Critical Thinking and Writing:
thinking is a lot more than merely following a format for construing
a paper, "challenging assumptions," and observing "different
perspectives," to name a couple of biggies. It is still all
a matter of what and how - the important, elusive dimensions rooted
in values and abilities. You could for instance follow the pattern
below and still praise some proto-Nazi perspective.
following six parts may be viewed as a rough outline
for a research paper. They also constitute the six dimensions that
must find expression in any substantial, critical development of
analysis and opinion. Not just for research papers - these six dimensions
of critical thinking and writing should also be applied when writing
a shorter review or contemplative essay.
texts also need structure, progression, and focus, all of which
the six dimensions will assist in establishing. I encourage you
to apply these dimensions to any writing assignment in
my classes, from the very first one early on in the semester to
the final assignment; whether a grand research paper, a review,
or an essay.
work with the material (a novel, a scholarly text, a philosophical
treatise, a poem, a film, a saga, or an idea - or two or more of
the above) is at the very heart of class, and will, when
pursued conscientiously, transform itself from lesser to greater
confidence and ability.
is therefore important that from the outset, with every writing
assignment, you consider the implemention of each of these dimensions
of critical thinking. Then, with every assignment, you will familiarize
yourself with their dynamic, strengthen your communicative abilities,
and make your contribution to critical thinking and writing.
Identify the basics of the
This is the introduction to your paper. Present the importance of
the issue, outline context and potential ramifications. End your
intro with a paragraph providing an overview of the following paper.
Analysis may be employed in different ways using different methods.
Define your concepts and discuss your method. Analysis is about
examination and synthesis: investigating components, identifying
their qualities, strengths, and weaknesses, and connecting those
in a coherent manner, demonstrating their relevance and importance
for the whole. Always question content and relevance!
Address different perspectives
Consider different viewpoints on the material. Never assume a certain
perspective to be self-evident and obvious. Different analytical
perspectives may reveal different ideas and understandings of the
same event or idea. This analytical dimension requires examination
and critique of scholarly opinions on your material.
Identify and assess assumptions and ideological perspectives to
be found in historical and social contexts. Interpretation is also
conditioned by your own assumptions, cultural, and ideological bias.
Analysis and interpretation is ultimately about disclosing and examining
such contextually determined points of view.
Your own opinion on the material in opposition to those of other
sources, may be presented in a particular section, for instance
after your objective analysis of the material and your discussion
of different perspectives. You may also choose to inject your voice
as a discussant throughout your paper. This is most effectively
done in an objectifying manner without continuous use of
the pronouns "I" and "my."
Consider the importance of your findings and their implications.
Tie all strings together in an overview. Emphasize the qualities
and importance of your investigation, and briefly outline directions
for further study.
writing is to good thinking what a functional suitcase
is to travel: it enables you to focus on your journey!
words, even if you are "on the right track," or have genuinely
grasped the essence of something, but then, unfortunately, deliver
it in a "muddled" way, unstructured, "all over the
place" - then you cut yourself short.
In contrast, reading and understanding is a pleasure, when
intriguing observations are displayed in flowing, grammatically
correct language, with a varied vocabulary and sentence structure,
and within a logical outline. Clear writing and composition always
enhance the impression of thoughts.
out different approaches in the Great
student papers list.
Kim Andersen, Honors College
Washington State University