Critical thinking is a useful skill that can help in many aspects of your everyday life as well as your academic life. Throughout assignments at CityU you can use critical thinking skills to make decisions about materials, ideas, concepts, or problems you may come across.
- Practice critical thinking skills and apply them in your assignments
- Analyze resources for assignments using critical thinking
Search engines have become synonymous with doing research on the internet but keep in mind that internet searches give you results based on what you have searched for and purchased in the past, not based on what you are looking for now. This means that doing academic research can be influenced by your browser history as well as your internet preferences. Check out this video of a lecture by Eli Pariser on the concept of “filter bubbles” on the internet:
What is Critical Thinking?
Diane Halpern (1984), an early researcher in critical thinking, defines it as “the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome.”
While not a new area of study, critical thinking is crucial in analyzing your thinking effectively in a business environment. The skills learned can be used to think of new ideas or solve problems in a business setting.
The following six elements are important to critical thinking:
- Creative Thinking—generates new ideas
- Decision Making—specifies goals and constraints, generates alternatives, considers risks, and evaluates and chooses best alternative
- Problem Solving—recognizes problems and devises and implements plan of action
- Seeing Things in the Mind’s Eye—organizes, and processes symbols, pictures, graphs, objects, and other information
- Knowing How to Learn—uses efficient learning techniques to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills
- Reasoning—discovers a rule or principle underlying the relationship between two or more objects and applies it when solving a problem. (Kane et al., p. xi)
For more information explore the website of The Critical Thinking Community.
Building and Analyzing Arguments
Building and analyzing arguments is a crucial part of critical thinking. Below are some resources that can help you brush up on some of your logic skills:
- Lau, Joe Y.. (2011). An introduction to critical thinking and creativity: Think more, think better. Retrieved from http://proxy.cityu.edu/login?url=http://library.books24x7.com.proxy.cityu.edu/library.asp?^B&bookid=43160&refid=GFV5U
Forms and Standards of Critical Thinking
There are many aspects of critical thinking to consider. These include:
These universal intellectual standards are described in detail here: http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/universal-intellectual-standards/527
Take a look and compare with the criteria for evaluating resources below. See anything similar? Use these skills to determine the best possible source for your research.
Applying Critical Thinking to Information Sources
The following five criteria are meant to be used to critically evaluate information sources. As we all know, the internet is a varied place that contains information but it is important to consider these factors when using websites for research. Not all sources should be used for academic research, but how do you know? Ask yourself the questions below to help you decide whether you can use a source or not.
- Authority: It is important to consider authority when looking at information you find online, where you will find well-researched, authoritative articles and reports, as well as anonymous or undated sources. If no author is given, check to see what type of organization, business, university, etc., is responsible for the information.
- Who is the author/creator? A person, an organization, business, university or other institution?
- What are the author’s qualifications for writing on the subject? Are they clearly stated?
- Is biographical and contact information available?
- What else has the author written?
- What is the domain name of the source? What kind of site does it come from? (.com, .org, .edu, .gov)
- Objectivity: Sometimes, deciding whether a source is “objective” can be a lot like trying to determine someone’s political views: a seemingly difficult task that includes any number of gray areas. However, it is important to take into consideration biases, blatant advertising or other type of promotion that might influence the informaion you use. Keep in mind that biases, agendas, political/corporate ties and other influences are not necessarily “bad.”
- What is the purpose of the work?
- Does the author have a specific agenda or point-of-view?
- To what extent is the information trying to sway the opinion of the audience?
- What is the tone and language used?
- Accuracy: It is quite true that absolute accuracy is often unattainable; you can only approach it. But the greater the exertion you make to reach it, the greater will be the success of your investigations. The effort after accuracy will be transferred from your scientific work to your everyday life and become a habit of mind, advantageous both to yourselves and to society at large.
[Sir Archibald Geikie, during an October 4, 1898, address to Mason University College (Birmingham, England) students about the importance of education and scientific investigation. Printed in Popular Science Monthly , Vol. 54, p. 683 .]
While it is unreasonable to expect that you can verify every fact you come across, there area ways to determine the relative accuracy of a source.
- Are there spelling and grammatical errors? What is the writing style like? Spelling/grammatical errors, along with sloppy writing, might indicate an author’s inattention to detail or a lack of knowledge about a subject.
- Can the information be verified? Do other sources come to similar conclusions or contain the same information? Multiple sources saying the same thing may help to verify accuracy.
- Does the author cite sources? Is there a bibliography or list of sources used? Mention of other reports, research, articles, books, or links to web sites, is a good indication that the work is accurate. Check the references or footnotes for further resources that might be helpful to you.
- Currency: Checking the publication or “updated” date can help you to determine when a resource was first written, when it was first placed on the Web, or when it was last revised. Some works are considered timeless, such as classic works (like Aristotle) or works by well-known developmental theorists (think Erik Erikson or Jean Piaget). Other materials may have a limited shelf life, such as technology news or TV shows that make a lot of pop culture references that might not be understood in a decade.
Currency can be an important criteria to use when searching for research articles and books, not just when analyzing web sites. For example, if the research has been superseded by new findings or discredited by research that came after it, you would want to note that. Some articles or books might have been cited hundreds of times over the course of decades and might be considered foundational works for a theory or a branch of research, in which case currency is not of utmost importance.
- Is the information up-to-date?
- Are there dead links?
- Is there a difference between the date the information was created and the date the page was last updated?
- Is the work’s currency important to my topic?
- Coverage: When you consider coverage as a criterion, you are looking at the breadth (coverage of all aspects) and depth (level of detail) of the source, the topics it covers, and its intended audience. Determining whether a source’s coverage is appropriate depends on how you plan to use it and whether it is relevant to you at your time of need.
- What issues are covered in the source?
- Does the source adequately cover the subject for the purpose in which you intend it?
- Are there inexplicable omissions?
Not sure whether the resource you found is appropriate to use? Ask a librarian!