Writing Too Critical - Any Advice?

posted
23-Jul-12, 11:24
edited about 6 seconds later
Avatar for lysethia
posted about 7 years ago
Hi,

I'm currently revising my thesis in Computer Security and have recently had a lecturer tell me my lit review is "too critical" of others work. For example, I say in reference to several papers that there was a lack of statistical analysis of the data and so it was difficult to establish how effective the reported approach was. Has anyone else experienced this? Any tips on how to be critical enough without being overly critical?

Thanks
posted
23-Jul-12, 14:40
Avatar for Dalmation
posted about 7 years ago
In spite of the lack of statistical analysis, did the papers offer anything useful, particularly in relation to your research? Can anything be learned from the theories or methods they applied?...This might be what your lecturer is driving at.
posted
23-Jul-12, 15:01
Avatar for lysethia
posted about 7 years ago
Thanks, that clarifies things. I thought I'd written it in such a way which represented the benefits of the research, but perhaps it's not as obvious as I thought :)
posted
23-Jul-12, 16:06
by sneaks
Avatar for sneaks
posted about 7 years ago
Also think strategically about when to be critical and when not to be. If your critique supports the reason for your research, then its useful, if its just critique for critiques sake then it can come across bitchy.

e.g. "XYZ study examined the effects of sherbet on hyperactivity, it was rubbish cos they did it on people who didn't even like sherbet"

is worse than

"XYZ study examined the effects of sherbet on hyperactivity, it was rubbish cos they did it on people who didn't even like sherbet AND THEREFORE MY STUDY IS AMAZEBALLS COS IT LOOKS AT CHOCOLATE AND HYPERACTIVITY IN CHOCOLATE LOVERS"

:p
posted
24-Jul-12, 11:17
Avatar for lysethia
posted about 7 years ago
Excellent point :)
posted
25-Jul-12, 05:36
edited about 2 seconds later
by RLD1984
Avatar for RLD1984
posted about 7 years ago
Hi Lysethia,

Chris Hart's (1998) 'Doing a Literature Review' contains a section on critical analysis that may be of use to you? Also, I came across this website a while back that offered advice on writing critical reviews which may contain some helpful information in relation to a review of lierature:

http://writingcentre.ioe.ac.uk/guides/critical-reviews

Cheers,
RLD
posted
25-Jul-12, 05:37
edited about 23 seconds later
by RLD1984
Avatar for RLD1984
posted about 7 years ago
* literature ;-)
posted
25-Jul-12, 11:42
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for lysethia
posted about 7 years ago
Thanks, that's helpful. I particularly like the summary of language in the URL you posted. Very nice! :)
posted
25-Jul-12, 15:49
edited about 7 seconds later
by satchi
Avatar for satchi
posted about 7 years ago
hi Lysethia, and everyone who's posted here
I have a huge problem with critical writing!!!!
I seem to agree with everything people say in their papers?!!! Its as if I have no brain of my own.

And when I start to have critical ideas, I find that the authors (of say paper A) have already outlined their own weakness and limitations, so when I criticise it's like repeating what they themselves already said!!!!

any tips (for me too) would be much appreciated!

love satchi
posted
26-Jul-12, 05:52
edited about 13 seconds later
Avatar for Walminskipeasucker
posted about 7 years ago
Some really good advice here that I can't really add to. Just remember, look for the strengths as well as weaknesses, and be complimentary where possible. Bear in mind that they are people just like us - often passionate people with limited resources, trying to do the best job that they can. Being bitchy has this awful habit of coming back to haunt you.
posted
26-Jul-12, 08:48
Avatar for lysethia
posted about 7 years ago
Walminskipeas... Thanks, I didn't think I was being bitchy. :-( I honestly thought I was just pointing out areas where things could have been improved. I said in several places "it could have been useful to see X, Y or Z". I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of bitchy comments through peer reviewed papers, and it's unpleasant. I wouldn't knowingly do that to someone else. I haven't really included work that I didn't find interesting and beneficial, I think I need to make that clearer.

Satchi : I remember being like that too. Can I ask what field you study in? I found it easier to spot limitations of work by reading much more about how to design and report experiments, and also by reading up on statistics. I also found it easier to spot weaknesses as well as strengths as I progressed through my PhD, which stage are you at in your PhD?
posted
26-Jul-12, 09:18
edited about 19 seconds later
by RLD1984
Avatar for RLD1984
posted about 7 years ago
======= Date Modified 26 Jul 2012 09:19:43 =======
Would people mind sharing some light on how they go about being critical with theoretical papers, as opposed to empirical papers? It appears to me that the former already have a number of criticisms highlighted by others in the field prior to me (as if I would have come up with the same responses;-)), and as mentioned by Satchi, I can't seem to find a new 'light' on papers of this sort! 

Lysethia - I hope you don't think that I'm taking over your thread? I thought that it was relevant to what we've been discussing.

Cheers,
RLD
posted
26-Jul-12, 10:20
edited about 23 seconds later
Avatar for lysethia
posted about 7 years ago
Not at all, it's definitely relevant, and interesting to hear other people's plights! I'm afraid I can't help with theoretical papers, it's primarily empirical papers I've been looking at. Hopefully someone else can help.
posted
26-Jul-12, 13:13
by satchi
Avatar for satchi
posted about 7 years ago
hi lysethia
Im in the write-up stage (health/pscyhology); I have had a lapse of 6months (and approx. 23 days) of not doing anything due to a death in the family and lots of upheavals. Last week I even thought I was having a nervous breakdown; but I think I am not, it must be just mild depression!

love satchi

posted
26-Jul-12, 13:53
Avatar for lysethia
posted about 7 years ago
Satchi,

So sorry to hear you're having such a hard time of it. Is there perhaps a counseling service at your university? Or maybe going to see a doctor might help? In terms of being critical can you see how your work fills a gap left by others? For example, say researcher A did and experiment E, was there a question related to experiment E which wasn't answered? Aside from looking for potential limitations in experimental design (which I mentioned I improved a little by reading on how to design experiments properly), looking for gaps in what was evaluated or errors in how results were evaluated are the only approaches to critical analysis I can think of. Perhaps someone else can suggest other approaches?

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