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Steps to being critical

The main way to be critical of situations or the things that you read is by asking questions about the piece your are reading or watching. Let’s explore the various questions you can ask when being critical.


Don’t forget! When you are being critical, especially in essays, you want to back what you’re saying with evidence (and critique that evidence where you can!).

Check out the video below about Starbucks transitioning from plastic straws to optional paper straws and new lid. Have a go at being critical of the video, you can ask most of the questions about the video itself and about Starbucks.

Some of the questions or things you may have thought about are:

WHO

  • Who is to gain from this? You may argue that this is great for marine life as it is well known that plastic entering the ocean harms the creatures that live in it. You can also argue that perhaps Starbucks is merely using this as a way of generating more profit in the face of competitors.
  • Who is the intended audience? The video was posted on CNN Business, arguably because Starbucks is a business, but could it also be because most of those who use Starbucks are working professionals getting their coffee fix before they start work and so it is a form of advertisement (this is something you’d want to get evidence for to make your argument stronger)?

Context

  • Is this a paid advertisement from Starbucks to CNN?
  • Is Starbucks responding to pressure from external organisations?
  • Is Starbucks responding to a cause which is currently popular with their potential clients?

WHY

  • What are the real intentions of Starbucks? Is this just for profit or is the cause something which aligns with their values?
  • Why has CNN decided to broadcast this? What other news outlets have broadcasted this?

When you’re doing this exercise, it may seem negative and cynical, but it’s a good way for you to gather all the evidence and then make a case for a particular argument. You can also use this in a positive way to back up your argument.

Back to: The How-to Series > How to... Be Critical