Reading to understand is the first step in an academic process. Once we understand, we can then discuss, interpret and compare ideas as we engage with them. As we read, we engage ideas expressed by different authors working in different fields like science, education, and culture. We begin to see writers approach issues and debates with different sets of questions and assumptions. Our critical thinking skills help us to appreciate these differences and what we can learn from them.
Overall, this Lesson Area will help you develop skills in critical thinking and analysis and apply those skills in the development of a critical comparison of two articles. These analytical skills are the building blocks for many academic tasks, including understanding and responding to theories, arguments and in-depth analyses of a single work.
What is a Critical Comparison?
In a critical comparison, we compare what two different writers have to say about the same topic or problem. Our first task is to understand and compare what each writer says. Our second task is to consider why each writer takes the position that they do.
When we write a critical comparison, we ask: What assumptions does a writer make about a topic and how do these assumptions affect their claims and ideas about that topic? Asking questions like these is an example of critical thinking.
Why is This Important?
We need the skills of critical comparison to help us understand how and why writers from diverse backgrounds and with different perspectives can develop a variety of diverse opinions about the same issues or debates in society. Once we learn some of the differing opinions and arguments on a given issue, we can begin to develop our own informed positions on that topic.
How to Start
Lesson Area 2 offers 4 lessons that guide you through a process of critical thinking and the development of a critical comparison essay
This Lesson Area works best when you complete the lessons in order. In each lesson, you build on the work completed in the one before it until, finally, you complete a comparison essay.
Can’t do it all? No problem. Dip in to any lesson to find useful tips, templates and samples on each topic.
[su_list icon=”icon: book”]
- Summarizing the Information (Lesson A).
To think critically about the articles and compare them, you must first be able to understand them and present them clearly.
- Identifying Key Issues or Debates (Lesson B).
Once you understand what each article says, you can identify the issues or debates that the authors engage.
- Thinking Critically (Lesson C).
Next, you must consider how and why each author makes the arguments and assumptions they do about these issues or debates, and then compare their treatment of the issues.
- Writing the Critical Comparison (Lesson D).
Finally, you must understand the basic structure of a comparison essay to present your critical comparison in a well-formatted essay.
View the quick access list of the blank templates offered in this lesson. You can use these templates as resources to help you complete future work.
If possible, take the time to print off your own practice activities so that you will have your work to use when you get to the next lesson. As well, you can print the sample answers to every activity for reference.