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[MUSIC] Why do we need to be critical
while reading academic texts? Regardless of how objective, technical or
scientific the subject matter is, the author will have made many decisions
during the research and writing process. And each of those decisions is
a potential topic for examination and debate rather than for blind acceptance. You need to be prepared to step
into the academic debate and make your own evaluation of how much
you're willing to accept what you read. A practical starting point, therefore, is to consider anything you read not as
a fact, but as the argument of the writer. Taking this starting point, you will be
ready to get engaged in critical reading. Being critical is often associated with
being negative, trying to find fault, but being constructively
critical is more positive. You aim to respect other scholars as
potential contributors to your knowledge, but you need to adopt a skeptical
stance about what you have to say. There are two acute reasons why
a skeptical stance is necessary. First, anyone can make a mistake,
overinterpret or misinterpret the information
they are dealing with, or fail to take into account other
relevant published information. As a critical reader,
you decide whether to accept the author's claims by drawing
on your accumulated knowledge and experience, and by looking for
any logical flaws or inconsistencies. Second, you may well find that
different authors make incompatible claims about the same topic,
backed by constructing evidence. So, in reading,
you need to remain open-minded and ready to accept the author's views,
not only if you find them convincing. You make judgments about
how far you agree and why. You also consider how well
the authors communicated their views through the content of the paper and
the language they used. If you cannot understand what
they are trying to convey, you are likely to remain unconvinced. It would be unwise to take
their claims on trust when you cannot follow their reasoning. Weak evidence can be disguised
in complicated language. Successful communication
is an essential goal for all writers who want to convince
readers of the validity of their ideas. When you sit down to write,
informed by your reading, you need to become self-critical. You apply the lessons learned from
your constructively critical reading of others writing to your own work. You have judged how well others
communicated their views, and how much they convinced you. Now, you have to communicate to
critical readers of your work and convince them of the validity
of your argument, and you have to support your argument
with facts and solid reasoning. You do that by emulating
the good scholarly writing practice you have observed. Equally, you identify and
avoid the pitfalls of bad practice. When learning to become an expert
scholarly writer, you have two tasks, to evaluate other's arguments and to develop
your own adequately supported arguments. In critical reading,
you evaluate the conclusions and support of other's arguments as they
try to convince their target audience. As a self-critical writer,
you develop your own arguments, making them as clear and
as well supported as possible. So as to communicate with and
convince your target audience. Not everything that looks like
an argument actually is an argument. When there are just
claims with no support, then the author has simply
offered an opinion. Even if you agree with this,
you should not be satisfied and accept it without support,
and ask, how do you know? The reason for caution is that sometimes
popular beliefs turn out to be untrue. Once everyone believed that earth was the
center of the universe but when sufficient evidence was examinated, this belief was
discovered to be an unsupported claim. It is fine for authors to have opinions. But if they want to persuade
their readers, they must provide convincing reasonings for why the claim or
opinion should be accepted. Sometimes there might be evidence but
no conclusion. Then readers may ask, so,
what follows from this? For example, this study revealed that there are no
racial differences in intelligence. This observation would be evidence used
to support a claim, but no claim is made. A critical reader would ask, so,
what do you believe this means? In other words, if you want to develop
as a self-critical writer you need to acquire critical reading skills. These are examining the evidence or
argument presented. Understanding the bias from any
influences on the evidence or argument. Analyzing the limitations of
the study design or focus. Examining the interpretations made. And deciding to what extent you're
prepared to accept the author's argument, opinions, or conclusions. In the next video, we will discuss how
to identify flaws in an argument and what critical questions you should ask
as a constructively critical reader.

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