Summary and Critique

The summary and critique is 5 double-spaced pages long. Part of the point of the assignment is to summarize and critique succinctly. Don’t underestimate the challenge of summarizing a source, it may seem straightforward, but it is fairly difficult. The summary should cover both the main thesis of the source and three or more of the main points of the argument. My lecture summaries are examples of what you are shooting for, but in written form rather than in point form summary. Make sure you clearly identify the main argument and several supporting arguments, and make sure to do more than just quote your source, any source quotation should be explained in the summary.

The critique is a bit tougher, but again, this is part of the challenge of the assignment. Although you may get lucky and get inspired immediately, another way to come up with a critique is to read and think about the source for a while. This assignment thus gauges your ability to analyze text. There are several kinds of critique you can make:

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a) Citing factual inaccuracies (the author gets their facts wrong). For this kind of critique I would like you to do more than just listing mistakes, you should explain why they are mistakes and try to see if these mistakes are indicative of a bigger problem, bias, etc.

b) Citing contradictions (the author says two things that conflict with each other). Again, citing the contradiction is not enough, you have to try to understand how it happened (e.g. how the author’s assumptions led to contradictions) or show how the contradiction harms the author’s argument.

c) Criticizing the scope of the argument (the author leaves out important information). Be very careful with this kind of critique, as the readings for the course are often part of a larger source, you don’t want to critique an author for something they address later in the source.

d) Demonstrating that the article is confusing or misleading (the author didn’t write very well). This kind of critique is also difficult; sometimes a source is confusing as you simply haven’t understood it. Make sure you have clear and well described reasons for claiming that an author is confusing or misleading. This is a good critique to use if you think the author has a hidden agenda.

e) Citing arguments that invalidate the author’s conclusions (the author’s argument is wrong as someone else has presented new or challenging evidence). As you don’t have a lot of room, this kind of critique is tricky, but not impossible. It is good as it forces you to consider other sources, and it can frequently be easier than coming up with your own critique. Just be sure to cite the source of your arguments when you do this.

f) Criticizing the relevance of the argument (saying that it doesn’t matter). This is also risky, but sometimes the author is making a point that is not that significant. You should only use this sort of critique if you feel that the author’s argument is not relevant, even by his or her own standards.

Another general point is that you can look for book reviews of the source in question in order to find critiques, but you MUST be sure to properly reference these sources if you choose to use them. However, you do not need to give references for points from Martin’s text in the summary.

I want your opinion in a critique, not just other people’s ideas. You can refer to yourself in a paper (I believe, etc.), but you must make sure to back up your beliefs with good arguments and well-researched facts.

Be sure to be fair to the author in question, if you think they are wrong you should have an argument as to why they are wrong, pointing a finger alone does nothing. Do not criticize authors for things they could not have known, or for things that are irrelevant to their topic.

Finally, individual periodic spelling mistakes did not lose you any marks, but in the aggregate they can lead to lost marks. The general criteria is comprehensibility, if it is difficult to understand what you mean then there is a problem.

The balance of the assignment should be about 2/3 summary and 1/3 critique, so approximately 3 pages of summary and two pages of critique (double spaced, 1 inch margins and 12 point font). If you refer to sources other than Martin I need a full bibliographic reference and reference to page number (in a footnote, endnote, in-text reference or in a bibliography).

Rubric

Summary:

Is it clear (out of 4)

Does it cover the author’s main argument? (out of 4)

Does it cover several of the author’s main supporting points? (out of 4)

Does the student use technical concepts correctly? (out of 4)

Mark out of 16

Critique

Is it clear? (out of 2)

Is it fair? (out of 4)

Is it relevant? (out of 4)

Is it convincing/sound? (out of 4)

Mark out of 14

Total mark out of 30

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