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Critical Essay Title

ASB 311Principles of Social Anthropology/ASU West/Prof. Koptiuch

 GUIDELINES FOR CRITICAL ESSAYS


NOT YET REVISED FOR FALL 2003
One typed page only (double spaced).Essays to be read aloud in class!
The purpose of these essays is to encourage you to 
  • -keep up with the readings
  • -synthesize your understanding of coursematerials
  • -raise pertinent issues for discussion
  • -develop your own anthropological perspective
Check out the web page of  
ASU West’s 
Center for Writing Across the Curriculum 
for writing and style guides, grammatical rules, etc.


Choose a focused topic (you can only do so much in one page!)
  • Choose something in the readings that really grabs your interests (the best writing comes when the writeris most engaged with the topic). You may highlight an issue of interest toyou, ponder an anthropological problem, develop a polemical argument, wonder about an enigma in the text/world, dispute the conclusions an author draws from her/his data, relate course materials to your own lives, current events, etc.
  • NOTE: "Critical essay" need not mean you must criticize the reading as "bad" or flawed; you may offera positive critical appreciation as well!
  • CHIEF GROUND RULE: Essays must relate your topic to the key assigned reading. For weeks whenthere is no major book, essays should refer to at least twoarticles.
    •  
      Maximum grade of "C" for essays not tied in to the key text (or, to two articles). However, you are always freeto draw on additional course readings, videos, etc.
      Top of page
Title your essays
  • Choose a title that emphasizes themain topic of your essay, that is, do not simply use the formaltitle of the assigned reading. Lure us in with an irresistible title!  Top of page 
A Critical Essay should almost always
1) present an analysis and 2) develop an argument
  • Analysis: break down a subject or an idea into its parts andexplain how the parts relate to each other and to the whole (establish acontext, state the claims, examine the claims, relate the analysis to thewhole or to an issue stemming from the whole)
  • Argument: assert a position, identify support and opposition,conclude by interpreting the significance of this evidence in relation toyour position and follow its implications
  • Do not simply summarize the readings--think criticallyabout the author’s theoretical assumptions, use of ethnographic data, strategies of analysis, interpretation, or representation, etc.
  • Your essays ought to be informed by anthropological conceptsfrom the course (you will get a better handle on these as the course procedes)
  • Push yourself to consider the implications of your own argument for doing anthro today
  • Write your essay using the first-person pronoun "I."  (Voice Of God)
  • Think speculatively, write creatively  Top of page

 
Path of critical essay: 
topic statement--->analysis---->argument---->conclusion/implications
 
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  SHORT GUIDE TO A STRONG ESSAY

  • Try for a strong opening, the betterto lure in the listener/reader. Sketch your topic or theme.
    •  
    • Briefly identify the work(s) and author(s) under discussion within your text, so we'll know what you're addressing
    • underline or italicizeBookTitles, put quotations around "Article Titles"
  • Situate your chosen topic withinthe larger context of the author’s overall discussion. Clue your readerin by briefly answering the question, what is the article/book about?
  • Locate statements, points, or quotesfrom the reading within their particular context.

  •  
    • give page number for quotes; if unclear fromcontext, give author and title
    • As a rule, put punctuation inside quotations: "xxxxxxx." "xxxxx," "xxxxx?" "xxxxx"(p.x).
  • Support your argument withsome examples from the text that illustrate what you mean to say (you don’tneed direct quotes to do this, paraphrasing or summarizing is fine)
  • Explore the implications of your argument (for doing anthropology today, for the incorporationof the Other into the "Western Tradition," for understanding everyday life...)
  • Wrap up the end of your paperby tying it back in to your starting point for closure. This confirms yourthesis point, reminds the reader of what you aimed to address, and showshow far your argument has taken you. (This is a good place to interpretyour essay’s implications)
  • Do you make a point? Avoidleaving your listeners in confusion, or in so-what land!
  • Proofread your essay carefully(and use your spell-check!!!). Try havingsomeone else read it aloud to you and listen for clarity, persuasiveness,awkward sentence structure or poor grammar (or, read it to someone else andsolicit their reaction).
  • ****************************

