Critical reading and writing for postgraduates pdf


Critical Reading and Writing for. Postgraduates. Second Edition. Mike Wallace and Alison Wray. 3. 02/12/ AM. We have already noted that critical reading for postgraduate study is task- driven: usually . read, and also to ensure your own scholarly writing is well constructed. It is the authors' ments/ This passage. Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates (3rd ed.) (SAGE Study Skills Series series) by Mike Wallace. Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure.

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Critical Reading And Writing For Postgraduates Pdf

Is criticality just related to academic reading and writing and research? One way to think of . Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates. London: Sage. Synopsis: 'A systematic, coherent approach to developing critical reading and writing skills that are applicable to a range of different levels of analysis and types . Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates - Ebook download as PDF File . pdf), Text File .txt) or read book online.

Education at SAGE SAGE is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic, educational, and professional markets. Our education publishing includes: Enquiries concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers. The web material itself may not be reproduced in its entirety for use by others without prior written permission from SAGE. The web material may not be distributed or sold separately from the book without the prior written permission of SAGE. Should anyone wish to use the materials from the website for conference purposes, they would require separate permission from us. Developing a logical overall argument in a dissertation Index vi. The text is supplemented by on-line self-study materials see www. Our structured approach to learning critical reading and self-critical writing skills is underpinned by two core ideas. Masters dissertations. But critical reading and self-critical writing are highly transferable skills. So the book will also be useful to early-career academics who wish to enhance the quality of their research writing by reading the literature more critically and by honing their skills as self-critical writers.

It provides an extremely detailed step-by-step guide to engaging with several types of academic literature and it presents numerous worked examples of how critical writing should be done. The book should be regarded as essential reading for postgraduate students, especially with regard to the preparation of dissertations and theses.

It will also be of great value for academics engaged in the critical review of literature in their respective fields and for critical reflection upon their own work for publication. Toggle navigation. New to eBooks. How many copies would you like to download?

Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates 3rd ed. Add to Cart Add to Cart. Add to Wishlist Add to Wishlist. New to this 3rd edition: Wallace, M. Poulson, L. Goodwin, A. The full references are: Wray, A.

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I made my second million in six weeks. I own four luxury villas on three continents, five top-of-the-range sports cars and my own helicopter. Most important of all, the financial security of my family is ensured.

Now I want to share my good fortune with you. By following my simple instruc- tions you too can be a millionaire within just a few months. I have already helped hundreds of people attain their dream of Continued WallaceCh Part 1. Their future is certain. And yours can be too.

Just call me on the number below, and I will send you my introductory pack free of charge. It will explain to you how my failsafe method can bring you guaranteed wealth and happiness. Call now, and let your life change forever for the better. The advertisement promises to make you a millionaire. Would you call the phone number?

Critical Reading And Writing For Postgraduates (PDF)

If not — or if you are not sure whether you would — why is that? The introductory pack is free. Your financial worries could soon be over. What would stop you picking up the phone?

The fact is that we do not necessarily take everything we read at face value, nor should we. We might ask: Why do you want to help people you have never met? Is your method legal and ethical? Is there really no risk? Would I just end up making you richer, at my own expense? If your method is so wonderful, why have I never heard of it before? What will you do with my personal details once I give them to you? How much will the phone call cost? They indicate that you can see more in a text than is presented on the surface.

You are relating what you read to what you already know about the world. It is a sad reflection upon that world, perhaps, but we rarely expect to get something for nothing and we sometimes expect that people will try to trick us.

Learning to be critical in academic enquiry Academic writing is generally much more benign. We do not normally expect authors to be lying or trying to swindle us. But that does not mean there are not hidden layers to an academic text.

A critical approach to the reading of a journal article or book is therefore essential if we are to assess the value of the work it reports. Certain expectations underpin the way in which academic writing operates.

The most fundamental expectation is that any claim will be backed up by reasons based on some form of evidence. So, the reader asks at every point: In most fields of enquiry it is not a matter of truth, but of viewpoints, interpretation and significance. As readers we are attempting to find common ground between our own understandings and beliefs, and those of the authors. That can only be done by thinking about the extent to which the claims and supporting evidence in a text — which satisfied the authors — also satisfy us.

Since each person has different knowledge and experience, it is sensible for the reader to adopt a critical frame of mind that maintains a distance from, and friendly scepticism towards, what authors say.

