10 Critical Thinking for Academic Writing in the U.S.

Questions to Ponder

With your partner, brainstorm a list of words that you think of when you hear the phrase “critical thinking.” What does critical thinking mean to you? How do you use critical thinking in your daily life? in college?

Analysis and Reflection in Critical Thinking

In this course, you will need to think critically about the topics you are writing about. College essays often require analysis and reflection about a topic, in addition to explanations of facts about the topic. And when you conduct research to find facts, you also need to think critically about what you discover. You need to use your skills of logical reasoning as you consider your perspective on the topic. You also need to keep an open mind, because you may change your opinion as you do your research. Good writing helps us discover our ideas and opinions. It can help us change other people’s minds, but first, we have to be open to changing our own minds.

When you have an essay assignment, you need to think critically about the prompt. What is the professor asking? Who is the audience? What is your purpose for this essay? What type of rhetorical mode(s) would be best to use in this essay? Where do you need to look for support for your ideas? What type of rhetorical appeals (pathos, ethos, logos) would be most effective?

As you begin your research, you need to use critical thinking skills. This means that you should read carefully, watching for authors’ biases, and that you should select sources that pass the tests for credibility, relevancy, accuracy, authority, and purpose. Do not accept everything you read as true or accurate; instead, carefully consider assumptions and opinions in what you read.

Here is one set of questions to ask to improve your critical thinking skills as you conduct scholarly research:

  1. What’s happening? Gather the basic information and begin to think of questions.
  2. Why is it important? Ask yourself why it’s significant and whether or not you agree.
  3. What don’t I see? Is there anything important missing?
  4. How do I know? Ask yourself where the information came from and how it was constructed.
  5. Who is saying it? What’s the position of the speaker and what is influencing them?
  6. What else? What if? What other ideas exist and are there other possibilities?

thinking critically infographics

Questions and figure from “Critical Thinking” from Lumen’s Introduction to College Composition: Thinking Critically. Authored by: UBC Learning Commons. Provided by: The University of British Columbia, Vancouver Campus. Located athttp://www.oercommons.org/courses/learning-toolkit-critical-thinking/viewLicenseCC BY: Attribution


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ENGLISH 087: Academic Advanced Writing Copyright © 2020 by Nancy Hutchison is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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