To become an astute, credible writer, you need to gain the trust of your audience. To do this, you must first learn to think critically. Though this seems like a vague concept, critical thinking is at the core of all clear, concise, and well thought-out argumentation—the types of attributes which will help you succeed not only in writing a paper, but in your academic career overall. Below we have listed some of the main strategies for critical thinking.
- The first step to becoming a good critical thinker is approaching something with an open mind. If you bring all of your preconceptions with you to a piece, you have an agenda. You will miss out on many of the subtleties (or blatant mistakes) of the argument.
- Ask questions!!! Asking the right questions of an argument/ author can help you evaluate the information you have been given. For instance, if you are listening to a political speech, ask yourself what the agenda of that candidate is? Is it to win votes? Gain the support of a certain party? Or, you may be watching a commercial for painkillers that says they are doctor recommended. What kinds of doctors are recommending this medicine? Do they work for the pharmaceutical company?
- Embrace your inner skeptic! This is not just about asking a lot of questions, and it is not about being cynical. Truly try to suspend previous biases you may have, and ask what is really going on when you see an argument laid out in front of you. Test the logic of the claim, rather than buying in to an emotional appeal!
- Be okay with the uncertainty involved in becoming a critical thinker. Even if you do not have the answers, at least you are open to finding them out. Being okay with poking holes in any claim, rather than accepting it as fact, will help you approach the world with your eyes open. It will also give you the skills to test your own claim in a paper.
As you go forward, really ask yourself what the strengths and weaknesses of your argument are. Did you write your own biases into your paper, just to support your conclusion? Or, is your claim logically thought out and constructed? Subject your work to this process, and you are opening your mind, while also acting as your own self-advocate.
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