Critical analysis will get you better marks in your presentation!

I had a student in my office the other day who was asking me about feedback she had been given by her lecturer. The main comment the lecturer had made was ‘not enough critical analysis’. Then my student said ‘Everyone always talks about critical analysis, but nobody has told me what that means!‘ So I chewed my pen for a moment and then remembered something we had been talking about in class: the subject of teenage pregnancy in the UK. Here in the UK we have the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe. (See, we are top of the league in something after all!) We discussed the issue of teenage pregnancy and the idea of presentations and we decided that the topic of teenage pregnancy would be a good one to choose for a presentation because of the opportunity for critical analysis of the situation.

A presentation without critical analysis would describe the problem of teenage pregnancy. It might show some facts and figures. It might describe some of the main causes of the problem. It might suggest a number of solutions. There would probably be a conclusion in which we are reminded that this is a serious problem and we need to do something about it.

A presentation with critical analysis would do the same things, but it wouldn’t only describe the causes and the solutions, but discuss them and weigh them up to try and find which of them is more important. This presenter might show that there are lots of different opinions about how we should try to tackle the problem of teenage pregnancy. The presenter would examine these views and find the strengths and weaknesses in all these arguments so he or she might come up with ideas such as:

Some people believe that poverty is a crucial factor in young teenage pregnancy and there are many reasons for supporting this view point. Firstly if we look at the figures …However, we should also notice that there are some very poor places which don’t have the same problem so we need to consider…

One point of view is that better sex education in school has a role to play in solving this problem. This argument is supported by the evidence from…But on the other hand …

The idea is that you show your understanding of different arguments, and try to find the strengths and weaknesses in them. The Unilearning material from the university of Wollongong has some useful pages on critical thinking here.

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