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8.3: Critiquing Forms and Formulas

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    Skills to Develop

    • Identify the characteristics of the four types of critiques
    • Explain and apply the elements of the four critiquing types
    • Apply guiding questions to your own academic article
    • Understand the formulas used to organize a critique
    • Apply one of two organization formulas to create a formal sentence outline

    Critiquing Forms

    Again, critiquing does not mean you are looking only for the negative points in a source; you can also discuss elements you like or agree with in the article. Also, you may generally get a positive impression from the source but have some issues with some aspects for which you can provide constructive criticism—perhaps what the author could have done better, in your opinion, to make a stronger and more effective impact. There are four critiquing forms on which you can structure your analysis of a source. These are: Rhetorical Ideas Reflection Blended The critiquing elements you will be required to apply to each assignment will vary depending on your instructor’s directions, the purpose of the assignment, and the writer (you). In some cases, your instructor will want to see very little of your own voice in the paper, so you will want to avoid using personal reflection; on the other hand, some instructors will only want to see how your personal experiences connect to the content. You will need to confirm with your instructor what his or her preferences and expectations are. For this course, you need to produce a blended critique, which means you will need to include at least one rhetorical, one idea, and one reflective discussion. Rhetorical We have discussed previously the use of rhetorical questions, the type of questions meant to engage the reader in the content. Here, rhetorical refers to the technique or way of using the questions. It relates to the construction or mechanics of how the question is used. The term rhetorical refers to the way a source is constructed and organized and whichwriting techniques are used. A rhetorical critique will also evaluate how effectively an author has achieved his or her purpose or intended goals. If the writer intended to convince or persuade the reader to a particular point of view, did he or she use credible sources to support the ideas or use primarily newspapers and blogs? We have seen, and will do so again later, that the types of evidence can affect how convincing the argument becomes. Furthermore, if the writer has only has presented a limited discussion without much evidence, and the discussion is mostly opinion based, will the reader be convinced? Probably not. Conversely, if the author considered all points of view in the discussion and provided suitable, trustworthy evidence, the reader will more likely be convinced, and the writer will have successfully achieved the purpose. Often when trying to come up with a thesis statement, considering all points of view is where you should probably start because it will demonstrate to the reader of your critique what your overall impression was when you examined the original source. If you look back at the sample critique in Exercise 8.1, you’ll see that the thesis is the first sentence:

    Vetter and Perlstein’s work on terrorism and its future is an excellent basis for evaluating views and attitudes to terrorism before the tragic events of 9/11.

    This statement outlines the authors’ purpose (bold) and the critique writer’s general opinion of the work (underlined). From the exercise you completed earlier, you saw not everything in the critique was positive; however, this first sentence provides the overall impression the critique author had. Just as with any other thesis, the content in the rest of the essay will connect back to this thesis, saying how it supports or goes against the authors’ purpose. Once you choose an article that meets the required criteria, scan the article and make note of some answers to the guiding questions below. You can then choose three to four of the questions/answers you feel you can support and discuss most as your essay points.

    Guiding Questions: Rhetorical

    Focusing on the rhetorical elements when critiquing means you are looking at the construction elements of a source. Use the following questions as a reference point when you are going through your article to provide you with some focus and help you generate ideas for your paper (not all may be relevant to your article).

    What is the author’s purpose?

    For whom is the author writing? Who is the audience?

    What type of language does the author use? Technical? Straightforward? Too informal?

    How appropriate is the language, sentence structure, and complexity for the intended audience?

    What is the genre, and how has it impacted the writing style?

    How logical/reasonable is the argument?

    What kind of evidence does the author use to support? Is it reputable, relevant, or current, and is there enough?

    To what degree did the author engage or interest the reader in the topic?

    How much bias does the author show, or is the argument presenting multiple points of view?

    How convinced are you by the presentation of ideas?

    Is there anything the author could have done differently to convince you more completely?

    Is there anything about the technical writing style you did or did not like?

    How was the source organized? How may that affect the reader?

