The critical thinking process is one of the most important components that you can have when you begin the journey into college as well as during your college tenure. Yet, I have found that most of my students lack these simple skills and the ability to research correctly eludes them. The caveat with critical thinking is creative thinking. The main reason for this partnership is that in order to think critically, one needs to be able to think creatively. For the purpose of this article, we are going to talk about the areas of critical thinking; gathering information, analyze and clarify information, and evaluate information.
First we are going to talk about gathering information and how we can use this tactic within a college setting. Information comes at us in a raw form and we are bombarded every day with tons and tons of information. How do we decide what is legit information and what is secondary information? Especially in college when you will be learning about models and theories as well as concepts and processes. Here are three tips to help you analysis effectively to gather information for a paper or assignment.
· Make sure that you are reviewing the assignment and understand what the logistics are and he objectives. If the paper is to be 10 pages long and the topic is best careers out of college, then it better be on that topic and at the 10 page mark, not less or more. There is a reason why there are parameters on papers.
· When you use the library or online databases, you will find a lot of relevant information, be sure that you have a focus on what you want to accomplish.
· Recommendations would be to make sure that you select 5 to 6 different careers and evaluate them all so that you have a deep understanding of each and based on that information we can begin to analyze and clarify the information.
Analyze and Clarify
Second, we are going to analyze and clarify the information that you have found during the first step of the critical thinking stages. Within this stage we are going to:
· Break Information into parts
· Examine Whether Examples Support Ideas
· Distinguish Fact from Opinion
This is where a lot of students get into trouble with their papers. Students tend to look at the assignment as a big picture assignment and this can overwhelm anyone. The goal here is to break your paper into parts. In the example presented, we will have at least 5 to 6 careers that you are going to discuss. Be sure to separate out those ideas, compare and contrast, examine cause and effect and look for patterns and themes. By really digging deep into your research, you will gain a deeper understanding and see how the topics relate. Do all the careers require a bachelor’s degree or do they just need an associate degree? A great way to go about comparing and contrasting information is to develop a chart so that you will have reference to this information when you write your paper.
Next we are going to look at whether or not the examples support your ideas. Do the careers you have selected meet the requirements of the assignment? These must have empirical evidence that supports your topics sentences and thesis? If they do not support your ideas, then it is time to hit the drawing board and return to the gathering information stage. Please note, do not cut and crop your research to support your ideas, there is plenty of information out there for you to find that will support your ideas fully, just do the research.
What is fact and what is opinion? This is a major area of debate in the academic world. My personal recommendation to avoid most opinion is to use resources that are scholarly in nature and peer reviewed. This will keep you away from wiki sites or anything that is just someone’s outlook and has not been empirically proven.
The last step is to evaluate the information. You have gathered and analyzed the material and you have examined it examples and validity. Now it is time to evaluate whether an idea or a piece of this information is important to your paper or assignment. If you decide that it is not a valid representation of your assignment, place it to the side and continue working on your assignment. It is like working on a resume, you have all your experiences and jobs listed but you only want to include the data that is relevant to the particular job want to apply for.
If you follow these simple easy steps in critical thinking, you will have the upper hand when it comes to college research. Just keep in mind, research at any level is not easy but it can be fun if you do it correctly and follow a systemic approach.