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Critical thinking and writing

Writing your position paper

For your second assignment you have been asked to write a position paper critiquing a current civil engineering initiative. For this assignment you will be asked to put forward an opinion based on your evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the project. 

What is a critique?

A critique is a genre of academic writing that critically evaluates or appraises a work or concept. See Writing a critique on CiteWrite for a full definition.

How to approach a critique

Before you start writing you will need to have a thorough understanding of the initiative you are critiquing. Make notes on the key parts of the initiative including the goals of the project and how these will be measured. 

Critical evaluation

Critical evaluations do not just identify the weaknesses of projects, they identify the strengths as well. Your evaluation should analyse the project in light of the its overall aim.

The critique should be written in formal academic style and presented logically. Provide evidence for your evaluation by drawing from the project and related secondary sources.

Critical thinking

The University of New South Wales provides a definition of critical thinking as the process of deliberate, systematic and logical thinking on a subject. Critical thinkers:

  • Question the material they are analysing
  • Acknowledge biases, their own and others'
  • Consider alternative ideas
  • Test conclusions against criteria.

Transforming your research into writing

Incorporating the work of others into your assignment

There are three ways that you can incorporate the work of other people into your assignment:

  • Direct quotation
  • Paraphrasing
  • Summarising.

direct quote is when you copy the source word-for-word. Direct quotes should be marked with quotation marks ("") to tell the reader where your work ends and the quoted author's work begins. Use direct quotes when the source or author is particularly authoritative or for definitions.

Paraphrasing is when you put the authors argument into your own words. Using the technique demonstrates to your lecturer or tutor that you understand the point the authors were trying to make.

Summarising is when you provide an overview or description of an author's argument in your own words.


Original source

Transit provides basic mobility services to people in their day-to-day activities. It helps to reduce road congestion, travel time, air pollution, and energy consumption compared to other travel modes. Nevertheless, a large proportion of commuters are reluctant to use transit as their preferred mode choice. Understanding of reasons behind disinclination to transit ridership is of utmost importance to transit agencies.   
Source: Kashfi, S. A., Bunker, J. M., & Yigitcanlar, T. (2015). Understanding the effects of complex seasonality on suburban daily transit ridership. Journal of Transport Geography46, pp. 67-80.

Direct quote



Traffic congestion due to car use is a major issue in cities, however “a large proportion of commuters are reluctant to use transit as their preferred mode choice” (Kashfi, Bunker & Yigitcanlar, 2015, p. 67).

Kashfi, Bunker and Yigitcanlar (2015) found that commuters are hesitant to use public transport as the standard method of travel (p. 67).

It is important to consider why many commuters do not use public transport, as it affords many benefits (Kashfi, Bunker & Yigitcanlar, 2015).

Watch the video below for more tips on how to paraphrase.

Subjects: Engineering / Civil engineering
Tags: engineering writing, referencing, report writing