Monday, 9 March 2015

The School Research Lead and Developing Critical Analysis

In a recent post I wrote about the work of Wallace and Wray (2011) who produced a range of resources to support both critical reading and writing.  In particular, I shared their 5 question structure for creating a critical synopsis of a text, which  I suggested could be used as a development activity for a Journal/Book Club. In this post, we will expand upon the work of Wallace and Wray and consider 10 key questions for use in critical analysis.  But first let's recap the 5 questions suggested for producing a critical synopsis of a text

A  Why am I reading this?
B  What are the authors trying to do in writing this?
C  What are the authors saying that is relevant to what I want to find out?
D  How convincing is what the authors are saying?
E  What can I make of this?
Ten Critical Analysis Question(s)
Wallace and Wray suggest 10 further questions to engage in a much more critical and evaluative analysis of the text.
  1. What review questions am I asking of this text?
  2. What type of literature is this?
  3. What sort of intellectual project is being undertaken?
  4. What is being claimed that is relevant to answering my review questions
  5. To what extent is there backing for claims?
  6. How adequately does any theoretical orientation support claims?
  7. To what extent does any value stance affect claims?
  8. To what extent are claims supported or challenged by others' work?
  9. To what extend are the claims consistent with my personal experiences?
  10. What is summary evaluation of the text in relation to my review question (Wallace and Wray, 2011 p 109)
The 10 questions can then be mapped against the 5 questions used to create to create the critical synopsis and this allows us to generate a far  richer and more critical analysis of the text.

A Why am I reading this?
1. What review question am I asking of this literature?

B What are the authors trying to do in writing this? 
2. What type of literature is this?
3. What kind of intellectual project is being undertaken?

C. What are the authors saying that’s relevant to what I want to find out?
4. What is being claimed that is relevant to answering my review question?

D How convincing is what the authors are saying?

5. How far is there backing for claims?
6. How adequate is any conceptual or theoretical orientation to back claims?
7. How far does any value stance adopted affect claims?
8. How far are claims supported or challenged by others' work?
9. How far are claims consistent with my experience?

E In conclusion, what use can I make of this?
10. What is my overall evaluation of this literature in the light of my review question?

As such, the major change is in the level of detailed critical analysis relating to questions D – changing from one general evaluative question in the critical synopsis, with little or indication of what to look for, to five questions you could be checking the text for if you do the full critical analysis. 

Wallace and Wray then go onto identify a range of sub-questions for each of our 10 critical analysis questions, for example, for question 1 - 'what review questions am I asking of this text' - has the following subquestions:
  • What is my central question?
  • Why select this text?
  • Does the critical analysis fit in with my investigations with a wider focus?
  • What is my constructive purpose ( Wallace and Wray, p237)
Furthermore, in order to help colleagues develop their skills levels , Wallace and Wray have produced a template for conducting a critical analysis which can be found using this link. In addition, they have produced a number of work examples of critical analyses.

However, what I hope becomes clear from both this post and my previous post is the need to have a well-formulated and answerable question, as this will provide a clear framework and starting point for any critical analysis.   Accordingly, these resources provide an extremely useful starting point to support School Research Leads in their task developing colleagues's skills as critical consumers of research.   Indeed, by jointly undertaking critical analysis of key texts - say in a Journal Club or through personal reading - this will not only build capacity in consuming research but will also make it more likely that formal academic research can be put to good use.   This type of work may not be as exciting as initially conducting school research projects, though it will lay the foundation for much more productive future school evidence-based activity.

In a future post I will be building on the both 'critical synopses' and critical analysis' of texts  to explore is meant by a Critically Appraised Topic.

Reference
Wallace, M. and Wray, A (2011) Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates (2nd edition), Sage, London

Declaration of interest
Mike Wallace was my doctoral supervisor and remains a  close personal friend and has also contributed to this blog post.





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