What are some critical thinking skills?
Critical thinking skills include the ability to:
- Identify credible sources
- Evaluate and respond to arguments
- Assess alternative viewpoints
- Test hypotheses against relevant criteria
Critical thinking skills include the ability to:
Synthesizing sources means comparing and contrasting the work of other scholars to provide new insights.
It involves analyzing and interpreting the points of agreement and disagreement among sources.
You might synthesize sources in your literature review to give an overview of the field of research or throughout your paper when you want to contribute something new to existing research.
You can find sources online using databases and search engines like Google Scholar. Use Boolean operators or advanced search functions to narrow or expand your search.
For print sources, you can use your institution’s library database. This will allow you to explore the library’s catalog and to search relevant keywords.
Lateral reading is the act of evaluating the credibility of a source by comparing it with other sources. This allows you to:
As you cannot possibly read every source related to your topic, it’s important to evaluate sources to assess their relevance. Use preliminary evaluation to determine whether a source is worth examining in more depth.
An abstract concisely explains all the key points of an academic text such as a thesis, dissertation or journal article. It should summarize the whole text, not just introduce it.
An abstract is a type of summary, but summaries are also written elsewhere in academic writing. For example, you might summarize a source in a paper, in a literature review, or as a standalone assignment.
You might have to write a summary of a source:
You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test, focusing on the currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose of a source of information.
Ask questions such as:
Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.
Like information literacy, it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.
It is important to find credible sources and use those that you can be sure are sufficiently scholarly.
In academic writing, the sources you cite should be credible and scholarly. Some of the main types of sources used are:
Scholarly sources are written by experts in their field and are typically subjected to peer review. They are intended for a scholarly audience, include a full bibliography, and use scholarly or technical language. For these reasons, they are typically considered credible sources.
Popular sources like magazines and news articles are typically written by journalists. These types of sources usually don’t include a bibliography and are written for a popular, rather than academic, audience. They are not always reliable and may be written from a biased or uninformed perspective, but they can still be cited in some contexts.
There are many types of sources commonly used in research. These include:
You’ll likely use a variety of these sources throughout the research process, and the kinds of sources you use will depend on your research topic and goals.
You usually shouldn’t cite tertiary sources as evidence in your research paper, but you can use them in the beginning stages of the research process to:
Use tertiary sources in your preliminary research to find relevant primary and secondary sources that you will engage with in more depth during the writing process.
What constitutes a tertiary source depends on your research question and how you use the source.
To determine whether a source is tertiary, ask:
Primary sources provide direct evidence about your research topic (photographs, personal letters, etc.).
Secondary sources interpret and comment on information from primary sources (academic books, journal articles, etc.).
Tertiary sources are reference works that identify and provide background information on primary and secondary sources. They do not provide original insights or analysis.
A tertiary source may list, summarize, or index primary and secondary sources or provide general information from a variety of sources. But it does not provide original interpretations or analysis.
Some examples of tertiary sources include:
It can sometimes be hard to distinguish accurate from inaccurate sources, especially online. Published articles are not always credible and can reflect a biased viewpoint without providing evidence to support their conclusions.
Information literacy is important because it helps you to be aware of such unreliable content and to evaluate sources effectively, both in an academic context and more generally.
Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.
Being information literate means that you:
When searching for sources in databases, think of specific keywords that are relevant to your topic, and consider variations on them or synonyms that might be relevant.
Once you have a clear idea of your research parameters and key terms, choose a database that is relevant to your research (e.g., Medline, JSTOR, Project MUSE).
Find out if the database has a “subject search” option. This can help to refine your search. Use Boolean operators to combine your keywords, exclude specific search terms, and search exact phrases to find the most relevant sources.
Proximity operators are specific words used alongside your chosen keywords that let you specify the proximity of one keyword in relation to another.
The most common proximity operators include NEAR (Nx), WITHIN (Wx), and SENTENCE.
Each proximity operator has a unique function. For example, Nx allows you to find sources that contain the specified keywords within a set number of words (x) of each other.
Boolean operators are specific words and symbols that you can use to expand or narrow your search parameters when using a database or search engine.
The most common Boolean operators are AND, OR, NOT or AND NOT, quotation marks “”, parentheses (), and asterisks *.
Each Boolean operator has a unique function. For example, the Boolean operator AND will provide search results containing both/all of your keywords.
A Boolean search uses specific words and symbols known as Boolean operators (e.g., AND, OR) alongside keywords to limit or expand search results. Boolean searches allow you to:
The CRAAP test is an acronym to help you evaluate the credibility of a source you are considering using. It is an important component of information literacy.
The CRAAP test has five main components:
To avoid plagiarism when summarizing an article or other source, follow these two rules:
A summary is always much shorter than the original text. The length of a summary can range from just a few sentences to several paragraphs; it depends on the length of the article you’re summarizing, and on the purpose of the summary.
A summary is a short overview of the main points of an article or other source, written entirely in your own words.
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