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THINKING CRITICALLY, THINKING ACADEMICALLY

Chris McMillan, Academic Skills Adviser chris.mcmillan@brunel.ac.uk


What does it mean to think critically?


Being critical 

Moving from remembering, recording and describing information to analysing, evaluating and synthesising knowledge

Describing

Analysing and Evaluating

Critical thinking is a questioning attitude, rather than a set of skills


Why is it important to think critically? 

Independent and active learning is essential at university 

Reasoning and analysis skills are highly valued by employers 

The ability to analyse, evaluate and synthesise is vital to producing high quality academic work

Need to be able to think for yourself and make independent judgements

Universities have a vital role in democratic societies Having a critical identity makes you a more interesting person!


Critical Thinking at University 

Universities act as the ‘critic and conscience of society’ More than producing skilled graduates, democratic societies require critical consumers of information to hold those in authority to account University scholar’s seek to move beyond describing what is known to analysing and evaluating what is claimed as knowledge


1 

“I like straightforward classes where there are not a lot of different ideas for the same thing. I just want to know the facts”

From Moon (2005)


2 Everybody has the right to their own opinion and ideas. Who am I do decide what is right and wrong� “


3 “I like arguing about competing ideas and coming to my own conclusion�


From description to critique When was Brunel University founded?


Critique 

What were the conditions that led to Brunel becoming a university? What are the factors that have influenced Brunel’s development since 1966? What are the current pressures influencing the University’s development and how could it best respond to these pressures?


How many people are likely to die from the effects of climate change?


?


The Internet and Truth Which of these is true? 



Derek "The Slipper Man" Fan holds the Guinness World Records record for wearing a pair of dress slippers for 23 years straight as of June 30, 2007.[2]

The ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz sold for a record $165,000.[3]


Are you critical? Write for one minute on whether you are an independent thinker in your life and at university. Is it something you find difficult, or does it come naturally?


Being critical in the social sciences 

Questioning the world around you Being an active and sceptical participant Asking ‘Why’, ‘How’ and ‘How do we know’ rather than describing what


Methods vs. Theory 

Studying in the social sciences produces different ways of being critical Different disciplines use different frameworks to ask and answer research questions  Methodological

assumptions  Theoretical frameworks 

Different ways of asking questions produce different answers


Asking the right questions 

"Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offense in New Zealand?“ Should cannibalism, as part of a good diet, be a criminal offense in New Zealand? “Should physically assaulting a child be a criminal offense in New Zealand?”

What are the main assumptions made about children’s behaviour and modes of learning that are being made in this debate? How is physical discipline being represented in ‘criminal’ drama shows?


Critical Life: One-Minute Essay 

Complete the sentence: ‘I never understand why people…’ on one of the post-it notes provided Pass these notes around the class until you have lost track of their source Answer this questions:  How

could we investigate this question?


Summary 

Don’t describe – critique, analyse, argue

Know how to think rather than remembering

This is the purpose, and value, of a degree in social sciences Each discipline has its own tools for asking and answering research questions


Next Week Critical reading and notemaking Need more help?

Make an appointment with ASK: Monday- Friday 1-3 pm  Tuesday and Thursday evenings 5-6 pm Email: ask@brunel.ac.uk or chris.mcmillan@brunel.ac.uk 


Thinking sociologically, thinking critically 2013