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As you read, it can be
helpful to use a table to record the information that
you know you will need later. In addition to the usual
bibliographical details, you can devise your own list
of extra information you want to collect at this
initial reading stage. It is essential that you devise your own list of
information to collect from each sources
based on what you know you will need
to comment upon. Realistically, it is
probably best not to try to collect this information from every single source you use, only from those you
decide to refer to in your research paper. Otherwise, it could really slow down your background reading and result in the
collection of a mass of material that you never use. First, determine
the central claims or purpose of the
text; its thesis. A critical reading
attempts to assess how this central claims
are developed or argued. Begin to make some judgements
about the context. What audience is the
text written for? Who is it in dialogue with? This will probably be
other schools or authors with differing opinions
or viewpoints. In what historical
context is written? All this matters of contact can contribute to your assessment of what is going on in the text. Distinguish the kind of
reasoning the text employs. What concepts are
defined and used? Does the text appeal to
a theory or theories? Is any specific
methodology laid out? If there is an appeal to a particular concept,
theory, or method, how that concept, theory, or method is then used to organize and
interpret the data. You might also examine how
the text is organized. How has the author analyzed, broken down the material? Beware that different disciplines,
for example, history, sociology, philosophy, biology, will have
different ways of arguing. Examine the evidence,
the supporting facts, examples the text employs. Supporting evidence is
indispensable to an argument. Consider the kinds of
evidence that are used. What counts as evidence
in this argument? Is the evidence statistical,
or literary, historical? From what sources is
the evidence taken? Are the sources
primary or secondary? Critical reading may
involve evaluation. Your reading of a text is already critical if it accounts for and makes a series of judgments about how a text is organized. However, some texts
may also require you to assess the strength and
weaknesses of an argument. If the argument is
strong, why is it strong? Could it be better or
differently supported? Are there gaps, leaps, or inconsistencies
in the argument? Is the method of
analysis problematic? Could evidence be interpreted
in a different way? Are the conclusions supported
by the evidence presented? What are the unargued
assumptions? Are they problematic? What might an
opposing argument be? This table illustrates
common flaws in arguments that you may
encounter in your reading. The examples are at the
level of a sentence, but they can occur
at the level of overall argument in
an entire article. Even the long tags is
structured around the question, and answer to that question, the conclusion, and the
evidence justifying the answer. I have included useful
critical questions in the table that you can ask to tease apart the argument once it has been found
potentially unconvincing. You could refer to
this table during your reading to help
you evaluate how well the authors of a text
have constructed their argument and how
convincing the argument is. You could also use it for your
writing to check that you have avoided these flaws in
developing your own argument. Sources of appropriate evidence depends on what is being claimed. For example,
humanities, researchers may refer to empirical evidence, the findings from their own
or other's investigations, to support their claims. Scholar practitioners may refer to the empirical evidence of their professional
experience to support claims about how the world
does or should work. Theorists may support their
claims by referring to the conceptual evidence afforded by a particular
definition of a key idea. Not just any old
evidence will do, there must be a sufficient
amount of evidence of sufficient relevance to make it appropriate for justifying
the claims made. In other words, an
argument must be adequately supported if
it is to convince others.

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