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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Being critical in a positive sense?

Contact Malcolm
The address for the Researchit blog

Here’s the Student Feedback Survey for the Research Project:

The Evaluation of the Research Project and being critical

For the evaluation you must present the evaluation in written form; it can include visual material such as photographs and diagrams integrated into the written text . It needs to be a written assessment of a maximum of 1500 words (excluding the written summary). 
On the Moodle there is a document which gives you headings to guide the writing of the Evaluation and a Powerpoint which provides all the information you need on this final assessment piece.

Now that some of you are at this stage it is worth considering some information on being critical to guide your discussion on the use of the sources you used in your research project. 

Being critical may be defined as a challenging approach to the reliability, usefulness and bias of a source. It involves the questioning and challenging of the attitudes, values and beliefs that lie beneath the surface of a written source (Internet, pamphlet, book etc) or person/s interviewed or surveyed.

To be critical is often associated with being negative or finding fault unreasonably but I would like us to view being critical as:
  • careful or analytical evaluations 
  • skillful judgement as to the truth or merit of something.
An ability of a person to be critical is sometimes referred to as a type of literacy (literacy meaning an 'ability to'). 

In the case of your research when looking at websites, reading written materials, listening to your interviewee and reviewing your survey data I am sure you regularly asked questions like:

  • Who has presented this information?
  • How much of it is fact and how much opinion?
  • Is the information biased?
  • Whose point of view is missing?
  • Is this an ‘expert’ opinion?
  • How objective is this information?
  • How do the opinions reflected in this information compare to that of other social groups?
  • What are the values and attitudes implicit in this information?
  • How are the opinions in this information likely to make some people feel?
  • Are the opinions in this material likely to cause ‘injury’ to others? Is the writer using stereotypes to describe a social group
To ask these questions is to be critical in the positive evaluative way.  It is such questioning and challenging of your research that should appear throughout your evaluation document.   
I would also like to read the words credibility and bias in your evaluation discussion when referring to sources.
Credibility being something that is credible and is worthy of being believed because it has a high degree of accuracy. Some sources of information are more creditable than others. Newspapers and magazines vary greatly in their credibility as do television programs and the Internet.  No source can be totally creditable; each has a degree of credibility which must be acknowledged and discussed to explain how it effects the conclusions.

Bias being the misrepresentation of information to create a distorted view that could create opinions that are not credible. Much of the information we receive is biased in some way. Taking a particular point of view and disregarding all other perspectives is a form of bias as is leaving parts of information out of discussions. It is always important to identify whose point of view is not represented, and why it is not presented in any information that you have.

Please do not be fearful of being critical of your research

The moderators will not think less of your work if you have been critical (in the positive sense) of your process and research (but don't expose too may inadequacies - just challenge the veracity of the data and processes you used).  They will see that you have effectively evaluated your research and deserve to be rewarded as a deep and evaluative thinker.  Use the words and ask the questions.

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