What do we mean by critical thinking?
How does critical thinking differ between disciplines?
How does critical thinking apply to academic reading?
How does critical thinking apply to academic writing?
How can I add quality to my writing?
Critical thinking as a generic skill for life
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY CRITICAL THINKING?
When you are thinking critically, you are not just thinking passively and accepting everything you see and hear. You are thinking actively. You are asking questions about what you see and hear, evaluating, categorising, and finding relationships.
Some critical thinking activities are listed below:
SOME OF THE ACTIVITIES INVOLVED IN CRITICAL ...view middle of the document...
All disciplines will require you to ask questions, relate theory to practice, find and use appropriate evidence, evaluate, find links, and categorise.
Science is often concerned with interpreting within a framework, describing, explaining, predicting, and identifying cause and effect.
Management is often concerned with identifying problems and solutions, relating theories to practice, and making comparisons and contrasts.
IT is often concerned with analysing complex situations into component parts.
Literature and History are often concerned with making claims and supporting them, usually in the light of a particular framework of analysis (eg feminism, postmodernism etc).
HOW DOES CRITICAL THINKING APPLY TO ACADEMIC READING?
In reading academic texts you need to develop a personal (but nevertheless academic and rational) response to the article/ theory/ chapter through:
developing an understanding of the content
evaluating and critiquing the article
Before reading a text closely, you should read the introduction or abstract and skim read the text (see Reading and Remembering for information about skim reading), to give you a preliminary idea of what it is about. Then read it closely and critically.
Some questions to help you read critically
What are the main points of this text?
Can you put them in your own words?
What sorts of examples are used? Are they useful? Can you think of others?
What factors (ideas, people, things) have been included? Can you think of anything that has been missed out?
Is a particular bias or framework apparent? Can you tell what 'school of thought' the author belongs to?
Can you work out the steps of the argument being presented? Do all the steps follow logically?
Could a different conclusion be drawn from the argument being presented?
Are the main ideas in the text supported by reliable evidence (well researched, non-emotive, logical)?
Do you agree or disagree with the author? Why?
What connections do you see between this and other texts?
Where does it differ from other texts on the same subject?
What are the wider implications—for you, for the discipline?
Some techniques to help you read critically
When you take notes, divide your notepad into two columns. Jot down the main ideas in the left hand column, and the supporting comments in the right hand column. Add your own comments in another colour, or in brackets.
Talk to other people (anyone who is interested!) about what you have read.
Relate this text to others by looking for similar or contrasting themes.
Think of how you might explain what the text means to, say, a high school student. What would you have to add to make it intelligible? (This will help you to see the underlying, unstated assumptions.)
Ask yourself: 'Is it...