Critical Thinking Skills - uni-mainz. Introduction Glossary Acknowledgements 1 What is critical thinking? Introduction What is critical thinking? Reasoning Why develop critical

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  • Critical Thinking SkillsDeveloping Effective Analysis and Argument

    Stella Cottrell


  • Contents


    1 What is critical thinking?

    IntroductionWhat is critical thinking?ReasoningWhy develop critical thinking skills?Underlying skills and attitudesSelf-awareness for accurate judgementPersonal strategies for critical thinkingCritical thinking in academic contextsBarriers to critical thinkingCritical thinking: knowledge, skills and

    attitudesPriorities: developing critical thinking









    2 How well do you think? Developyour thinking skills 17

    Introduction 17Assess your thinking skills 18Scoring Sheet 22Focusing attention 23Focusing attention: Identifying difference 24Focusing attention: Recognising sequence 25Categorising 27Activity: Categorising text 28Close reading 29Information about the sources 31Answers to activities in Chapter 2 32

    3 What's their point? Identifyingarguments 37

    Introduction 37The author's position 38

    Activity: Capturing the author's position 39Argument: Persuasion through reasons 40Identifying the argument 41Activity: Identifying simple arguments 44Activity: Reasons and conclusions 45Hunting out the conclusion 46Summary of features 47Summary 48Information about the sources 48Answers to activities in Chapter 3 49

    4 Is it an argument? Argument andnon-argument 51

    Introduction 51Argument and disagreement 52Activity: Argument and disagreement 53Non-arguments: Description 54Non-arguments: Explanations and

    summaries 55Activity: What type of message? 56Distinguishing argument from other

    material 58Activity: Selecting out the argument 59Summary 61Information about the sources 61Answers to activities in Chapter 4 62

    5 How well do they say it? Clarity,consistency and structure 63

    Introduction 63How clear is the author's position? 64Internal consistency 65Activity: Internal consistency 66Logical consistency 67Activity: Logical consistency 68Independent reasons and joint reasons 69Activity: Independent and joint reasons 70Intermediate conclusions 71Intermediate conclusions used as reasons 72

  • Activity: Intermediate conclusionsSummative and logical conclusionsActivity: Summative and logical

    conclusionsLogical orderActivity: Logical orderSummaryInformation about the sourcesAnswers to activities in Chapter 5



    6 Reading between the lines:Recognising underlying assumptionsand implicit arguments 85

    IntroductionAssumptionsActivity: Identify the underlying

    assumptionsIdentifying hidden assumptionsImplicit assumptions used as reasonsActivity: Implicit assumptions used as

    reasonsFalse premisesActivity: False premisesImplicit argumentsActivity: Implicit argumentsDenoted and connoted meaningsActivities: Associations and stereotypes




    Activity: Denoted and connoted meanings 98Summary 99Information about the sources 99Answers to activities in Chapter 6 100

    7 Does it add up? Identifying flawsin the argument 105

    Introduction 105Assuming a causal link 106Correlations and false correlations 107Activity: Identify the nature of the link 108Not meeting the necessary conditions 109Not meeting sufficient conditions 110Activity: Necessary and sufficient

    conditions 111False analogies 112Activity: False analogies 113Deflection, complicity and exclusion 114Other types of flawed argument 115Unwarranted leaps and 'castle of cards' 116Emotive language; Attacking the person 117More flaws 118Misrepresentation and trivialisation 119Tautology; Two wrongs don't make a right 120

    Summary 121Information about the sources 121Answers to activities in Chapter 7 122

    8 Where's the proof? Finding andevaluating sources of evidence 125

    Introduction 125Primary and secondary source materials 126Searching for evidence 127Literature searches 128Reputable sources 129Authenticity and validity 130Currency and reliability 131Selecting the best evidence 132Relevant and irrelevant evidence 133Activity: Relevant and irrelevant evidence 134Representative samples 135Activity: Representative samples 136Certainty and probability 137Sample sizes and statistical significance 138Over-generalisation 139Controlling for variables 140Facts and opinions 141Eye-witness testimony 142Triangulation 143Evaluating a body of evidence 144Summary 145Information about the sources 145Answers to activities in Chapter 8 146

    9 Critical reading and note-making:Critical selection, interpretation andnoting of source material 147

    Introduction 147Preparing for critical reading 148Identifying the theoretical perspective 149The relation of theory to argument 150Categorising and selecting 151Accurate interpretation when reading 152Making notes to support critical reading 153Reading and noting for a purpose 154Concise critical notes: Analysing argument 155Concise critical notes: Books 156Concise critical notes: Articles and papers 157Critical selection when note-making 158Activity: Critical selection 159Commentary on critical selection 161Note your source of information 162Summary 164Information about the sources 164Answers to activities in Chapter 9 165


  • 10 Critical, analytical writing:Critical thinking when writing 167

    Introduction 167Characteristics of critical, analytical

    writing 168Setting the scene for the reader 170Activity: Setting the scene for the reader 171Writing up the literature search 172Words used to introduce the line of

    reasoning 173Words used to reinforce the line of

    reasoning (2) 174Signposting alternative points of view 175Words used to signpost conclusions 177Words and phrases used to structure

    the line of reasoning 178Drawing tentative conclusions 179Activity: Writing conclusions 180Summary 181Information about the sources 181Answers to activities in Chapter 10 182

    11 Where's the analysis? Evaluatingcritical writing 183

    Introduction 183Checklist for Essay 1 184Evaluate Essay 1 185Evaluation of Essay 1 187Commentary for Essay 1 188Checklist for evaluating Essay 2 190Evaluate Essay 2 191Evaluation of Essay 2 192Commentary on Essay 2 194

    Evaluating your writing for criticalthinking 196

    Summary 198

    Texts for activities in Chapters 8, 9and 11 199

    Practice activities on longer texts 207

    Practice 1: Features of an argument 208Answers to Practice 1: Features of an

    argument 212

    Practice 2: Finding flaws in theargument 215

    Answers to Practice 2: Finding flaws inthe argument 219

    Practice 3: Features of an argument 223Answers to Practice 3: Features of an

    argument 229

    Practice 4: Finding flaws in theargument 234

    Answers to Practice 4: Finding flaws inthe argument 239

    Appendix: Selected search enginesand databases for on-line literaturesearches 245





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