Critical Analysis

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Writing Critical Analysis Papers1
A critical analysis paper asks the writer to make an argument about a particular book, essay, movie, etc. The goal is two fold: one, identify and explain the argument that the author is making, and two, provide your own argument about that argument. One of the key directions of these assignments is often to avoid/minimize summary – you are not writing a book report, but evaluating the author’s argument. Potential points of criticism

Sometimes it can seem intimidating to “criticize” a book or article; after all, they are professors and experienced policymakers. However, part of this exercise is to expose the fact that even though these authors are highly qualified, they are still advancing an argument and providing evidence--their aim is to persuade you that their argument is true, not to just present facts. Once you recognize that these authors are making arguments, you can analyze whether or not you find their argument compelling. Following are some possible questions you could ask to evaluate arguments: •

Theoretical questions – How does the author understand the situation? What is his/her theoretical background? How would this influence their view of the situation? o



Definitional questions - Are all the concepts in the text clear? Does the author define a concept vaguely to allow it to travel across different situations? If a concept can relate two seemingly different situations, is the concept meaningful?

o



If the author is a clear proponent of Western, liberal forms of democracy, how will this influence his/her study of authoritarian states?

Can we really compare the existing communist government in China to the communist government in the former Soviet Union?

Evidence questions:
o Does the author’s evidence support their argument? Do they have enough specific evidence to prove the more general point?
Does the revolutionary government in Venezuela reflect a more general trend to the left in all...
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