Critical Analysis 101

I recently read an article (site of publication LinkedIn, original source unknown) in which there wasn’t a single literature reference and there were spelling and grammatical errors throughout. The lack of citations is fine if it’s an opinion piece, but there was no indication it was.

This article received +190,000 likes.

A while back, I took a mandatory online course on how to take online courses (yeah, yeah, I know). During this course, I was forced into group work and made to do a final assignment. All group members agreed to each write a paragraph on the selected topic to contribute to the paper. We were supposed to do research for this final assignment, and quizzes and assignments were instituted during the course to provide ample instruction on how to approach a research paper.

Again, I was astounded. Paragraphs were sent in outlining opinions and which cited only one reference, if any. Being who I am, I looked into each of these references. Most of the references turned out to be to blog sites; all the blog sites referred to one common primary source.

Both of these examples demonstrated clearly to me the lack of critical analysis in our North American society today. But also, it demonstrates that, as much as we hear the uproar about lack of critical analysis, in practice, we’re okay with it. We, as a society, are demonstrating so by our actions. If we weren’t okay with it, the aforementioned article wouldn’t have received over 190,000 likes, the students in my group would have researched the single citation back to the original source, and perhaps the students would have used more than one citation too.

Practice what you preach. The Four Agreements (Ruiz 1997) states, “be impeccable with your word.” It doesn’t matter what religion, what culture, what society you’re from or currently dwell in, integrity is a universal tenet. I’m not saying you should already have integrity, but be aware of what you’re doing and what you’re not doing.

Ruiz (1997), from

Life is too short to deal in shit. If you’re going to spout off about the lack of critical analysis, the lack of integrity, then, damnit, do something about it — starting with yourself. If you want critical analysis, you gotta do it. If you want integrity, you gotta give it. And this is a way of life that can be applied to many other aspects too.

For example:

  • If you don’t like to be the subject of gossip, don’t gossip about anyone.
  • If you want to be surrounded by honest people, be honest yourself.
  • If you want to be treated well by others, start by treating yourself well.

This can be summed up in the words attributed to Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Except, um, Gandhi didn’t actually say this. After doing some quick research (see it isn’t difficult), Gandhi actually said: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” (Thank you New York Times author Brian Morton, August 29, 2011).

It’s funny, dear Reader, that we should end on an incorrect quote to demonstrate the necessity of integrity in what we put into this world.

Be true to yourself. Everything else will fall into place.

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