In reading an academic article, we might keep in our mind these sceptical provisos: Reasonable scepticism means being open-minded and willing to be convinced, but only if authors can adequately back their claims. It entails striking a bal- ance between what one expects and what one accepts.

No study can achieve everything. The critical reader is not put off by the limitations of a study, but will expect authors to interpret their investigation in a way that takes account of those limitations. Accomplished authors will clearly signal to the reader the basis for their conclusions and the confidence they have in any generalizations they make. Learning the knack of reasonable scepticism is, of course, particularly challenging because published material does vary in its rigour and reliability.

To assess your current ability to evaluate what you read, consider the short fictional extract below from a paper published in by someone we have called Browning. What questions might you, as a critical reader, ask of the author in relation to the claims made? The account refers to a study where some children were taught to read using the phonics method sounding out words on the basis of the component letters and others were taught using the whole word method learning to recognize and pronounce complete words.

This shows that the phonics method is a better choice for schools. Your questions might include: Did some children taught using the whole word method perform better than some children taught using phon- ics? If so, what does this mean for the results? Would there still be a place for the whole word method? Some such questions asked of a short, decontextualized extract like this will almost certainly be answered elsewhere in the text. That is where to look first.

But other questions may remain unaddressed, leaving you to seek your own answers or to consider the risk entailed in accepting the report without answering them. Suppose the text is central to your study for an essay, so that you want to comment on it in detail. Then you will need to include some account of the weaknesses that your critical questions raise, as a balance to your description of what the authors are claiming.

Here is an indication of how, in an essay, you might comment on a published text that is useful, but not perfect. Browning found that children taught to read using phonics did better in a reading test than children taught using the whole word method. However, the study was small, the test rather limited, and the subjects were not tightly matched either for age or gender.

This marriage of reading and writing has many benefits. First, you will develop a sense of what is and is not a robust piece of research — essential when you come to plan your own empirical inves- tigation for a dissertation, say. Second, you will soon begin identifying where the existing research has left a gap that your investigation can fill. You will soon: The skill of critical reading lies in assessing the extent to which authors have provided adequate justification for the claims they make.

This assessment depends partly on what the authors have communicated and partly on other relevant knowl- edge, experience and inference that you are able to bring into the frame. The skill of self-critical writing lies in convincing your readers to accept your claims. You achieve this through the effective communication of adequate reasons and evidence for these claims.

Academic traditions and styles All academic traditions require a critical engagement with the works of other scholars.

However, some traditions emphasize it more than others. Depending on where you have been educated till now, you may have been encouraged to take predominantly one or another approach to what you read and write. Let us point to the opposite ends of a particular dimension in these traditions: Both have a role for the balanced learner, but neither should be taken to an extreme. Table 1. Try using these descriptions to help you judge where your educational experience has located you on the continuum.

Too easily dismisses the Assumes authors are Takes too much at face value. Fails to see the big picture. Juxtaposes the overall picture Fails to see implications of with the specifics of particular generalized ideas for a situations. Underestimates the task of Is prepared to criticize a model Believes it is sufficient to be becoming truly knowledgeable or idea, while retaining a sense knowledgeable about a model about a model or idea. The purpose of student-centred learning is to help individuals gain confi- dence in developing their own ideas, achieved by using existing knowledge as a stepping stone on the way to originality.

In knowledge-centred learning, individuals are encouraged to become aware of existing scholarship and to value it above their own ideas as a novice.

Ultimately, both traditions are aspects of the same thing: However, the assump- tions underlying each tradition do make a difference to how scholars operate. Typically, the rhetoric of the western-style tradition emphasizes the impor- tance of the individual. Western-educated students can easily over-interpret this emphasis and forget to give sufficient importance to the work of others. In contrast, non-western-educated students may be intimidated by the sudden emphasis on what they think.

Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates (3rd ed.)

It may seem, then, that someone from a student-centred learning tradition is at an advantage in learning to be a critical reader. Not necessarily. Students from both traditions bring something useful to the task and have pitfalls to avoid.

The techniques introduced in this book bring together skills from each tradition. Here is an example description of key skills. Critical thinking and creativity: This includes the capability to identify assumptions, evaluate statements in terms of evidence, detect false logic or reasoning, identify implicit values, define terms adequately and generalise appropriately.

Applying these skills to any academic text involves looking out for its potential strengths and weaknesses. Evaluation is important. If knowledge was simply a set of facts, we could take all that we read at face value. However, knowledge is only partly about the facts themselves. Knowledge also entails their interpretation and the use of past facts to help us make predictions about future facts.