    A note of warning when using these questions: you should not use more than two of these in your short critique. For this assignment, choose only one or two to develop thoroughly. If you include brief answers to all of the questions, you will have not have space to develop your ideas or show you really engaged with the content. By choosing just one or two, you will have the opportunity to really explain the impact and significance of what you have decided to discuss, showing to your audience you have thoroughly considered the meaning and importance of your points and demonstrating excellent critical analysis skills.

    Exercise 8.3

    In Exercise 8.1, you read your article and were asked to make notations wherever you got caught up by something within the source. Now, look back at those notations, decide which if any relate to the rhetorical guiding questions above, and make brief notes of the relevant rhetorical points in the space below.

    If none of your notations matched the questions, read the questions (and your article) again, and then try to answer the questions briefly. At this point you may identify more than two questionslater you will have the opportunity to assess which are your strongest points.

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    Ideas: When discussing the ideas of a source, you are examining the topic presented in the source. You explore how the author’s ideas mesh with your own and state whether you agree or disagree; you are essentially joining the discussion on that topic. You may find you agree with some parts of the discussion but not others, or you may completely agree or disagree, or you may think the author has great points but does not develop them adequately. Also, you may want to provide differing points of view from other sources to show you have not just accepted what the first author wrote; you have explored the topic further and will present a thorough discussion in your own critique.

    Guiding Questions: Ideas

    On which points do I agree or disagree with the author? (Remember, you do not always have to only agree or disagree on all points)

    What new ideas has the author introduced on the topic? How has the author contributed to the field?

    What could the author have done differently to provide a stronger discussion?

    How narrow or broad was the author’s discussion? Did the author consider multiple points of view? Is there anything the author overlooked?

    How do other experts approach a discussion on this topic?

    Exercise 8.4

    Just as you did in Exercise 8.3, look back to Exercise 8.1where you made notations whenever you got caught up by something within the source. Decide which if any relate to the idea guiding questions above, and make brief notes of the relevant idea points in the space below.

    If none of your notations matched the questions, read the questions (and your article) again and then try to answer the questions briefly. At this point you may identify more than two questionslater you will have the opportunity to assess which are your strongest points.

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    Reflection: By providing a personal reflection on the source, you are being introspective and showing you have thought about how the source affects you personally and connects to your personal experiences, beliefs, and values. In this case, you can give personal observations and experiences as your own forms of supporting evidence; however, you do not want your paper to solely use this type of support because you need more factual evidence to convince yourreader. Also, remember to check with your instructor if this is a form you are required to use.

    Guiding Questions: Reflection

    How does this source connect to your personal experiences or memories?

    What challenges does the source raise when you consider your own personal values and beliefs?

    How does the source confirm your personal values and beliefs?

    What new ideas or insight did the source raise for you?

    How did the source inspire you to do more research on the topic?

    Exercise 8.5

    Just as you did in Exercises 8.3 and 8.4, look back to Exercise 8.1 where you made notations whenever you got caught up by something within the source. Decide which if any relate to the reflection guiding questions above, and make brief notes of the relevant reflection points in the space below.

    If none of your notations matched the questions, read the questions (and your article) again then try to answer the questions briefly. At this point you may identify more than two questionslater you will have the opportunity to assess which are your strongest points.

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    Blended:  In a blended form, your critique pretty much evolves however you want it to. You can take certain elements from each of the three previous forms: whichever questions are the easiest for you to discuss and are maybe the most interesting for you. This shows how paying attention to your reactions when you initially read the source is helpful; once you have made note of where and what you reacted to, you can go back each list of guiding questions and decide which best relate to each of your notations. There are no guiding questions for the blended form because you use you mix and match the questions already provided in the earlier sections. In a blended critique, you demonstrate an extremely high level of critical thinking ability because you are not only synthesize your ideas with external sources, you also connect personally to one source, external sources, anddifferent forms or aspects of analyzing written works.

    Exercise 8.6

    Look back at the points you came up with in Exercises 8.3, 8.4, and 8.5You now need to select the pointsat least one from each categorythat you feel you can discuss the most thoroughly.

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    Now, collaborate with a classmate. Share your points and how you would expand on them. Ask your partner for any other ways he or she thinks you could expand on those points.

