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 writingCritical/analytical writing
States what happenedIdentifies the significance
States what something is likeEvaluates (judges the value of) strengths and weaknesses
Gives the story so farWeighs one piece of information against another
States the order in which things happenedMakes reasoned judgements
Says how to do somethingArgues a case according to evidence
Explains what a theory saysShows why something is relevant or suitable
Explains how something worksIndicates why something will work (best)
Notes the method usedIndicates whether something is appropriate or suitable
Says when something occurredIdentifies why the timing is important
States the different componentsWeighs up the importance of component parts
States optionsGives reason for the selection of each option
Lists detailsEvaluates the relative significance of details
Lists in any orderStructures information in order (e.g. of importance)
States links between itemsShows the relevance of links between pieces of information
Gives informationDraws conclusions
(Adapted from Cottrell, 1999)
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