Tuesday, 4 February 2014

How to Critically Evaluate

This is a help sheet I wrote a while back to assist my students in developing the skill of USING information, not just regurgitating it. I cannot stress enough HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS both at AS and A2. So, hope this helps somebody!

How to Evaluate/Assess the Success of something
You can think about this in 2 stages

1) Weigh up the positives and negatives of the issue with evidence to support each point

e.g. The one child policy in China could be viewed as a success: according to the Chinese government, it prevented an extra 400 000 births, meaning that without it China’s population would be 1.7 billion today instead of 1.3 billion.

2) Say whether it was successful or not with justification.

e.g. Overall the one child policy in China has been a success. This is supported by the fact that China’s population growth rate has been significantly reduced (e.g. the prevention of 400 000 births). Even though it created many problems, such as female infanticide, the reduction in population growth rates was worth it to avoid a Malthusian type disaster in the future.

NB – this is just one opinion of the overall success, feel free to give your own view as long as you can justify it, e.g. you could say the policy was unsuccessful because of all the problems it caused.

How to be Critical
This word is asking you to take the position of a critic – be skeptical about things, don’t take them at face value. Look for biasThere are various ways in which you can do this

      1) Question the source
e.g. According to the Chinese government their one child policy has been successful. However, this could be seen as questionable because of government bias in defending their decision to introduce the policy in the first place.

2) Compare contrasting viewpoints
e.g. According to the Chinese government their one child policy has been successful. However, other people (it would be good to give the name of someone here if you can) have disagreed with this: they say that the terrible problems (e.g. female infanticide) caused by the policy mean that it cannot be called a success. Also they say that restricting people to have only one child may actually have had the opposite effect as ‘people want what they can’t have’.

      3) Challenge a viewpoint with your own viewpoint using evidence
e.g.1 – The policies to reduce population growth in Singapore have worked too well according to some; reducing the fertility rate to far below replacement level (1.1) and causing population decline. However, this result may not necessarily have been caused by the government policies but may simply be a natural consequence of development (e.g. more educated women reduces the birth rate) that would have happened anyway (according to the DTM and many other countries, such as the UK, who have experienced a decrease in fertility as their development has increased).

e.g.2 – The one child policy in China may be seen by its government to have successfully reduced birth rates. However, the existence of a secret control experiment challenges this claim. In Yicheng the policy was not introduced and people were allowed to have more than one child. Despite this the population growth rate of Yicheng is actually below the national average. This suggests that if China had not introduced the one child policy it’s population may be even lower than it is today due to people choosing to have less children of their own accord in order to provide for their family more effectively.

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