There are MANY effective styles and strategies for writing essays.
No single form will be privileged in this class.
You have license to experiment!!
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NOTE: These are NOT simply "opinion papers"

  • You are of course welcome to present your opinion (indeed, this cannot be avoided!)
  • But think of "opinion" less as a matterof individual taste or preference, than as
    • a point of view, a way of seeing, a perspective shaped by your (& your nation’s) subject-positioning (i.e. who you are,socially speaking) and experience
    • rooted in the politics of your own social location at a particular intersection of culture/history/gender/race/class/ ethnicity/(trans)nation
    • grounded in your knowledge of anthropology thus far
  • Work these considerations into your analysis in light of our study of anthropology Top of page 

  Youraudience is listening! 
Address your classmates, not just your professor!
 

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The purpose for writing a critique is to evaluate somebody's work (a book, an essay, a movie, a painting...) in order to increase the reader's understanding of it. A critical analysis is subjective writing because it expresses the writer's opinion or evaluation of a text. Analysis means to break down and study the parts. Writing a critical paper requires two steps: critical reading and critical writing.

Critical reading:

  1. Identify the author's thesis and purpose
  2. Analyze the structure of the passage by identifying all main ideas
  3. Consult a dictionary or encyclopedia to understand material that is unfamiliar to you
  4. Make an outline of the work or write a description of it
  5. Write a summary of the work
  6. Determine the purpose which could be
    • To inform with factual material
    • To persuade with appeal to reason or emotions
    • To entertain (to affect people's emotions)
  7. Evaluate the means by which the author has accomplished his purpose
  • If the purpose is to inform, has the material been presented clearly, accurately, with order and coherence?
  • If the purpose is to persuade, look for evidence, logical reasoning, contrary evidence
  • If the purpose was to entertain, determine how emotions are affected: does it make you laugh, cry, angry? Why did it affect you?
Consider the following questions: How is the material organized? Who is the intended audience? What are the writer's assumptions about the audience? What kind of language and imagery does the author use?

 
 

SAMPLE OUTLINE FOR CRITICAL ESSAY

After the passage under analysis has been carefully studied, the critique can be drafted using this sample outline.

  • I. Background information to help your readers understand the nature of the work
    • A. Information about the work
      • 1. Title
      • 2. Author
      • 3. Publication information
      • 4. Statement of topic and purpose
    • B. Thesis statement indicating writer's main reaction to the work
  • II. Summary or description of the work
  • III. Interpretation and/or evaluation
    • A. Discussion of the work's organization
    • B. Discussion of the work's style
    • C. Effectiveness
    • D. Discussion of the topic's treatment
    • E. Discussion of appeal to a particular audience

Remember:

Avoid introducing your ideas by stating "I think" or "in my opinion." Keep the focus on the subject of your analysis, not on yourself. Identifying your opinions weakens them.

Always introduce the work. Do not assume that because your reader knows what you are writing about, you do not need to mention the work's title.

Other questions to consider: Is there a controversy surrounding either the passage or the subject which it concerns?

What about the subject matter is of current interest?

What is the overall value of the passage?

What are its strengths and weaknesses?

Support your thesis with detailed evidence from the text examined. Do not forget to document quotes and paraphrases.

Remember that the purpose of a critical analysis is not merely to inform, but also to evaluate the worth, utility, excellence, distinction, truth, validity, beauty, or goodness of something.

Even though as a writer you set the standards, you should be open-minded, well informed, and fair. You can express your opinions, but you should also back them up with evidence.

Your review should provide information, interpretation, and evaluation. The information will help your reader understand the nature of the work under analysis. The interpretation will explain the meaning of the work, therefore requiring your correct understanding of it. The evaluation will discuss your opinions of the work and present valid justification for them.


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