Reflection on personal theories fair
Relationship between personal theory and practice fair
Impact of personal theory on practice fair
Integration of theory and practice fair
Total 25/30
Presentation
synopsis, referencing, spelling/grammar, organisation and layout, and conclusion fair
Total 9/10

Grade: HD

Comments: Your essay shows a very good understanding of the impact of personal values and theories on social welfare practice. Other strategies to assist you to remain non-judgemental and provide genuine empathy and unconditional positive regard include supervision from social workers, explicit theory, codes of ethics and a self-reflective journal. Good work.

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