Thinking Critically and Building a Critical Argument

Library for Educators
8 min readSep 26, 2022

R22–0900, HCDI20002 / UPDATE — R22–0950 -HCDI20002 /R24–1153 PCHN20002 (New code from Academic Year 2023 -4) — Antje Heinrich

Slides / Google Doc / Questioning matrix Used pre 2024)

Alternative version January 2024 — amended slides (with script in notes field) and Menti Activity

Journal Extracts

Menti Activity — 3 Questions given as open ended formats;

Icebreaker — Why do you read?

Activity 1 — What does being critical mean?

Activity 2 — Read the handout of the journal extracts (these were previously given on Google Docs)

Activity 3 — I Say…, And So..

Async materials

  • Start to finish: academic writing
  • Thinking, Reading and Writing critically
  • Developing argument in our writing (unless this is already in the S2F above)

Learning Outcomes

  • Critically analyse arguments within sources to identify strengths and weaknesses (LO1)
  • Assess how a particular source fits within the wider context of literature and existing knowledge (LO2)
  • Present a balanced and well-structured argument (LO3)
  • Use information sources appropriately to support your own arguments (LO4)
  • Use correct academic practices in quoting, citing and paraphrasing (LO5


(to be embedded)


Welcome back for your second semester! The resources will help you prepare for your upcoming assignments this semester. We will introduce you to a range of strategies you can use to aid your initial reading and research and write your up own arguments and ideas.

Engaging with this content will help you to:

  • Critically analyse arguments within sources to identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Present a balanced and well-structured argument
  • Use information sources appropriately to support your own arguments
  • Use correct academic practices in quoting, citing and paraphrasing

There will be a live session on Tuesday 8th February, which will give you the chance to ask any questions about the resources and strategies below, as well as a chance to apply and try them out for yourself.

Reading the Research

Deciding what to read and how much to believe of the research you read is an important first step in preparing for any assignment. Being critical and analysing the arguments authors and researchers present can help you make informed decisions about what you believe are credible solutions to the problems or questions you are studying.

The image below shows a generally accepted hierarchy of evidence, rated on their perceived reliability and credibility.

Slide showing the hierarchy of evidence
Chart showing the hierarchy of evidence from those recognised as more robust and reliable to less robust and reliable

As you can see, Randomised Control Tests (RCT) are considered the most methodologically robust, while Case Reports / Case Series are seen as the least methodologically robust as they deal with smaller numbers of patients.

This is not to say that you should only ever use RCT methods and avoid case reports, however. It is important to use a variety of different research and types of evidence to get a holistic perspective on the topic you are studying. What this does mean, is that you will need to critically analyse pieces of research individually to decide whether you believe their findings are credible, reliable and valuable.

If you want to recap strategies on how to search for relevant academic reading materials My Learning Essentials’ Start to Finish: Searching is a really useful resource.

  • ACADEMIC READING: 1.2. Podcast — what does ‘being critical’ mean (embed)

Understanding your task

Breaking down the question

  • ACADEMIC WRITING: 2.6. Breaking Down the Question (embed).

(Edit: Please delete the first sentence in AW 2.6.)

  • You can use the below question if you would like to practice the strategy on an assessment question from your topic.

Describe and explain how listening to music at excessive noise levels can damage hearing. Outline preventative management solutions to protect hearing when listening to music.

Planning Your Essay

After you have broken down your assignment question and you know what you are being asked, it is important to spend some time planning how you will answer the question.

  • ACADEMIC WRITING: 2.4. Planning your academic writing (embed)

Writing Your Essay

Structuring your essay

After you have identified what your are being asked to do and decided how you will approach the question, it is time to start writing your essay.

  • ACADEMIC WRITING: 1.1. Structuring your essays (embed)

Introduction, Main Body, Conclusion

  • ACADEMIC WRITING: 1.2. Introduction, Main Body, Conclusion (embed)

Activity: Paragraph Structure

As explained by the ‘Writing Your Main Body’ blogpost above, the main body of an essay is usually broken down into different paragraphs, and each paragraph discusses a new topic or idea. This activity will take you through the structure of a paragraph and give you the opportunity to identify the different sentence-types that make up a paragraph.

  1. Listen to the narrated PowerPoint
  2. When prompted, pause the video and identify the topic, evidence, analysis and transition sentences.
  3. Resume the video for an explanation of where each sentence-type can be found.

[embed narrated PowerPoint here]

  • ACADEMIC WRITING 2.9: Activity — Draft Writing (embed)

You may prefer to return to this activity when you start working on each new assignment.

Successfully integrating the work of others into your own writing

As you can see from the paragraph structure outline in the above task, your evidence sentences will likely be made up from ideas, argument and stats or other data you found when reading the research.

