Critical Examination

What is it?

Critical Examination is an established technique that aids thinking in a systematic and logical way. It is defined by BS 3138: 34004 as "the systematic analysis of information about a problem, procedure or activity by which it is subjected to exhaustive challenge with regard to need, simplifications, combination, sequence and alternatives."

Effectively it is a structured and analytical approach which is able to use creative thinking techniques to help develop a range of alternative suggestions and proposals.

How and where is it used?

It can be used in any project or piece of work where exiting procedures, processes and functions are being reviewed. Every aspect of an activity can be examined and questioned. There are a series of questions that can be asked. The extent and range of questions will vary, depending on the subject of review. Questions which can be asked of a process (and answered) will include:

These questions are establishing the purpose and whether there is a need for the process to exist. If it is established that there is a need for the process then a second set of questions will need to be asked ( and answered ). These will include

This second set of questions can be used for developing and evaluating alternative scenarios.

Advantages / Disadvantages of its use

This technique ensures that all questions are asked and answered. It provides the opportunity to conduct a thorough examination of any process which is under review, clearly establishing a need before any further work is carried out. It combines both analytical and creative thinking, allowing a full and proper exploration of the process alternatives to take place.

Perhaps the main criticism of the technique is that if not managed correctly it can allow for seemingly endless time consuming argument and debate over small issues. This needs to be managed carefully. However in nearly all cases the advantages of the technique clearly outweigh any disadvantages.

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