It often also entails the evaluation of facts against certain assumed values. For instance, it was assumed in the earlier discussion about phonics and whole word reading that it is desirable for children to learn to read efficiently and effectively. If you take away that assumption, the facts will be open to different interpretations.

It can be a shock to the university student when first discovering that facts can be interpreted in diverse ways, leading to very different predictions about what will happen in the future, or judgements about what should happen. The critical reading of a text is rarely about questioning the facts. Mostly it is about assessing the quality of the case that has been made for interpreting and evaluating the facts in some way.

Thus, the critical reader is interested in whether there is sufficient evidence to support a claim, whether there is another possible interpretation that has not been considered, and perhaps whether the authors have argued convincingly that their interpretation applies to other cases. The critical reader can achieve this by focusing on several potential objects of scrutiny. They include: To engage thoroughly with a text, the reader ideally needs to have a clear understanding of what the authors are doing, sufficient knowledge of the field of enquiry and where possible reliable evidence of his or her own, or at least some reliable intuitions about the way things work in the real world.

But no readers have the necessary time or expertise always to put themselves in this advantageous position. The art, then, is to know how far to go with any text.

Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates

Maintaining a sense of why you are reading a text makes evaluating it much easier. Task-driven critical reading It should always be possible beforehand to state why you are going to read a book or journal article. Reasons might be: Irrespective of your reason for reading a text, it is worth having one or more questions in mind whose answers will help you progress your own work. However, more finely tuned questions will help you focus on specific issues, while automatically providing a direct route into critical reading.

For example: Would this author challenge the claims that I am making in my own work? There is simply too much literature out there. You will have to choose what to read and how thoroughly you read it.

Your choices will be based on your best guess about what you might use the WallaceCh Part 1. So the questions you bring to the text, as illustrated above, can guide your decisions on what to read and in how much depth. It may seem a bad idea to decide, before you read something, what you are going to get out of it. How can you know until you have finished reading? If you start with a particular question, might you be inhibited from seeing what else the material has to offer?

The danger is less than it may seem. If you are alert, you will notice other things that are relevant to your task, even if you did not expect to find them there. The single-minded approach will help you to separate out the different kinds of information you are seeking and deal with them at the right time. Imagine you are reading a paper reporting a questionnaire study because you are seeking hints on how to design your own questionnaire. While read- ing, you realize that one of the results of the study has a bearing on your research.

The fact that you already have a focused question regarding the study design will encourage you to make a note to return to the paper later, when you are specifically working on a data-related question. Doing so will help you avoid distracting yourself from the matter in hand so that you end up achieving neither task properly. This disciplined strategy means that you sometimes read the same work more than once, for different purposes. It also means that any notes you make on that work will tend to be in different places, under topic headings, rather than in the form of a single, bland and unfocused summary of what the paper says.

Whatever you write as a student will be read critically by your assessors. If you progress to writing for a conference presentation or publication, anonymous reviewers and then the general academic community will also be critical readers of your work.

A secret of successful writing is to anticipate the expectations and potential objections of the audience of critical readers for whom you are writing. So you must develop a sense of who your readers are and what they expect. What you learn from this book about the techniques of critical reading in the aca- demic context can be directly applied to making your own academic writing robust for other critical readers like you: As you work through this book, identifying effective ways of interrogating what you read, you will find that some of the techniques are familiar because WallaceCh Part 1.

Others you will now be able to apply for the first time. If you need certain things in what you read, it makes sense that you should supply them to your target audience in what you write. If you want clarity, then you yourself should be clear. If you need authors to be explicit about their assump- tions, then you should be explicit about yours. If you want authors to provide evidence to support their claims, then you should provide evidence for your own.

No two readers want quite the same things, and you will probably never fully anticipate all of the requirements and preferences of your assessors. But you can get a long way towards that goal.

How far have you progressed so far in becoming a critical reader and self-critical writer? Try the exercise in Table 1. Element of critical reading Element of self-critical writing When I read an academic text I: Whatever you look for as a critical reader of literature, your assessors may also look for in your writing when judging how far it meets their assessment criteria. The elements of self- critical writing relate to meeting the needs of your readers, so that they can grasp what you are trying to communicate.

But just as importantly, they enhance your capacity to make your argument convincing to your readers. This is why developing a strong sense of your audience is to your advantage.

