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Being critical: a practical guide

Critical writing

Question everything...

This guide contains key resources to introduce you to the features of critical writing.

For more in-depth advice and guidance on critical writing, visit our specialist academic writing guides:

What is critical writing?

Academic writing requires criticality; it's not enough to just describe or summarise evidence, you also need to analyse and evaluate information and use it to build your own arguments. This is where you show your own thoughts based on the evidence available, so critical writing is really important for higher grades.

Explore the key features of critical writing and see it in practice in some examples:

Introduction to critical writing [Google Slides]

While we need criticality in our writing, it's definitely possible to go further than needed. We’re aiming for that Goldilocks ‘just right’ point between not critical enough and too critical. Find out more:

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Quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising

Quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising are different ways that you can use evidence from sources in your writing. As you move from one method to the next, you integrate the evidence further into your argument, showing increasing critical analysis.

Here's a quick introduction to the three methods and how to use them:

Quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising: an introduction [YouTube video] | Quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising [Google Doc]

Want to know more? Check out these resources for more examples of paraphrasing and using notes to synthesise information:

Using evidence to build critical arguments

Academic writing integrates evidence from sources to create your own critical arguments.

We're not looking for a list of summaries of individual sources; ideally, the important evidence should be integrated into a cohesive whole. What does the evidence mean altogether? Of course, a critical argument also needs some critical analysis of this evidence. What does it all mean in terms of your argument?

These resources will help you explore ways to integrate evidence and build critical arguments:

Building a critical argument [YouTube]Building a critical argument [Google Doc]