Critical analysis with

R20–0713 Async only

Library for Educators
6 min readFeb 10, 2022

Background notes

The outcomes for the content are below. The session aims to support students engaged in writing dissertations on the following programmes. Students are being encouraged to develop their critical analysis skills to develop their own stance and informed opinion on the topics that they are researching.

The structure below takes a lot of content from

Learning outcomes

  • LO1 Annotating and note-making while actively reading for critical analysis
  • LO2 Connect what you are reading about with what you already know and identify new areas to explore
  • LO3 Create your own understanding and say something original

The content should be embedded in the community space at the following link.

(Embed podcast from here Welcome from the Library & Introduction

Welcome to this My Learning Essentials resource to support you in developing critical analysis skills. My name is Sam and I would encourage you to make the most of engaging with this resource.

Critical analysis can feel difficult to grasp as an activity, but here is a strategy that you can apply to your work that will help you develop your critical lens and strengthen your analysis.

By working through this resource you will practice an approach to critical analysis in your academic work and use note-making and annotating techniques to develop your critical opinions. You can then communicate your own informed critical opinions as part of your dissertation.

We are going to use a three step approach to critical analysis that will enable you to identify and inform opinion on a topic. The key element for this process is note-making. Note -making is integral to all the work you have done as a student so far — going to lectures, attending seminars, reading for research or revising. However, here we are going to use note-making to act as the first stage of your critical thinking to support you as you build your own ideas and develop your arguments.

Critical analysis

The model for critical analysis that we are going to use is LEARN, CONNECT, CREATE. Each step supports your thinking critically about new information and the context you can place it in.

Learn: this is where you read and select out the core concepts, key facts and assertions of the writing, image or object.

Consider the following:

  • What do you notice or observe?
  • What is new that you didn’t know previously?
  • Are there facts to note down — dates, formula, words, descriptions, events?
  • Is there a new “big” idea that is important to your area of study?

Connect: Identifying a connection to what you already know will help you better understand what you are learning and allow you to better analyse the new information.

Make connections by asking:

  • What else do you know about this topic? What can you add to what you were presented with?
  • Can you make any new connections between what is presented and what you know?
  • Does this result in any questions or gaps?

Mind-mapping or other brainstorming techniques can work very well here and really add to the connections you make.

Alternatively you might structure your notes using a technique like Cornell Notes. [Word]|[Word example maths]

Create: The step that moves you from learning something new to thinking about it critically is beginning to explore those connections and your new knowledge. Your goal is to clarify and communicate the journey you have taken from learning something new, to connecting it to other information, to coming to an original conclusion or insight. To explore your original ideas:

  • Take your new connections and try to group them, how does what you know now shape your understanding of the topic?
  • Pull out a high-level idea (one that feels “big” enough to write a page or so about) — how does this impact other areas in your subject? Can you add a new perspective on an idea?
  • Try to synthesise and blend a few connections together, could you write a short piece (less than a page, more than a paragraph) exploring the ideas you are putting together? If someone asked you why they were important, what would you say? Can you guide a reader through the journey you have taken to come to this conclusion?

Critical analysis with annotations

Now, you are going to use the critical thinking model to help direct your annotation of a text.

Annotating in the margins of what we are reading and highlighting text are both actions that you may have experience of while reading. Your annotations are important and should capture what you are thinking about what you are reading and they may look like the following:

  • Questions
  • Comments
  • Answers
  • Asides
  • Statements about links to other literature

The tool we are using is meant to encourage sharing and collaboration, and it will allow you to see what your peers are adding to the document as well as your own annotations. This works best when everyone focuses on adding constructive and thoughtful annotations to prompt discussion or add insight to the conversation. They should be considerate of the others who are annotating the same text so that you are all learning together and they should be substantive to support developing your critical analysis.

Instructions for this activity.

The text for this activity is: Wu, Y. and Lux, N. (2018). U.K. House Prices: Bubbles or Market Efficiency? Evidence from Regional Analysis. Journal of Risk and Financial Management, 11(3), doi: 10.3390/jrfm11030054

Please read the paper and make a series of annotations that relate to the critical analysis model described above, Learn, Connect and Create.

1. Learn: annotation activity

Read through the article and as you read highlight the text where you learn something new.

Annotate the highlighted text with a question or comment that might support you exploring the new thing in more detail.

2. Connect: annotation activity

Return to part of the text where you have learnt something new and add as much context as you are able.

Highlight the text and add an annotation that states what that link might be. You might link to something that you learned as part of your course or something that you have read about more generally.

3. Create: activity

Read back through all the annotations and identify somewhere you can add to the context and the information with your own insight or idea.

What new thing can you say about what the author of the paper is saying?

Add an annotation where the link is most apparent from either the text or reply to annotations that your colleagues have added that might prompt your thinking.

In your annotation be sure to capture your thought process (ie how you came to the idea and what led you there?)as it is these thoughts that you can use to communicate your opinion.

As you work your way through a text (and this might be over several reads), you will find your annotations can form the basis of a critical analysis of the text or topic. The annotations will help you to track your thought process through to your original conclusions, which will help you communicate those ideas to others.

Making annotations as you read facilitates your engagement with the text and authors ideas and enable you to establish your own stance on a topic.

(Embed note-making 1.3) Finding what note-making works for you

(Embed both of the following from here

Hear from other students about making notes

Preparing to write


In this resource you have spent some time reading and annotating an article using a the critical analysis model — Learn, Connect, Create.

The model can guide you in the steps to take as you learn new information and begin to think critically about that new information. Using the model while annotating will encourage you to document your thinking (not all of it will be critical) as you read, and enable to you draw critical conclusions, opinions and ideas on the text or topic. Later, when you decide to write on these ideas, they can also help you to communicate how you came to your conclusions and what evidence and ideas you explored on the way.

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