During your studies, you will find it useful to refer back to this exercise occasionally, to monitor your progress in developing critical reading and self-critical writing skills. Where now? Having discussed how to make the most of what you read, the next step is to consider how to select effectively from the vast array of literature available. That is the topic of the next chapter. Then, in Chapter 3, we introduce the basics of critical reading, in the form of five Critical Synopsis Questions that you can ask of a text.

Chapters 4 and 5 use these insights to introduce some simple tech- niques for self-critical writing: Part One thus prepares you for the more detailed engagement of Parts Two and Three, where we revisit the same approach at a more advanced level.

Total number of ticks Total number of ticks The more ticks you have for both columns, the further you have already progressed in becoming a critical reader and self-critical writer.

Look back at any items that you have not ticked. Consider how you might incorporate these elements of critical reading and self-critical writing into your habitual approach to study. Becoming a critical reader must entail becoming a discerning selector of those texts that promise most cen- trally to suit your study purposes. There is far too much literature out there, especially with the advent of the Internet, for you to read everything that may be relevant.

So making effective choices about what to read is the first step in critical reading. Our chapter begins with techniques for deciding what to read. We then distinguish between different types of literature that you may come across in the course of your studies. Finally, we consider how the Internet offers you a very potent but sometimes unreliable literature source.

Deciding what to read Suppose it is time to start reading for an essay or a longer piece of work.

Where do you begin? You may have been supplied with an indicative reading list and WallaceCh If so, someone else has made decisions on your behalf to get you started. But there will still come a point when you have to decide what to read. The more principled you can make your choices, the better. Strategy is paramount.

Apart from planning ahead — getting to the library before the crowd for instance — it is useful to operate a two-stage process when identifying what to read. First, draw up a long-list of texts that look important. Then select those which look most central to your reading pur- pose discussed below. An advantage of this approach is that you can easily compensate if an item you had targeted is not available. You can work out from your long-list what other text might fulfil the same function.

Drawing up the long-list is relatively straightforward. You might consider any of these tactics: Then do a search using their subject code to see what else has been classified as covering the same topic.

If there are plenty, it has evidently been a recommended text at some point. In this way, you can soon build up your list of possible reading, from which you can choose what you actually read and in how much detail. Yet you might reasonably ask why you should consider reading anything that has not been specifically recommended to you. A relevant text may not be included on your reading list for various reasons. There may not have been room for all the possible items. Or your topic may be one of several covered in the module, so it has not been given many entries of its own.

By keeping the reading list small, the lecturer may be encouraging you to take some WallaceCh In short, it is up to you to find out what else might be worth reading and add it to your long-list. From long-list to short-list How should you decide which items on your long-list to prioritize? Your read- ing has to achieve several aims that your selection of texts must take into account.

A convincing essay or dissertation is likely to cover some or all of the following in relation to the literature: No single text can support all of these agendas.

You may need one set of texts to help you develop your overview, another set to help you interpret the work to date within its wider context, yet another to give you specific information about methodology and analysis, and so on. To target your reading, ensure that you short-list a variety of texts that between them will help you achieve each of your goals. But how can you tell what a particular text is most likely to be useful for? One way is by categorizing texts according to their main purpose.

Support literature Textbooks Most students turn to textbooks early on in their academic studies. There are two basic types. Firstly, skills textbooks aim to help you learn such things as how to design a robust investigation or analyse data statistically. They are not usually problematic to use, since it is clear that they are a tool rather than a resource.

Features of textbooks may include: Also, popular textbooks often run to more than one edition. While textbooks are crucial for any student, they fall outside the central realm of research activity. At postgraduate level you will be expected to have more on your reference list than just textbooks.

They can be an excellent place to start, but inherent limitations mean that they are usually only a starting place, and should be used only to gain an overview and to identify front-line texts see below. One difficulty with using a subject textbook is that it can be so like a lit- erature review that it is difficult for you to find something new to say. The author appears to have summarized all the important works effectively.

Conclusions about the big patterns seem to follow logically, and to capture the situation well. You might also feel it is inappropriate to question the judgements of the author, who is obviously more experienced and knowledge- able. It is important to view the textbook author as just one interpreter of the facts. Expect that there will be other ways of interpreting the facts too, and look for those ways, both in other textbooks and by thinking things through for yourself.

