ENGL 112: Strategies in University Writing
February 6, 2013
Techniques for Critical Summary:
Before getting into critical summary, some words on summarizing case studies, fold-stories,
novels, films, creative non-fiction, etc.: these types of writing do not always clearly announce
their conceptual levels; it is therefore up to the reader to supply the higher level concepts that the
original does not supply on its surface. Thus, a reader might need to give names to story's key
moments/episodes or provide a key concept to explain a situation. In doing so, a reader creates
meaning and displays his/her critical skill and insight. For example, a reader might summarize a
report stating "Several schools were burnt down in the last six months" using the concept
"Vandalism." Or, when talking about the character of Cinderella, a reader could use the concept
"the representation of women." More of this on pages 95-102
Part of your role as an academic wittier is to guide the reader through the different levels of
information the constitute your argument: you demonstrate abstract/conceptual/statements with
concrete details and explain the concepts at work in specific phenomena.
Critical Frame and Critical Stance:
As the name implies, critical summary builds on the techniques of summary (please remember to
review notes of summary). A critical frame is an indispensable part of the critical summary.
Critical frame introduces a source openly and directly using reporting expressions
o Ex. Calhouns essay "Heterosexuality" argues that
A critical farm indicates
One of the major difficulties in writing a critical summary arises when you submit yourself to
someone else's rigorous argument: you may feel that you are not in a position to criticize it. For
example, you may thing that the argument is completely convincing (or unconvincing) or that
you have nothing to add: this simply means you lack critical distance. To overcome this problem,
you must detach yourself from the original argument: constructing a critical frame is the first
step is detaching yourself from your source, allowing you to judge it impartially.
Your frae first creates critical distance through the use of "reporting expressions" - references to
the author(s), followed by a discursive verb:
Smith claims ….
Jones suggests ….
Fiske and Hartley argue ….
Critical framing thus allows you to begin creating the distance needed to make a critique: it tells
your reader that you are reporting information from elsewhere, and that you at a remove from it.
A crucial part of the critical frame is a critical stance, where you evaluate the argument you have
reconstructed in your summary. ENGL 112: Strategies in University Writing
A critical stance is where you offer the reader statement of your own based on your analysis and
interpretation of your sources. However, a critical stance does not simply condemn an argument
as "mistaken" or "wrong"; nor does it praise an argument as being "totally excellent." A critical
stance is not simply an "opinion" - especially one which praises or blames.
Begin constructing your critical stance by looking caref