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The Research Process: Critical Thinking

This guide is created to help students through the steps of writing a research paper or project.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally. It is a collection of skills that enables us to use, interpret, analyze, and evaluate information. 

Critical thinkers exhibit an important set of characteristics.
* constantly ask questions - ask questions about why things are as they are.
* keep an open mind - don't make up your mind about an issue until you have seen all the facts and evidence, and be willing to change your viewpoint.
* recognize other viewpoints - critical thinkers admit that others have the right to disagree.
* approach issues systematically - collect and weigh evidence in a systematic, organized fashion.

In short, critical thinkers question, challenge, and respond with interest to new ideas and information. 


An assumption is an idea or principle that the writer accepts as true and makes no effort to prove or substantiate. 
For example, an author may assume television encourages violent behavior in children and proceed to argue for more restrictions on watching TV. Without evidence to support his argument, a critical thinker would question the author's assumption. 


Bias is a partiality, preference, or prejudice for or against a person, object, or idea. Biased material is one-sided.
Take for instance the statement: How can a hunter, solely for his own pleasure, delight in the mutilation of a living animal? The author of this statement does not take into account research that agrees hunting ensures that wildlife populations of game species are sustainable from one generation to the next.

When you read or listen to biased materials, keep the following questions in mind:
* What facts are omitted? What additional facts are needed?

* What words create positive or negative impressions?
* What impression would I have if different words had been used? 

(adapted from the book Study and Critical Thinking Skills in College, by Kathleen T. McWhorter)