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Showing critical analysis

According to tutors who mark reports, the discussion of the findings has the most potential for demonstrating critical analysis and gaining high marks. To do this, you need to:

• Critically analyse the findings
• Link the findings to the background research
• Show how the findings answer the brief.



Read summary of video script - critical analysis questions

Critical Analysis Questions

What are your findings?

95% of the students you surveyed have problems managing their time at university.

What do you think about this?   

I expected it to be fewer than that.

What makes you think that?

Research I read for my literature survey put the figure at 60 to 70%.

What conclusions can you draw from this?

There must be reasons why the figures are so different. The sample I surveyed included a large number of mature students, unlike the samples in the previous research. That was because the brief was to look at time management in a particular department that had a high intake of post-experience students.

Critically analyse the findings

Analysing critically means looking at your findings and asking yourself, ‘What do I think about this?' Then go one step further and ask, ‘What is making me think that?' Watch the video above to see how this process might work.

How do I link my findings to the background research?

Look at the example below from John's report. He compared his findings to those from previous studies by Jones (2016) and Smith (2017). Where he found differences between his results and those of other studies, John tried to find reasons for these differences. He returned to his background reading, using the study by Taylor (2014) as evidence to support his claims.

Example from the Discussion section of John's report:

The percentage of students surveyed who experienced problems with time management was much higher at 95% than the 60% reported in Jones (2006: 33) or the 70% reported in Smith (2007a: 17). This may be due to the large number of mature students recruited to this post-experience course. Taylor (2004: 16-21) has described the additional time commitments reported by students with young families and the impact these may have on effective management of study time. The department clearly recognises this already (as shown by the flexibility of seminar times described earlier). However, it may be that students would benefit from more advice in this area.

Your background reading helps you to put your findings in context and helps provide possible reasons to explain your results.

• Look back over the background reading that you did for your introduction or literature survey.
• Compare and contrast your findings with what other people have found. Do your results confirm or contrast with their results. Why might this be?
• Use previous studies to provide evidence to help explain your findings.


Make sure the findings answer the brief

The discussion of your findings needs to relate to the brief and your research questions.

• Before analysing your findings, check the brief and any hypotheses you may have made.
• While you are writing your discussion section, keep asking yourself ‘How does this answer my brief?'
• Be ruthless and take out any unnecessary information. 

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