To what extent do they all report the same information, make the same claims or interpret the evidence in the same way? For some topics and concepts, there is general consensus. For others there is huge variation, based on differences in assumptions, scope and interpretation. Understanding the range of views can help you decide where to position yourself and recognize which of your claims will be most sub- ject to scrutiny by those reading your work.

A second difficulty with a textbook is that it normally tells you about research without you seeing the original research report. You should attempt WallaceCh You cannot guarantee that textbook authors have interpreted research in the same way that you would do, or have focused on the aspects that are sig- nificant for you.

The only way you can be sure is to read the original works. Most textbooks provide full references to their sources, and you should aim to follow them up so that you have had sight of everything you discuss. But keep such references to an absolute minimum. A third limitation of some textbooks is that, in the interests of offering the reader a clear story, authors may make strong claims that are not backed up with sufficient evidence and they may over-simplify complicated issues.

This is not necessarily inappropriate, given the introductory nature of a textbook. But it can be a hazard for students, who may fail to appreci- ate the complexity underlying an apparently simple observation, or fail to realize that opinion is divided on a matter that is presented as fact. Again, the solution is to see the textbook as a signpost to information, rather than a fully reliable source, and to read the original works that it cites wherever possible.

Readers, handbooks and encyclopaedias Readers are collections of classic papers on a subject. While a few papers may have been written especially for the collection, most will be articles or extracts from books already published elsewhere.

The editors will have selected what they consider to be the most important work for students to read. But their selection is personal and other academics may not consider it to be fully representative of key works in the field.

If a paper in a reader has been reproduced in full, it is acceptable to reference its appearance there and not to have seen the original. However, it is a good idea to give the origi- nal date as well as the date of the reader, so that it is clear when the paper was written. Handbooks and specialist encyclopaedias are like readers, except that the articles will normally have been specially commissioned.

Leading academics will have written an overview of research, theory or methodology in their area. Such articles are immensely useful for gaining an understanding of the state-of-the-art in a field. Remember, however, that even top researchers can give only their own perspective and there are likely to be other perspectives that you should also consider.

Such works are the direct link between you and a researcher, practitioner or policy-maker. They report what has been done, how, why, what it means and what should be done next. Types of front-line literature A rough-and-ready distinction may be made between four types of front-line literature: Most texts are easily identifiable as belonging to one type or another — a journal article reporting an empirical investigation is obviously research literature.

But any individ- ual text may feature aspects of more than one literature type. Thus, a journal article which is mainly reporting an empirical investigation may also discuss implications for theoretical development. Here is a brief description of each type, showing how all four can be used to impart one or more kinds of knowl- edge. In Part Two, we explore types of literature and kinds of knowledge in more detail.

Critical Reading And Writing For Postgraduates (PDF) | UK education collection

Theoretical literature models the way things are or should be , by using evidence to identify patterns. The evidence may include experiments, obser- vations, experience or ideas, and may not be work that the theorizers have conducted themselves. The patterns, once formalized into a model, may enable researchers to make predictions about what will happen in future scenarios. Such predictions are called hypotheses Figure 2. Theoretical literature can also be used to present the case for a viewpoint or to recommend changes.

They might be at an international, national, institutional or personal level and, accordingly, readers may be more or less able to respond directly to them. The model predicts that, at current rates of consumption, some resources will be used up within fifty years.

In itself, such an account is merely a statement of what the facts appear to be. However, it could be used to criticize national or international policy, to underpin recommendations for change, to influence the way people are edu- cated, or to encourage individuals to take greater responsibility for their personal use of resources. Research, or data-driven, literature reports observations about the real world, often relating them to a prediction or hypothesis derived from a model.

Data take two main forms, observational and experimental, though there is some overlap. The major difference relates to whether or not the researcher manipulates the situation. In a classic experimental design, a comparison might be made between two groups or situations that are identical except in one regard determined by the experimenter. Any difference in the outcomes is assumed to be due to that one contrast.

In a classic observational design, the researcher might gather data that will indicate how a particular indi- vidual or group operates, but without intervening. Between the two lies a range of options, including: It can also be used to help explain where things are going wrong, to demonstrate a method that seems to work well or better than some other method , to try and convince trainers or policy-makers to effect changes in present methods, or to enable individual readers to gain fresh insights into their own behaviour or practice.

Practice literature comprises accounts of how things are done, and will often be written by experienced practitioners who feel that others might ben- efit from an understanding of how they operate. This type of literature fea- tures most strongly in applied fields of enquiry focusing on a domain of practical activity in the social world, such as nursing.