Seminar 11 - Dr Jon Pengelly - Academic & Critical Writing Workshop 

Pieces of writing during course: 
Critical Reflective Essay – due august.  
Evaluative or analytical approaches, if we are not making a critical judgement on the information/research we are using then we are going about it the wrong way, due to the amount of information that exists. 
Literature Review: Process and its outputs 
It summaries, interprets and evaluates existing ‘literature’ in order to establish current knowledge of a subject 
With the purpose to develop ongoing research and to focus that knowledge 
Literature review is the starting point, but in our practice is not the whole process. Conceptual review captures not only the literature, but the other types of sources, with artworks etc. Key in allowing me to place where my work sits within the wider context. 
Literature/Contextual Review is about identifying key texts, or individuals working within the same field. In this sense I am undertaking, informing or involved with setting where the boundaries or scope of my own research. Being able to keep some sort of perspective is key in avoiding going down a rabbit hole with research. 
Literature reviews are there to establish unbiased platform and perspective from which to undertake your own research/practice. This is difficult to achieve, due to my investment within my own practice. This is balanced within communicating my own knowledge or understanding of my discipline. 
It also is there to provide clear intellectual context for my own work, enabling me to position my research & critical position relative to other[s] work, including opposing views. 
Need to be seeking alternative points of view and perspectives within the area that I am working. 
Critical thinking and critical writing involve asking directed & purposeful questions… 
Each discipline has its own specialist vocabulary which you will be expected to use, be cognisant of. 
Academic writing is based on ‘evidence’ – claims are always supported by your own or the research of others… 
Q: Is this true in our own discipline…? - would need to define what is meant by evidence, findings or observations from the work itself, reflections on the actions or activity in the making of the work. 

Proposal could be a key starting point for the critical writing.  
Basics of critical writing: moving beyond ‘I like...’: 

Writing needs to be more evaluative than previous levels of study. 
Critical writing presents a case through providing clear reasoning: using & communicating relevant evidence, comparing and evaluating alternative arguments, weighing up conflicting evidence, and forming critical (personal yet informed) judgements based on evidence.  - Adapted from Stella Cottrell, Critical Thinking Skills (2011) 
Most often informed by critical reflections on practice... 
In order to make my critical voice come across within my writing, I need to move from descriptive statements to critical and evaluative statements.  
In order to do this, I must have an understanding of my own critical position or standing. This is the basis on which all further critical statements would be based. 
Primary sources, my practice, and the materials that I have came into contact with: seminars, exhibitions, academic papers and data I have collected through interviews and discussions.   
Secondary sources, are materials based on, or written about primary sources. Academic books & Journal articles, websites, newspapers and magazine articles, biographies of artists and designers as well as documentaries about a person, thing, or issue.    
Try to avoid using ‘I’ too much, don’t ‘think’, ‘feel’, or ‘believe’ – I am conscious that I have been using feel throughout my seminar tasks. 
‘Argue’, ‘interpret’, ‘demonstrate’, ‘show’, based upon the evidence supplied and critically analyse. 
Avoid ‘we’ and ‘you’. 
Why to use secondary sources: 
critically substantiate a point you are making or add weight/precedence to your reasoning. 
argue against a point of view and challenging what’s previously been written. 
provide weight to your argument by showing it is supported by the research or arguments of key writers, and practitioners. 

Seminar content is there as starting points, they can be challenged as they are not definitive points of view etc. 
The paragraph on Emin’s work with secondary sources added in: 
Tracey’s Emin’s neon For You foregrounds the construction of intimacy. Written in the first person in a handwriting-like font, the text ‘I Felt you / And I knew you/Loved me’ superficially seems like a personal expression of private emotion. Indeed, Emin’s work is generally perceived as being autobiographical and confessional (Doyle 2002); Brown (cited in Goest 1998 p. 63) opinesfor example, that her art is ‘the honest placement of the authentically personal into the world’. While For You could be interpreted in this way, its medium complicates this idea; the piece is not an outpouring of emotion straight from the artist’s hand, but a work carefully sculpted in a material typically associated with advertising and commerce (Brown 2006). In this way, For You exemplifies Betteron’s (2002 p. 23) argument that Emin’s work oscillates “between truth and disclosure on one hand, and performance and artifice on the other”. The heart and x featured in the work further illustrate this idea, as they are ubiquitous but nevertheless artificial representations of emotion. Therefore, while the piece creates a strong effect of intimacy, I argue that For You also highlights its construction through the manipulation of its conventional forms. 
Secondary Sources 
Introducing Secondary Sources 
Criticality and expressing caution. 
Synthesising Sources 
Personal Reflection: 
I found that this seminar was similar to the oral histories, in that it really broke down what would be expected within a critical essay at this level, and how I could go about writing one.  
This practical approach will be invaluable I feel, when I come to put together the essay, and something that I will need to look back over it to ensure that the content that I have written is at the required level.  
Although I feel that I have managed to write essays fairly successfully over the last few years, however I have always been concerned over the level of criticality that I am including, often finding the essays can be a bit bloated with descriptive elements. This will be my challenge to move away from. I think to this end I need to find ways to quickly introduce the concept, object, or entity, and then start critically dissecting it, avoiding lengthy descriptions that lack criticality. 
I do feel that I am wary in regards to the past examples for the reflective essays, that I don’t want to fall in to a trap of producing similar essays, borrowing from the structure or approach. To this end I am unsure if I will read through any of them prior to the submission, rather I may try to get a draft completed to further discuss with Jon to ensure that I am on the right track. I will need to be careful to ensure that I am leaving enough time following this meeting to make amendments. 
The other option could be to speak to study skills, although I am unsure of the access at the current point, as it may be that the staff there take the summer holidays.  
Back to Top