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5 Tips on How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills in Academic Writing

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Academic writing not only requires grammatically excellent writing skills and logically structured argument, another major key requirement to academic writing is critical thinking.

Why does this matter? The very reason why professors require academic papers is to determine students’ critical thinking skills. What is the level of the student’s understanding about the subject matter, and how well can they apply what they have learned in specific scenarios?

But I understand that critical thinking doesn’t always come in handy. So here in this blog article, I am giving you 5 very useful tips on how you can practice critical thinking in your writing.

Tip #1: Analyse the credibility of your source.

This is the first and most basic step to critical thinking in writing. One should be able to decipher whether their sources are credible and reliable enough.

One way to do this is to check the kind of source, most credible sources are books and encyclopaedias. However, since most of us use electronic sources these days, some students fall prey to using unreliable sources such wikis and non-academic blogs.

So how would one know if the source is reliable from the internet? Well, reliable online sources are:

  • Published books available online
  • Online journal articles. Note: it’s easier to find journal articles by using Google Scholar
  • Sites ending in .edu
  • News websites
  • Government websites

There’s more! Here are also other things you need to consider for checking the credibility and reliability of your sources:

  • Credibility of the author: check the credentials of the author or organisation
  • Substantiality of evidence presented
  • The date when the website was last updated
  • Check whether the publication date of the source is relevant to your paper

Note: Never use opinionated sources (unless applicable to your academic paper), and never treat opinionated statements as facts.

The key to arriving at valid conclusions is thinking and writing logically through valid reasoning. This is a key factor to critical thinking.  In order to do this, the following tips will be the 4 forms of valid reasoning.

Not only that! I will also provide you questions in each reasoning, and you can ask these questions to your yourselves to check whether your statements and conclusions result from critical thinking.

Tip # 2: Use inference.

This is a way in which a new conclusion is formulated from information available and gathered.

For example: Carol can ride a bicycle, hence, she may learn riding a motorbike easier.

Here are question you can ask yourself:

  • Is your conclusion a logical outcome to the inferences you made?
  • Is there a logical connection between your conclusion and information?
  • Is there any other conclusion that can be provided with the information you have?

Tip #3: Use generalisation.

This is a way in which a conclusion is arrived from several facts and cases. Generalisation becomes a valid form of critical thinking if the conclusion was arrived from a large number of facts and cases, or if there is substantial evidence to support a conclusion from generalisation.

For example: 90% of women in Company A are paid lower as compared to men in the same corporate positions, hence, there is gender inequality when it comes to compensation in the company.

Note: Be wary not to commit hasty generalisation wherein conclusions are based from a small number of cases, hence, making the conclusion illogical or not properly substantiated.

Here are questions you can ask yourself:

  • Are there enough facts that can support your generalisation?
  • Are there exceptions that you have to consider?
  • Are there other necessary and related qualifying factors that can affect your generalisation.

Tip #4: Use analogy.

This is a method of critical thinking reasoning in which comparison is made between to objects or cases that shed some similarities but are fundamentally different.

For example: According to Emile Durkheim, society is like a human body, with parts and respective functions that are connected and interdependent to one another.

Here are questions you can ask yourself:

  • How are the objects and cases compared fundamentally different?
  • How are the objects and cases compared similar?
  • What statement does the comparison make about the other object or case?

Tip #5: Use cause and effect.

This is a method of critical thinking reasoning wherein one thing is a result from event/s that have occurred prior to it.  A writer should be wary not to commit an unrelated sequence reasoning wherein one thing is not caused by the event preceding to it.

For example: After transpiration, it is expected to rain.

While an unrelated sequence is: Every time I get my car washed, it rains.

Here are questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is there any evidence which tells that the first event was caused by the second?
  • Are there other events that could have caused the second event? If yes, what are they?
  • Could the second event occurred without the first?

 

Before we end, don’t forget, what is the importance of critical thinking? Why are we even doing this?

Critical thinking is crucial for your academic papers because it enables clarity, validity and quality of your output. Excellent critical thinking displays how well you have researched, analysed and interpreted information, facts and cases you have used in writing. As I have mentioned earlier, this is the very purpose why professors require academic papers for their subjects.

There you go!

I hope these tips will be useful as you write your next academic paper!

 

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