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Report- ATK

Critical analysis in writing

Academic writing can be seen as consisting of two important levels of discussion:

  • Descriptive
  • Critical / analytical

Most reports will consist of a mixture of both these styles of writing. However, there is usually more emphasis on critical analysis over description, which means that description should be kept to a minimum and that critical analysis should account for more of the overall word count. A rough rule of thumb would be one third description to two thirds analysis.


Descriptive style

  • Describes something
  • Talks about what something is
  • Where something takes place
  • Who is involved or when it occurs
  • Provides background to critical 
    discussion within a report
  • Comes before critical analysis takes 
  • Appears neutral and non-judgmental
  • Tends to report upon facts.

Critical analytical style

  • Concerned with analysis and evaluation
  • Examines why something happens by discussing the underlying reasons
  • Discusses how something takes place
  • Looks at the relationship of the parts of a system to the whole
  • Is more abstract and speculative
  • Considers alternatives (what if)
  • Evaluates importance (so what)
  • Provides possible implications (what next)

Let’s look more specifically at what could be discussed in a section of critical analysis within a report and at how this can be supported:

Using quotes in critical writing
Quotes and citations are often used in critical writing to provide evidence and data to inform the discussion. It is important to remember that good critical writing should include discussion of these quotes / citations – for example, an interpretation of their meaning, an explanation of their relevance, or a discussion of their validity. It is important to do something with the quotes to demonstrate that you understand clearly what they are saying and use them to move the discussion of the topic forward.

Remember with quotes / citations, it is not quantity, but relevance to the discussion and demonstrating understanding that is important.

For more guidance on using quotations, have a look at the following:

Using paragraphs to enhance critical writing
You can use paragraphs to make a clear visual separation between descriptive writing and critical analysis in your report. Simply switch to a new paragraph when you move from description to critical writing and vice versa. 

This is helpful as it:

  • emphasizes that you are including both description and critical analysis and shows visually where the sections begin and end
  • allows you to check the balance between description and critical writing and make sure that you have enough critical content