How to Write a Critical Response to a Case Study

Here are some tips/tricks that will help you improve your responses to the case study assignments. You may also find some of these tips helpful in writing your papers.

1. Read the question carefully and identify what it is asking for. Identify the underlying question and make sure that it is clear. It may help to write out the question outside of the text itself. Are you being asked to form an opinion on a specific or broad issue?

2. Identify the audience*. Are you being asked to convince someone who may not know much of Developmental psychology of something? Are you summarizing the material for someone who knows a lot about Developmental Psychology? Depending on the audience, specifics may or may not be useful*.

a. If you are trying to convince someone who may not have taken a Developmental Psychology course it may help to imagine that you are trying to convince your parents/siblings/friends of the material. What is relevant to them is not necessarily what is relevant to someone with a background in the field. Would your parents/siblings/friends be impressed that some psychologist got their article published in some journal, or with the core message of the article?

b. If you are trying to convince someone who knows a lot about Developmental psychology, specifics may be more impressive. Different journals carry different weights.

  • Most of the case studies should be written for an audience that does not have expertise in the field – you are the expert and you need to make sure that the information is presented in a way that is understandable to them.

3. Form an opinion on the issue that is under consideration. Think about the issue and decide where you fall on it. The papers are not graded on whether or not I agree with your stance – it is how well you present the material and your opinion that is being graded. Also, I am looking for critical thinking skills to be evident – which is evident in your ability to consider both sides of the issue and present a concise summary of results.

4. Do some outside research. If the links provided don’t support your stance, find some research that does. Find one or two articles that support your decision – or carefully read the articles that don’t support your stance and find critical flaws in the theory/question/results being reported. No article is perfect – and sometimes the flaws are great enough that they will counter the evidence being presented. Make sure credit is given where appropriate, but don’t go overboard with citations.

5. Do some outside research, even if the articles provided support your stance. This will help ensure that you understand the material. Use the internet – there is a wealth of information, however, be skeptical about any information that does not come from a scholarly source.

6. Look at both sides of an issue. All issues have two sides – critical thinking skills are evident when both sides of a possible argument are examined.

7. Make sure all material is relevant. All material should be directly related to the case study. If a list of symptoms needs to be described, describe them in the context of the case study. Do not assume that your reader knows what you are talking about or why the information is relevant to the case study.

8. Be concise in your explanation. While you should assume that the reader does not have the information that you do, be concise in your explanation of the material. All material (symptomologies, expectations etc) can be summarized in a few sentences.

9. Outline the paper. This will help organize your ideas into a coherent paper and will allow you to present the best face on the side of the issue that you have chosen. This can be done quickly on scrap paper – simple one to two word phrases will help set up the structure of the paper.

10. Write the paper. Sounds simple, but give yourself enough time to write the paper and not be rushed. Most case studies will be assigned on Friday and will be due the following Monday, giving you the weekend to complete the assignment – don’t wait until the last minute to get the assignment done.

11. Go over the paper, looking for spelling/grammatical errors. If you can, trade off with a classmate and have them read the paper. Return the favor. Spelling/grammatical errors make the paper hard to read and will lower the grade received because the reader doesn’t know what you are trying to say. Reading the paper backwards will also help – it breaks the sentences out of order and forces your brain to pay attention to the sentence as it appears on the page – not what you think it says or should say.

12. Do not use direct quotes. This cannot be stressed enough – directly quoting material means one of two things: 1) you are simply being lazy or 2) you don’t understand what the person is saying. Either way it weakens the impression that you understand the material being presented.

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