    Blended Critique: Two Formulas

    Once you have chosen a source and used the guiding questions to help generate points to discuss in your critique, you will need to decide how to best organize your ideas. There are two formulas you can apply as a framework when organizing your critique ideas. Remember that although the formulas below show each section as an individual paragraph, you may actually need to create more than one paragraph to fully develop your ideas.

    Formula 1 Organizing your critique following this model is fairly straightforward as there is not much overlap between the sections. You may want to choose this formula if you are feeling a little unsure of how to organize your ideas and prefer a more guided structure.

     1: Introduction

    Attention getter

    Background

    Thesis + author’s last name, publication date, and title of source

    Signposts (including that the next paragraph will be a summary)

     2: Summary

    Restate author’s name, publication date, and title of source (provides a citation for the paragraph).

    This needs to be brief and include only the points significant to your later discussion.

    If you include too much here, you may end up repeating yourself later.

     3: Rhetorical

    Give topic sentence explain this paragraph/section will cover rhetorical points

    State point

    Give explanations

    Give examples and make connections relating directly back to section(s) of original source + citations

    Provide concluding statement summarizing rhetorical element discussion

     4: Ideas

    Give topic sentence explain this paragraph/section will cover idea points

    State point

    Give explanations

    Give examples and make connections relating directly back to section(s) of original source + citations

    Provide concluding statement summarizing idea or topic element discussion

     5: Reflection

    Give topic sentence explain this paragraph/section will cover reflection points

    State point

    Give explanations

    Give examples and make connections relating directly back to section(s) of original source + citations

    Provide concluding statement summarizing reflection element discussion

     6: Conclusion

    Restate author’s last name, publication date, and source’s title

    Summarize your discussion points

    Restate your thesis

    Formula 2: This model is a little more challenging to stay organized and to not go off on a tangent when you are critiquing; however, it allows you to have much more freedom in how you piece your ideas together. When you use this formula, it is important to remember to keep referring to the outline you created before writing and to thoroughly develop ideas by connecting one critiquing form to another. This model differs from Formula 1 because the summary is briefly included in the introduction section, and the discussion points are not divided by critiquing points but rather by topic. That is, multiple critiquing forms are used to develop one topic point. Because this formula is a little more complicated to explain, an example outline is provided for you after the template.

     1: Introduction

    Attention getter

    Thesis + author’s last name, publication date, and title of source

    Background (this includes the briefest of summaries of the source: one to two sentences only)

    Signposts

     2: Point 1: A

    Choose one topic to focus on using the guiding questions (one of three forms)

    Give a topic sentence introducing the point

    Restate author’s name, publication date, and title of source (provides a citation for the paragraph)

    Develop point making connections relating directly back to section(s) of original source + citations

    Provide brief concluding sentence for paragraph

     3: Point 1: B

    Give topic sentence explaining that this paragraph/section connects to or expands on previous paragraph (different form used in previous paragraph)

    Restate author’s name and publication date (provides a citation for the paragraph)

    Develop point making connections relating directly back to section(s) of original source + citations and to previous paragraph

    Provide concluding statement summarizing entire discussion of point 1

     4: Point 2: A

    Choose one topic to focus on using the guiding questions (one of three forms)

    Give a topic sentence introducing the point

    Restate author’s name and publication date (provides a citation for the paragraph)

    Develop point making connections relating directly back to section(s) of original source + citations

    Provide brief concluding sentence for paragraph

     5: Point 2: B

    Give topic sentence explaining this paragraph/section connects to or expands on previous paragraph (different form used in previous paragraph)

    Restate author’s name and publication date (provides a citation for the paragraph)

    Develop point making connections relating directly back to section(s) of original source + citations and to previous paragraph

    Provide concluding statement summarizing entire discussion of point 2

     6: Conclusion

    Restate author’s last name, publication date, and source’s title

    Restate your thesis

    Summarize your discussion points

    Formula 2: Example

     1: Introduction

    Attention getter

    Thesis + author’s last name, publication date, and title of source

    Background (this includes the briefest of summaries of the source: one-two sentences only)

    Signposts

     2: Point 1: Language + Audience (Rhetorical)

    Restate author’s name, publication date, and title of source (provides a citation for the paragraph)

