We provide an online presentation on the Critical Thinking Corner or you can download it below:
Critical thinking is a skill that involves 'taking a step back' to gain new perspectives on issues and ideas.
The Critical Thinking Corner is designed to help you develop your abilities as a critical thinker. It is intended for anyone, at any stage of university education,who is interested in critical thinking.
Critical thinking skills enhance our capacity for reasoned, purposeful thought and action.
Critical thinking means using your intellect and your experience when reading and researching, note-making, writing and thinking.
This does not mean being negative or unreasonably argumentative. It means using creativity, imagination and observation to offer new insights about existing formulas and theories.
As well as the guide below, the Learning Management System (LMS) enables you to access a range of resources, while lectures and lecture material are available through the Lecture Capture System (LCS).
- Step-by-step guide
- Survival guide
- From 'what' to 'how': when you know what a text is telling you, find out how it goes about it. Note its methodology, style and voice to help you identify bias. Critical thinkers believe that the means is just as important as the ends. This means that the way in which a case is proven or a concept applied is just as important as the final outcome.
- Reflect: When reading or thinking, reflect on your responses. What do you agree with and why? With what do you disagree? Challenge yourself to account for your responses before accepting them.
- Question: Approach your topic or text from a position of doubt. Healthy scepticism will force you to challenge facts, opinions and inferences. The Critical Thinking Survival Guide below provides some useful critical questions to get you started.
- Context: Note the background in which a text or idea has been formed. This includes publication details, the author's body of work, relevant historical events and, most importantly, the attendant norms, values and attitudes of society at that time and place. For example, before the assumption of a universal (male!) reader was challenged, the pronoun 'he' was used in most academic literature.
- Types of evidence: Does a text use a lot of complex theory? Are there copious case studies? Graphs? Diagrams? Almost a whole album of photographs? Different types of evidence are persuasive in different ways. Photographs suggest authenticity, whereas graphs designate raw data. Consider the impact and effectiveness of the evidence on the text’s broader claims. NB: Remember that all methodologies have specific limitations and specific uses - do you know what these are?
- Gaps and silences: Reading between the lines is just as important as the words printed on the page. Ask who or what has been left out, and try to account for this in light of the broader issue. What is assumed? Are there social, political and/or ethical lines of debate to be pursued here? What impact does this gap or silence have on the validity of data or ideas?
- Link: Make connections between fine detail and broader concepts. Explain and account for how these impact upon one another. If links are difficult to make,consider why this is.
- Critical language: In your planning and writing use direct, active terms such as 'In my opinion…'; 'I argue…'; 'It is Henderson's contention that…'; 'In contrast…'; 'Grauaug’s assumption is…'; 'The most compelling case is…'
- Argument and voice: When markers read your essays, reports, summaries and annotated bibliographies, they are invariably looking for clear, succinct language that identifies your position. This applies across all faculties. Ensure that when you introduce authors, answer questions, and discuss results that you clearly outline and justify how you have interpreted, used, and engaged with these ideas to develop a specific thesis.
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The more you engage in the process of critical reading, thinking and writing, the more you will develop your ability to develop strong and persuasive arguments.
Question the information in the texts you are reading. Analyse what you read (break what you read into its most pertinent parts). You can do this by:
- identifying the main points and themes of the articles/chapters you are reading
- thinking about the theoretical perspectives the author has used and being alert to their biases (and yours)
- thinking about what aspects of the issue the author has not dealt with in his/her argument that you think are relevant
- evaluating the claims and evidence made in the texts
- integrating ideas from a range of authors and readings
- noting what you need to clarify and follow up
- making comparisons and contrasts between the different articles you have read
- forming your own opinion or a position about what you are reading
- gathering appropriate referenced evidence and examples to support your position
- writing critically - incorporating different voices.
Writing critically involves:
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- engaging with the ideas of a range of authors
- regarding your assignments as a written conversation about ideas between you and the authors whose work you refer to
- including your point of view.