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Critical Thinking Skill Development in Writing: How to Harness Common Sense for Uncommon Results Laurel Walsh Writing Faculty.

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Presentation on theme: "Critical Thinking Skill Development in Writing: How to Harness Common Sense for Uncommon Results Laurel Walsh Writing Faculty."— Presentation transcript:

1 Critical Thinking Skill Development in Writing: How to Harness Common Sense for Uncommon Results Laurel Walsh Writing Faculty

2 What are we talking about? Scholar Practitioner –New analytical skills are required to move from practitioner to scholar. –Students work, reflect, and implement research findings in the field. –A synergy can exist between the worlds of academia and the field. –Life experience creates opportunity for bias. Using common sense can combat these mental shortcuts.

3 Our Goal as Scholar Practitioners To link academic research to the world of practice in a meaningful way. As you read academic material, you internalize the patterns of research reporting. Reading research helps you write in a scholarly voice.

4 Common Sense You keep your practitioner hat on as you read the material. Your life experience should be used to weigh and measure research that you are asked to review in courses and for your dissertation.

5 Persuasion and Logic When thinking critically about a social problem, you need to be logical and persuasive: The problem is that as we attempt to be persuasive, we can commit logical fallacies because this type of composition –Lends itself to either or choices –Denies counterargument –Encourages blanket or sweeping statements –Our best practice for solving a social problem implies that there is a worst practice

6 Sources of Research Topics Theory –An organized body of concepts, generalizations, and principles that can be subject to investigation. Replication –Testing features of a published study. Personal Experience –Questions that you ask yourself. –May lead to a Social Problem rather than a Research Problem.

7 Social Problems Defined Situations affecting a significant number of people, that are believed to be sources of difficulty or threaten the stability of a community, and that require programs or amelioration.

8 Aspects of a Social Problem Specific to one’s community, workplace, school, synagogue, church, mosque, hospital, business, etc. Something you already know to be true. Something that is important and in need of a solution.

9 Aspects of a Research Problem Rooted in the literature. Contains elements of the social problem. Academic in nature. Every assertion can be supported by scholarly, published, peer-reviewed evidence.

10 Aspects of a Research Problem Interesting –Researcher will maintain interest over the study. Researchable –Not stated as what should be done. Significant –Contributes to practice or theory. Manageable –Appropriate to researcher’s skills, resources, and time.

11 Critical Thinking is a Skill When you solve a research problem you are then qualified to solve a social problem.

12 How to transform a social problem into a research problem Make a list of the language associated with the social problem. Use that list and create search equations to be used in library databases. Collect and review the literature. Identify the gap in the literature. Use your own research and findings to fill the gap.

13 Common Sense and the Literature No one who is working on their dissertation enjoys coming across material that seems to refute a major premise Pretending there are not two sides does not make it true Tackle the best points of the other side Look for intersections This is not a cage match; it is research

14 Harnessing Counterargument –It is impossible to persuade if you don’t address the best points of the other team –Research must be reasonable –Pointing to future scholarship does not mean discounting all the ideas that preceded ours

15 Logical Fallacies They are naughty, and avoidable. You have to know what they look like to keep from using them.

16 Hasty Generalizations Inference works in many different settings (bias begins) A form of mental short cut Signs: “All” “Every” “None” “Never”

17 Reading the Literature as a Detective Looking for clues regarding a phenomena Looking for trends in the findings Looking to support our premise Looking for scholarly support in an argument Even if there is consensus on a topic, you must prove to your readers that there is scholastic support.

18 Faulty Emotional Appeals Seeking to solve social problems that we are passionate about involves emotional territory for the scholar practitioner. Be mindful that you are an ethical researcher. Fear and pity inspire action, but using either in your writing can betray bias.

19 Faulty Appeals to Fear Making people afraid can make them buy things, change policies, adopt a pet, leave neighborhoods, go to war. Think of home alarm commercials with the scary ax-wielding lunatic approaching the babysitter and children. The alarm sounds and he retreats.

