Critical analysis essentially involves reading and thinking widely about an issue in order to develop a deep understanding and a point of view in relation to the issue. Students coming from school and college tend to see this in terms of pros and cons, or advantages and disadvantages and this is a useful starting point at Levels 1 and 2.

However, as you progress to Level 3 and beyond, you are expected to demonstrate a more sophisticated approach to critical analysis. This involves:

  • identifying a range of relevant concepts, theories and models which help you understand an issue
  • identifying relevant issues and sub-issues and associated problems, benefits, challenges, drawbacks, limitations
  • showing that you understand the different perspectives presented in the literature around these issues, concepts, theories and models
  • showing that you recognise the weight of these perspectives in the literature – what is the consensus of opinion on an issue or perspective? Is there broad agreement on an issue, is opinion roughly equally divided, or is a perspective held by only one or two writers?

At its heart, critical analysis involves asking questions: "What...", "How...", "Why...", "So what..."

You will read a variety of sources throughout your degree programme: textbooks, research articles, government and corporate reports, policy documents, organisational websites. It is useful to have in mind questions as you explore the definitions, key points of view /arguments, theories/models and policies discussed in these sources.

Click on this link for examples of questions that can direct critical analysis