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Intensive American Language Center (IALC): Level 5 Research Assignment

This guide will help you to conduct research on themes this semester of World/Public Health, Climate Change, and Immigration.

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is thinking about something BEYOND the surface. It means not just taking a piece of information as an automatic truth. Thinking "critically" means asking questions that assess or evaluate the information. This assessment might be related to the following:

  • Why did the person create this information?
  • What impact does the information have on the world or people reading it?
  • Is this information truthful or not? How do you know?
  • Does this piece of information have good evidence to support it?

...and much more!

Applying critical thinking means that you are analyzing the information; assessing or evaluating it; synthesizing or explaining it; and reflecting on it.

This website provides an easy-to-follow list of things to consider when performing critical thinking. This includes:

  • Brainstorming: Let your mind run free! Make a list of ANY words or thoughts you associate with a piece of information.
  • Classify and categorize: Take this list and start to sort out your thoughts into categories, or common themes.
  • Compare and contrast: How are these items and categories the same? How are they different? 
  • Connect: How do these items and categories connect to help you make a statement, thesis, or argument?

This is something that you do when you write a paper. Each piece of information in your paper must be analyzed and evaluated before you should use it for evidence. Please consider how the information will impact your argument, and what impact it might have on the person reading your paper.

You can find more on how to evaluate or "think critically" about your information in the boxes below!

 

Fact or Opinion?

FACT:

This is something can be PROVEN true or false.

Facts can be verified with evidence. For example, if you see a statistic, you should be able to see where that statistics came from and how the author of that fact came to that conclusion.

Examples of facts:

  • The current U.S. President is Barack Obama.
  • There are more than 7 billion people in the world.
  • The human body has 206 bones.

OPINION:

Here is where it gets tricky. 

Sometimes it might sound like someone is giving their opinion, even if they are giving facts. Sometimes it sounds like someone is giving facts, when they are instead giving their opinion.

Remember: It is okay to use papers that provide a specific point of view. However, that point of view must be proven by evidence - whether that is independent research, or research that others have conducted.

Links for Critical Thinking

Here are a few links that define and explain critical thinking, and provide examples and further reading.

Should I use this resource?

One way that you can evaluate your resource it by putting it through the CRAAP test. Ask yourself the following questions:

If you can answer NO to any of these questions below, you should think twice about using it:

Is it CURRENT

  • Can you find the date of publication listed on the resource? 
  • Is the resource published recently?
  • Does the information in the resource include up-to-date information?

Is it RELEVANT?

  • Does the resource relate directly to your research topic?
  • Does the resource provide information that will help inform your topic or argument?

Is it AUTHORITATIVE?

  • Is the author an expert in their field?
  • Is the author an expert in the field that they are researching and writing about?
  • Does the resource provide information about the author (where they work, where they went to school, etc.)?

Is it ACCURATE?

  • Does the resource provide facts, statistics, and other evidence to support the argument?
  • Does the resource provide a "works cited" page, or list its references?

If you can answer YES to any of these questions below, you should think twice about using it:

What is its PURPOSE?

  • Is the author trying to sell you something?
  • Does the author offer a lot of opinion without providing a references list?
  • Is the author writing from the perspective of a company or organization that is one-sided?
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