Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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Succeeding in postgraduate study

4 The difference between descriptive and critical writing

It is important that you understand the difference between descriptive writing and adopting a critical stance, and are able to show clear evidence of your understanding in your writing. Table 2 provides some examples of this.

Table 2 Difference between descriptive writing and critical/analytical writing

Descriptive writing Critical/analytical writing
States what happened Identifies the significance
States what something is like Evaluates (judges the value of) strengths and weaknesses
Gives the story so far Weighs one piece of information against another
States the order in which things happened Makes reasoned judgements
Says how to do something Argues a case according to evidence
Explains what a theory says Shows why something is relevant or suitable
Explains how something works Indicates why something will work (best)
Notes the method used Indicates whether something is appropriate or suitable
Says when something occurred Identifies why the timing is important
States the different components Weighs up the importance of component parts
States options Gives reason for the selection of each option
Lists details Evaluates the relative significance of details
Lists in any order Structures information in order (e.g. of importance)
States links between items Shows the relevance of links between pieces of information
Gives information Draws conclusions
(Adapted from Cottrell, 1999)

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