This is a guest post by Liam McIvor Martin from the VTAMethod.com. He runs a company that supplies PhD Online Tutoring to University students. He wrote a book called ‘Study 30 minutes a Day and Get a 4.0 GPA’ and he is considered as an expert on critical thinking.
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is for me, the best tool I have found to get to the core of an issue, leverage the evidence for or against the solution to a particular problem, and choose or combine a particular conclusion based on the premises of the provided evidence. The main problem with critical thinking in academia is that Universities do a really shitty job of teaching it. If you look at any of the literature on critical thinking, you will find it long, boring and not all that useful to your average student. Therefore I’m here to give you a basic crash course in the main aspects of critical thinking and how you can implement it in your university careers.
Main Components of Critical Thinking
I really don’t have time to go over all the aspects of critical thinking here, but I’m going to give you the main components so you can get yourself started. I’m going to use the example of the stereotypical University essay as an example to work from.
1) Never EVER try to answer a paper based on the question being posed. This seems somewhat counterintuitive but you should never look at the question as the focus of your analysis. Instead you should be looking at the problem that this question is creating.
2) Now your challenge is to garner solutions to the problem through the literature. Once you have a refined problem, it’s usually quite easy to find solutions out in the wide world of academia. Just get the top articles that offer different solutions and, remember to database them in a system like endnote for easy reference. Check out this endnote video if you’ve never used it before.
3) Based on the solutions offered. You now want to find out each solutions ‘supporting evidence’ i.e. hidden bias, premises and assumptions. You then want to ask yourself whether you believe their conclusions are valid based on all their supporting evidence.
4) You should then come to your own conclusion based on the presented evidence. Whether this is choosing one solution you’ve found, combining solutions, or making up a completely different solution, it’s your choice. But remember to reinforce your solution with sound evidence and check for your own biases and assumptions and make sure they make sense.
Critical Thinking Problems That Most Students Fall Into
There are a few components of critical thinking you must understand in order to start using critical thinking as a viable tool.
Critical thinking is not an outlining tool. I’ve been a teaching assistant for 5 years and during that time I found quite a few students who used critical thinking as an outlining tool. It is a brain storming tool! it is meant to give you information, nothing more. Only after you have collected and analyzed the information should you actually start an outline.
Double, No… Triple Check your assumptions. Don’t think just because you did a little research that what you’ve concluded makes any sense. Talk to family, friends, students, profs, pretty much anybody that will listen and ask them if what you’re saying makes sense.
Time restrict your critical thinking. This is more of a general problem students have. Restrict yourself to a set amount of time to any task, this should include critical thinking. Sit down, get your egg timer out and just brainstorm for half an hour. Then go out into the literature, bring back some articles and repeat. You usually shouldn’t need more than three layers of brainstorming before you have the makings of an A+ paper.
If you need any more help with critical thinking or are interested in some PhD tutoring come check out my site www.virtualteachingassistant.com. If you join my newsletter I have more full versions of my critical thinking program that I give away absolutely free.
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