Critical reading attempt 1

There was a lot of talk today on the importance of critical reading. A friend at church told me this week, that at masters level, we step onto the next block of Bloom’s taxonomy looking at critical reading and writing. I naively thought that’s something I can already do and shouldn’t be an issue.

Then I read the (very useful) handout given today about critical reading leading to critical writing. I realised that I don’t yet intuitively understand this process or how to apply it. Reading, not to extract information, but to analyse arguments that convey information is a brand new concept to me. First questions are, well, why? Would doing this then make me miss the information presented? Probably not, but I’m going to struggle not to highlight the interesting information and start commenting on the authors intentions and target audience as well as their methods at arriving at conclusions etc.

With this in mind, I read through a text about ten suggestions to improve academic research. We briefly looks through this in class and attempted to made some ‘critical’ comments.

However, on this reread, with this new mindset, I begin to now release that I think this is actually quite a poor piece of work, even if the author makes some interesting and valid points. I even wonder if in fact it was given to us a test (that I failed!) to critically analyse this and point out why this is an example of a poor piece of work.

Firstly, their is very scarce evidence to support his points, only towards the end do we get some useful backing research. The first couple of quotes used could have been lifted out of anything as the context is very generic. “No point in pretending the future is anything other than unknowable”. Agree, but without context, something like this could have be lifted from a Douglas Adams novel and been made to fit the authors statement.

Each of the ten points are laced with generic agreeable statements that would be hard to contend with, but are then used to support the authors argument – that the current research is poor and needs to be improved. No evidence of this poor research is provided throughout the text. In addition, I feel some points are very weak and seem to be included to make up a round number 10.

There is occasional use of good counter argument and citation of research towards the end. Generally I agree with the authors points, but it isn’t clear who is actually disagreeing? It is a current piece of work built upon the authors own experiences , but without the supporting evidence and contrary arguments, it seems to just contain banal platitudes so that the reader is coerced into nodding along as they read, to then encourage them to agree with some of the authors bolder (and again unsupported) points.

Towards the end, his agenda becomes clear; dropping in statements about ‘fairness’ and how technology can better serve social relations; both interesting concepts that I would like to explore, but not written about in any depth other to say we should look at this.

So then, that’s my reflection on my first attempt at critical reading. I feel that I’ve just been marking someone else’s work! It certainly looks like that from the highlights and comments I’ve scrawled all over the paper. Is this what critical reading is meant to be? I don’t know, but it certainly changed the way I looked at this paper.

Unless of course it was presented to us as an example of good practice…. Then I’ve really missed the point!

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