Many Core courses engage students in the process of studying phenomena — texts, of course, but all sorts of phenomena — through critical frameworks. Some professors will use the terms critical frameworks, analytical frameworks, and critical lenses synonymously. In some instances, they’ll ask students to think theoretically. A theory is, in fact, a critical framework/analytical framework/etc. Scholars do not regard all critical frameworks are theories, however. What qualifies a framework as a theory? The explanation at the bottom of this article takes up this question. For now, consider what your Core professors are usually asking you to do when an assignment entails looking at something—again, it’s most often a text—through a critical/analytical framework/lens. For all the academic language that frames the question, the task can be broken down to something fairly simple:
It’s a tough question to answer definitively. One might argue that theories are considered as such because they , as systems of In academia, critical framLet there be no doubt that we are defining “analytical frameworks” very broadly here. They may include established academic disciplines (as in examining X from, say, historical, philosophical, and rhetorical points of view), an approach that can be valuable given that COR 102 will be one of the first experiences that many students will have had with interdisciplinarity. So long as they are adequately distinct, frameworks may be drawn from the same academic discipline (as in examining X through, for instance, metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical lenses). They may include transdisciplinary “isms” and theories (as in, for example, using Marxist theory, Feminist theory, and Structuralism to examine X), so long as the instructor takes care to present, and to prepare students to apply, such frameworks at levels appropriate to incoming, first-semester undergraduates. Simple theoretical models (for instance, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is a specific theoretical model situated within the broader field of human psychology) may serve as analytical frameworks. Other analytical frameworks may emerge from wide-ranging knowledge domains that are not considered academic at all, but will become academic in their application in this course. For example, a student who has been asked to consider a familiar North American landscape through the lens of the Japanese wabisabi aesthetic has been asked to bring the object of study into focus through an analytical framework that calls attention to the object in specific ways.