  • ACADEMIC WRITING: 2.2. Integrating the work of others into your writing (embed)

Literature Review

Although not required for this unit’s assessment, literature reviews play an important role in conducting and reading research. They can help you to understand the main arguments and methodologies used in a field of research, so can be really useful tools in reading for any assessments to increase your knowledge.

To find out more about literature reviews, work through the Getting Started with Literature Reviews online resource.

Royal Literary Fellow

ACADEMIC WRITING 1.5: Royal Literary Fellow (embed)

Help and support

The Library and the My Learning Essentials Team are here for you, so get in touch with us using any of the following methods.

Give your feedback on these resources

(embed feedback/evaluation content)

Synchronous Session

Supporting Materials


During this session students will be introduced to the concept of critical appraisal and will practice applying critical skills in a number of activities. Activities introduced here will build upon those shared in the asynchronous content.


Outline that during the session we will cover the following:

  • What it means to be critical
  • How to critique research methodologies
  • How to engage critically with evidence.

What It means to be critical (LO1 & LO3)

Remind students that the Blackboard content has a lot of information on being critical and critical thinking.

Activity 1: Share understanding of what ‘being critical’ means (5 minutes)

As students to think about and share what they think ‘being critical’ means. Students to share their thoughts in the Google Notebook (share link in the chat).

Introduce the concept of critical appraisal as:

“The process of assessing and interpreting evidence by systematically considering its validity, results and relevance to an individual’s own clinical work”

The Hierarchy of Evidence (LO1, LO2, LO4)

Talk students through the different types of scientific study shown in the pyramid, highlighting that the pyramid reflects a generally accepted view of the relative value of different types of scientific study. Randomised control studies, at the top of the pyramid, are considered to be the most methodologically robust type of research. At the bottom of the pyramid are case reports and case series, a type of study which only looks at a small number of patients at a time, which are seen to have less significance. Note that, when assessing the validity and significance of a scientific/medical study it is important to consider the following:

  • The sample size (how many people were involved in the study)
  • The level of control researchers had over participants exposure to a particular treatment
  • Whether a control group was used

The structure and purpose of a scientific report

Tell students that throughout their degree, they will need to become comfortable using different types of information source including academic articles and study reports. Recognising the purpose and aims of different types of writing will help you to engage critically with what you read and determine whether the writer has done a good job or not. Talk students through the different sections which are included in a scientific report, and the what the writer should aim to do in each.

Highlight that students can use this understanding of what a scientific report should do to evaluate the effectiveness of the studies they read. Understanding the purpose of each section will tell you where to look in order to assess the relevance, validity and results of each study you read

Activity 2: Reading Methodology section (20 minutes)

In their groups, students consider the extract from the methods section of the example article in the Google Notebook (share link in the chat) and answer the following questions:

  • What type of study is it (RCT etc.)?
  • Identify strengths of methodology
  • Identify weaknesses of methodology

Evaluating the results

After you have deciding if something is relevant to your topic, and the methodology used is valid, the next step is to evaluate the results. Always aim to look at the results of a piece of research before reading the author’s discussion. The results are the raw evidence and the discussion is the authors interpretation of that evidence. You may have a different view of what the results say and their significance than that of the author.

Engaging with the evidence (LO3, LO5)

Paragraph structure

Remind students that they can find out more about the paragraph structure and different ways to construct your evidence sentences in the Blackboard content.

It says, I see and so

Introduce the “It says, I see and so” model, which helps students build the relationship between their evidence and analysis sentences. Useful strategy to ensure your writing is critical, and not descriptive.

  • It says — The Data or the citation — This is information provided by others which must be attributed
  • I see — Analysis — This is where you should explain to your reader what your take, or opinion, on the information you have referenced is
  • And so — Connection to ideas / themes — Why is the analysis you have provided significant or important? What will change as a result of what you have just told the reader? This should connect back to the central theme or contention which is running throughout your assignment.

Activity 3: It Says, I Say, And So writing activity (10 minutes)

Ask students to practice the It Says, I Say, And So strategy in the Google Notebook

Next steps and further help

Remind students that the resources on blackboard are there for them to look at whenever needed.

Highlight RLF Fellow, Drop-ins and Together Series

Highlight support which is available via drop ins and provide guidance on useful next steps following the presentation. Demonstrate the location of the My Learning Essentials online resources within Blackboard using slide 31, and highlight the most relevant resources e.g. Being critical: thinking, reading and writing critically and Start to finish: essay writing.

Internal note — this plan was amended by CH (T&L Team) 1 February 2024 For R24–1153 PCHN20002 Yr 2 BSc Healthcare Sciences (Audiology)

Medium link;



Library for Educators

Sharing resources for educators, from The University of Manchester Library