20 Appeal to Pity This faulty emotional appeal happens frequently in dissertations that seek to help the most helpless among society The problem is that by wringing the most tear-jerking vision of those in need, we risk re-victimization It is tempting to evoke a strong emotional response to our research to engaged our audience

21 The Role of the Ethical Researcher Writing about women and poverty, at-risk populations and other marginalized people. Trying not to “use” people’s pain is vital to the ethical researcher. Signs: “The most egregious example” “No one could fail to be moved by the…” “Leaving the victims of this treatment…”

22 Research is Reason We want to encourage our readers to adopt a best practice, or encourage an intervention. A reasonable argument will persuade without causing anxiety or creating a charicature of suffering. Signs: “If this policy is not adopted (fill in scary outcome here)….”

23 Strawman Earmark of a weak thesis. A strawman argument occurs when a person creates an easy-to-defeat position (man made of straw), and then destroys it and calls herself the victor.

24 Why it Appeals Other interventions may have been shown to work equally well. Some research is an attempt to reveal a best practice approach to a social problem. There is a temptation to create a “worst” approach and compare our intervention to an artificially weak one.

25 Avoid Discounting Other Research Signs of Strawman: Demonization of the opposite stance. Example: White and Bain (2009) advocated against property taxes in Georgia suburbs. Clearly this group does not support local public school systems.

26 Slippery Slope This fallacy is exactly what it sounds like. If we commit to action A, it will invariably lead to dramatic and negative outcome Z. Why it appeals: This argument is often used to avoid describing the B-Y portion of the issue. The devil is in the details.

27 Leading the Reader Down Signs of slippery slope: Words like “Will invariably lead to”, “Causes”, “Inevitably”, “Will always” If the federal government bans the AK-47, it will usher in martial law. Soon after, the police will be sweeping through your house looking for slingshots.

28 Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc Translated from Latin, it means “After this, therefore because of this” Why they appeal: Much academic research seeks to establish causation or explain phenomena The desire to attribute a clear cause can lead a researcher to cite the fact that Event A preceded Event E as Event A caused Event E

29 Preceding Does Not Mean Causing Signs: “After the remedy, test scores improved” (Walsh, 2009, p. 20). Remember that just because the rooster crows before dawn, does not mean that his noise made the sun rise.

30 Weak Analogy There are two essential truths at work here: First, no two things are exactly alike, and there is always some similarity between two objects

31 Comparison Conundrum

32 Why they appeal We are always trying to navigate new territory using old maps. If situation A is similar to situation B, we can prepare ourselves and our readers for possible intersections in findings.

33 All Things Being Equal Signs: “In a similar situation” “Under nearly identical conditions” “It is just like” Examples: How is a raven like a writing desk? Lewis Carroll’s famous weak analogy ends with the fact that Poe wrote on both.

34 Ad Populum The argument asserts that there is a connection between what is popular and what is correct. Why it appeals: Scholarship is often used to support a widely-used concepts/theories by adding validation through replication of research.

35 Popular Does Not Equal Correct! Research is not a beauty contest; it is a process of discovery. Approach the research with authentic curiosity. You should not be in the driver’s seat, the research question should drive. Just because an intervention or approach is widely used does not mean that it is perfect or even good.

36 Sweeping Statements Signs: “Most researchers agree” “Widely found in the literature” “Accepted by most people in the field” Examples: Bandwagon appeals work because humans seek to be part of larger communities, and therefore are lured by “going where everyone is”

37 Your Turn Have you run into any of these issues in your own scholarship? Have you ignored good points on the other side? Have you run into logical fallacies? How have you incorporated or avoided counterargument as a researcher?

38 General Tips Defining and articulating a research problem is a demanding intellectual process. Define the research problem early in the writing stage. Ask yourself if the research contributes to knowledge in the field.

39 Continually ask yourself… What is the central question or problem? Why is this problem important and worthy of study? How will I go about the investigation?

40 Inquire to acquire Have a real research problem that is clearly tied to a social problem Let the research speak for itself Be authentically curious

41 Questions?

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