    Give a topic sentence introducing the point

    Develop and explain complexity of language + perhaps: the language is too difficult for the average reader—forcing audience to have to constantly look up words in dictionary

    Explain impact = distracting + annoying

    Use specific examples from source (with citations)

     3: Point 1: Language + Audience (Reflection)

    Give topic sentence explaining this paragraph/section relates to previous paragraph

    Explain whether or not you are member of intended audience—know this from impact language had on you personally

    Had to look up words; give examples (with citations)

    Could not understand author’s point; give examples (with citations)

    Clearly not part of target audience

    Concluding statement summarizing point discussion from both paragraphs

     4: Point 2: Topic: Capital punishment (Ideas)

    Give topic sentence explaining this paragraph/section will cover idea point

    State point

    Give explanations

    Give examples relating directly back to section(s) of original source

     5: Point 2: Topic: Capital punishment (Reflection)

    Give topic sentence explaining this paragraph/section will cover reflection point in relation to your own point of view—maybe personal experience—and topic sentence needs to connect this to previous paragraph

    State point

    Give explanations

    Give examples relating directly back to section(s) of original source

    Concluding statement summarizing point discussion from both paragraphs

     6: Conclusion

    Restate author’s last name, publication date, and source’s title

    Summarize your discussion points

    Restate your thesis

    Hopefully this example helps you to see how Formula 2 allows a lot more flexibility in organizing the discussion points. You can probably also see how easy it would be for the writer to get off topic. The key is to connect the ideas together. This formula definitely shows a greater complexity of thought development and synthesis of ideas, both of which your instructor will appreciate. However, you need to make sure you have a solid formal sentence outline before you begin the writing process, or you may confuse your reader too much for him or her to follow your development.

    Exercise 8.7

    Choose one of the formulas above and integrate the points you came up with in Exercises 8.6Narrow those points downto three or four at mostto help you stay focused and develop those points (as opposed to just giving answers to many of the guiding questions without developing them).

    Compose an informal topic outline following which formula above you have chosen to follow.

    Exercise 8.8

    Now expand on the informal topic outline you created in Exercises 8.7If you have chosen to use Formula 1, you can insert the summary you composed in Exercises 8.2.If you have chosen to use Formula 2, you will need to separate the summary you composed in Exercises 8.2 into topical discussion points for each paragraph. You will then use these separate points to provide context for each discussion point.

    Remember to start integrating specific examples from your source. Make sure you note the page numbers for later when you need to add citations (you will learn this next week).

    Essay 2: Critique (15%)

    Part A

    Choose an article 5 to 10 pages long on which you will base a blended critical discussion. You must have your article approved by week 7 (which you have already done). You will also need to compose a paragraph (50 to 100 words) outlining what you will discuss in your critique.

    Part B

    After you have your article approved by your instructor (week 7), compose a critical analysis/response paper based around a discussion of one external source.

    You will need to apply a blended critiquing structure including at least one point of discussion for each of the three critiquing forms: rhetorical, ideas, and reflection.

    You will need to follow one of the two formulas for your critique organization.

    Your critique will need to be 750 to 900 words in length; the length of your paper often depends on the length of your original article.

    You must include a reference page containing an entry for:

    Your original source

    2 or 3 supplemental sources used to support your ideas or to provide background information.

    You must also include citation information whenever you use ideas from any source, including when you refer to your original source.

    Use information in the JIBC APA Style Guide as a resource for your citations and referencing.

    You need to submit this assignment to your instructor for marking in week 10. (15%)

    Journal entry #8

    Write a paragraph or two responding to the following.

    Which type of critiquing did you find the easiest? Why?

    Which type did you find the most challenging? Why?

    Why have you chosen to follow either Formula 1 or 2?

    What do think will be the easiest/most challenging things you will encounter when you start composing your critique draft?

    Remember as mentioned in the Assessment descriptions in your syllabus:

    You will be expected to respond to the questions by reflecting on and discussing your experiences with the week’s material.

    When writing your journals, you should focus on freewriting—writing without (overly) considering formal writing structures—but you want to remember that it will be read by the instructor, who needs to be able to understand your ideas.

    Your instructor will be able to see if you have completed this entry by the end of the week but not read all of the journals until week 11.

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