From IELTS to University – inserting critical analysis into essay conclusions

One of the differences between the kind of essay taught for academic IELTS and the kind of essay expected at university is the level of critical analysis required. At its most basic level, critical thinking involves skillfully presenting and summarizing opposing arguments and evidence; however, a successful student should go further and comment on the qualities and limitations of the arguments presented, and generally show an intelligent and subjective response to them. There are various strategies available for inserting or embedding this kind of critical analysis into an essay, which will be introduced in blog posts over the next few months, but this post will focus on one strategy for conclusions.

The model essay below has three alternative conclusions, each of which has colour-coded sections – red represents the summary of the main arguments, blue represents the future statement, and the green and the purple each represent a possible strategy for inserting more critical analysis. Study the essay, and then see if you think the green or the purple is the more effective strategy. The answer and an explanation are provided at the end.

 

“Profit, and not ethical concerns, should be the primary objectives of business.”  Discuss.

In the 21st century social expectations of the role of business in society have changed, and the pure pursuit of profit has become less acceptable whilst ethical behaviour in business has become expected. The causes for this change include the sense that the balance of power between governments and global corporations has shifted in favour of global corporations, resulting in a growing social consensus that corporations need to adopt the kind of responsibilities traditionally considered the domain of the state. Equally, the purchasing decisions of western consumers have become increasingly influenced by the degree of ethical and environmental responsibility demonstrated by companies, meaning that ethical behaviour can attract customers. This essay will examine the justifications for a pure pursuit of profit, such as the relationship between employment growth and taxation, and then consider their limitations, such as tax evasion and the attitude of the state towards social goods.

 

Historically, corporations have argued that a pure profit objective generates significant social contributions through taxation. Firstly, business has argued that growth achieved via a profit objective delivers more employment. This has a two-fold effect – firstly, creating more income tax and secondly creating more salaried employees which increases consumer spending and borrowing, which in turn boosts economic activity more widely. So, for example, this argument has been used to argue for lower corporation tax in the UK, on the basis that the extra tax produced by the expansion of economic activity will compensate for the reduction in the direct business tax rate. Secondly, the business community has traditionally argued that financial reward is the principal motivator for business activity, and that any attempts by the state to limit profit via excessive individual wealth taxation and excessive corporate taxation will reduce enterprise and business risk-taking, and therefore limit the benefits of the growth in employment described above.

 

However, there are some serious limitations to this line of argument. Firstly, many companies reduce their tax liabilities by legal means or evade tax, particularly by using laws which exist in regional trading areas like the EU. For example, because Amazon pays corporation tax for its European operations solely in Luxembourg (where its EU headquarters are located) EU law allows the company to evade paying corporate tax in other EU nations. This results in a multi-billion loss of tax to the government of many EU countries. Secondly, governments may not spend tax on policies which promote social welfare or environmental protection. For example, right-wing governments generally seek to reduce the role of the state in welfare and other areas of state-funded public benefit. Thirdly, governments may not collect tax effectively, and when they do, a proportion of the money can be lost due to corruption. For example, prior to the financial collapse in 2008, the tax collection system in Greece was failing to target high earners adequately (Palaiologos, 2014, pp.34-35).

 

Conclusion A

To conclude, corporations frequently state that they fulfil their social and environmental responsibilities by paying tax, and that the increase in tax paid which occurs when a business grows is justification for the kind of low corporate tax rate which allows businesses to expand. However, this argument assumes that companies pay tax properly, and that governments can be trusted to collect tax and spend it on social goods. For the future, it seems likely that the widespread expectation for companies to make contributions to social and environmental protection is likely to continue. What is less certain is whether governments will continue to prioritise environmental and social welfare policies, as these are priorities for some political parties but not others.   

Conclusion B

To conclude, corporations frequently state that they fulfil their social and environmental responsibilities by paying tax, and that the increase in tax paid which occurs when a business grows is justification for the kind of low corporate tax rate which allows businesses to expand. However, this argument assumes that companies pay tax properly, and that governments can be trusted to collect tax and spend it on social goods. To comment further, the business case for profit assumes a national tax structure with a focus on income taxation and VAT or an equivalent tax on commercial transactions; however, it could be that some governments choose to focus their taxes elsewhere, on death duties for example, or health care provision. This further calls into question the validity of the business argument. For the future, it seems likely that the widespread expectation for companies to make contributions to social and environmental protection is likely to continue. What is less certain is whether governments will continue to prioritise environmental and social welfare policies, as these are priorities for some political parties but not others.   

Conclusion C

To conclude, corporations frequently state that they fulfil their social and environmental responsibilities by paying tax, and that the increase in tax paid which occurs when a business grows is justification for the kind of low corporate tax rate which allows businesses to expand. However, this argument assumes that companies pay tax properly, and that governments can be trusted to collect tax and spend it on social goods. Equally, it remains the case that companies can deceive customers over the extent to which they are operating ethically. Supply chains, although branded as ethical, might not be. For example, clothing factories could employ children, or the raw materials might be sourced from producers who damage the natural environment. For the future, it seems likely that the widespread expectation for companies to make contributions to social and environmental protection is likely to continue. What is less certain is whether governments will continue to prioritise environmental and social welfare policies, as these are priorities for some political parties but not others.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The answer is that the green section in conclusion B is the most effective analytical strategy because it introduces another limitation to the business arguments presented in the first main paragraph. However, the purple section in conclusion C is not effective because it is introducing an entirely new point, so would be more appropriate as a third main paragraph, rather than as a comment in the conclusion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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    • Lander Hawes

      Try searching around on google, but good critical thinking teaching and learning resources are quite rare. In terms of putting critical analyis into presentations, you can mention the limitations of your research sources, and also rank your main points in order of significance, and explain why one point is more significant than another. Also, try to anticipate what questions the assessor will ask, and prepare answers.

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