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English for Academic Purposes

Critical Thinking
Keep Questioning probing questions for critical thinking look for the main point create a chart  basic forms of reasoning inductive reasoning abductive reasoning look for bias Progress checklist p1 p2 p3 p5 p6 p7 p8 p9 p13

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English for Academic Purposes

RITICAL THINKING

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Critical thinking is one of the most important, life-long skills you can have.
While mastery of facts provides knowledge, critical thinking enables you to discern value, analyse a problem, formulate a solution and question authority, all with the goal of finding truth. When engaging in critical thinking, you ask a series of probing questions that analyse the value, accuracy, legitimacy and overall worth of anything. Much of your critical thinking will be done on written texts you research and write, but can be applied to any materials you are examining. It will be important that the materials you use pass your critical analysis.

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P1

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English for Academic Purposes

PROBING QUESTIONS FOR CRITICAL THINKING What is the main point? Does the material make sense? What evidence supports the validity of the main point? How solid or accurate is the evidence?
Does it hold up to scrutiny, fact-checking and reason?

Is there any bias? Is the main point true?

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Critical Thinking

P2

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Look for the main point


Much of what you critically analyse in your studies will be text materials presented in print form and on the Internet. You will often come across a section called an abstract or an introduction. This is a short summary which identifies the main point and outlines the reasoning of the text. Sometimes there is no abstract or introduction, so then you will have to read the entire article.

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Critical Thinking

P3

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Look for the main point


While there is usually a thesis or main idea presented, it is the series of smaller points or supporting evidence that reinforce the conclusion. There can be many of these smaller points, so it is a good idea to create a chart or diagram like a flow chart or a web chart to help you organise the information in a form easy to review.

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P4

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create a chart

Example of a flow chart


Main point Supporting evidence Supporting evidence Supporting evidence

Example of a web chart


Supporting evidence Supporting evidence

Main point
Supporting evidence Supporting evidence

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Critical Thinking

P5

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basic forms of reasoning


Once you have identified the main point and supporting evidence, you can begin your critical analysis. In doing this, you will apply reason, which is the mental activity that verifies propositions and helps you determine truth. There are three basic forms of reasoning that you will likely use: deductive, inductive and abductive reasoning. When using deductive reasoning, you examine the logical progression from the starting point or premise where the main point is stated to the conclusion. If the premise is true, then the conclusion must be true. An example is, Cloudy weather can bring on rain. Therefore, if its cloudy, its likely to rain.

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P6

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inductive reasoning
When using inductive reasoning, you examine the evidence presented and possible bias to determine if the conclusion is true. The stock market has had five straight months of increases, therefore the countrys economy is strengthening is an example of inductive reasoning because the stock market is an indicator of the countrys economy and five straight months of increases points to the economy becoming stronger. However, inductive reasoning is best when there is a large body of evidence to support the claim. One or two pieces of supporting data wont always hold up under scrutiny.

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Critical Thinking

P7

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abductive reasoning
Abductive reasoning infers a possible outcome or correlation and sets up a hypothesis for later analysis. Inherently, abductive reasoning can produce results that are incorrect and so conclusions can only be made valid by checking them through either inductive or deductive reasoning. Abductive reasoning has value in establishing a premise, a prediction or a generalised statement that can be proved or disproved at a later time.

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Critical Thinking

P8

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LOOK FOR BIAS


It is also important to look for bias in a statement or an article. Bias is when the author allows his or her personal views, experiences and / or prejudices to overshadow the facts presented. Bias is hard to avoid, but important to detect and critically analyse. While reading biased material can help you form an opinion, you want to make sure you draw your own conclusions based on the strength of the facts and evidence provided.

Consider the source. Find out something about the author, their background and
what organisation they are affiliated with.

Look for a slant in the writing. Often, evidence presented can have a slant. In other words, it
can be carefully selected to support the authors personal beliefs or the beliefs of the organisation he or she belongs to.

Look for emotive words that seek to persuade the reader toward
the authors point of view.

These are usually words such as evil, normal, abnormal,


unfair, fantastic, etc. By using such words, the author tries to shape your view instead of allowing you to shape it yourself.

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P9

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English for Academic Purposes

LOOK FOR BIAS


Once you have applied a reasoning technique and looked for flaws and bias, you can evaluate the quality of the evidence presented. There are several factors you will want to consider.

Check to see how old the article is. New information comes out all the time and an older article
can be outdated.

It is also good to identify the type of publication. Is it a popular source such as a newspaper or magazine,
or is it a professional or academic journal?

In most cases, the journal will have stricter editorial criteria for
a balanced presentation of facts and could be considered more credible.

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P10

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LOOK FOR BIAS


Writers often use statistics to bolster their argument. When statistical information is used to draw a conclusion, it is called quantitative research. Writers can select statistics to make generalisations and persuade rather than offer balanced and complete evidence to allow the reader to decide for themselves.

The survey methods used to take the statistics should be


examined. Surveys might not fully represent the group being surveyed or they might not ask enough people to get a full reading of the situation.

Also, sometimes survey questions can be written in such a way


as to produce a certain answer.

After that, look at the method the survey used to gather its
opinions.

People are more likely to provide truthful answers if they give


them anonymously and in writing rather than face to face.

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P11

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LOOK FOR BIAS Finally, check to see if the material you are reviewing has any
references, footnotes or endnotes which identify the source of the content or provide additional information.

An article with many references is likely to be more accurate than


one that has none. Look at the publications mentioned in the article to check if they are from credible sources.

You can also cross-check facts from sources you trust to


confirm the accuracy of the piece you are reviewing.

Its a good idea to review several sources when looking at


critical details or positions taken by the author that support the main point.

This is probably most crucial when looking at information on the


Internet. Because Internet articles are not always fact-checked and can be biased, you will need to be careful in your selections.

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Critical Thinking

P12

English for Academic Purposes

Critical Thinking
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Progress Checklist
Learning objectives
Now you should be able to:
Understand the importance of critical thinking Create a flow chart or web chart to organise information Differentiate between deductive, inductive and abductive reasoning Seek out and identify bias in a statement or article Evaluate the quality of evidence in a statement or article Examine statistics and survey methods used
Assess your own progress.
A Generally able to B Partially able to C Not yet able to

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P13

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Critical Thinking
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