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Critical thinking and justifying your research Ivan Horrocks Technology Management Teaching and Research Group.

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1 Critical thinking and justifying your research Ivan Horrocks Technology Management Teaching and Research Group

2 Session Aims To explore the nature and purpose of critical thinking To consider how to justify your research and why this is important Topics Definitions of critical thinking Employing critical thinking and its outcomes Why justifying your research is essential “State of the Art” review

3 Critical thinking: definitions ‘When you think critically, you weigh up all sides of an argument and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses.’ (OU, 2008:7) ‘Wikipedia: nine definitions – all of which centre on the process of thinking, one example: ‘Disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.’ ‘Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced…Critical thinking is the art of analysing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it.’ (Paul and Elder, 2007:4, emphasis added)

4 Critical thinking: the result ‘A well cultivated critical thinker: Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely; Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively; Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards; Thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognising and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self- monitored, and self-corrective thinking.’ (Paul and Elder, 2007:4, emphasis added)

5 “Universal intellectual standards” (1) It is proposed that these are standards ‘…which must be applied to thinking whenever one is interested in checking the quality of reasoning about a problem, issue, or situation. To think critically entails having command of these standards.’ (Paul and Elder, 2007:10). Clarity: Could you elaborate, give an example, or illustrate what you mean? Accuracy: How can we check, find out if it is true, or verify or test that? Precision: Could you be more specific, give more details, or be more exact? Relevance: How does that relate to the problem, bear on the question, or help us with the issue?

6 “Universal intellectual standards” (2) Depth: What factors make this a difficult problem? What are some of the complexities of this question? What are some of the difficulties we need to deal with? Breadth: Do we need to look at this from another perspective? Do we need to consider another point of view? Do we need to look at this another way? Logic: Does all this make sense together? Does your first paragraph fit in with your last? Does what you say follow from the evidence Significance: Is this the most important problem to consider? Is this the central idea to focus on? Which of these factors are most important? Fairness: Do I have a vested interest in this issue? Am I sympathetically representing the viewpoints of others?

7 Discussion Thinking about the work you’ve done so far on your research, can you answer the following questions: Purpose: What am I trying to accomplish? What is my central aim? My purpose? Questions What question am I raising? What question am I addressing? Am I considering the complexities in my question(s)?

8 Justifying your research More frequently than you might imagine the case/argument constructed to justify research (design, findings, conclusions, etc) is defined to a greater degree by one or other form of “egocentric thinking” than it is by objective review and analysis: “It’s true because I believe it” (innate egocentrism) “It’s true because we believe it” (innate socio-centrism) “It’s true because I want to believe it” (innate wish fulfillment) “It’s true because I have always believed it” (innate self-validation) “It’s true because it’s in my selfish interest to believe it” (innate selfishness)

9 Justifying your research: “state of the art review” “State of the art review” is a term that's used to indicate something wider than a literature review - drawing on interviews and conversations with experts in a field, policy papers and other grey literature, conference presentations and so on. It's used partly because in many fields the cutting edge research students could engage with is 1-3 years ahead of what's published,… …and partly to wean them off the idea that being a researcher and scoping the field is just about reading. (with thanks to Chis High)

10 The purpose of a state of the art review? A state of the art review is important for your probation report because it demonstrates that: You know about subject You can review your area critically You can use existing knowledge to focus your research question Your research method/approach is sound You have a context for your results

11 Activity In your groups: Choose a research project (this can be the research of one of your group) Brainstorm (i.e. identify) the sources that could be used to make up a “state of the art” review for this research Use the description of a “state of the art” review that we’ve just discussed as guidance when identifying sources Note down all of the sources you identify Timing = 15 minutes

12 The basics of a “state of the art review” Summary Journals Conference Papers and Proceedings Books Practitioner documents & reports Dissertations and theses Government documents Policy research Dictionaries Statistics and market data Newspapers, TV and Radio Websites Visual materials –Plans –Designs Grey literature: –Company reports Trade literature Unpublished research Exhibitions and performances

13 Beyond the basics: people and networks Authors Practitioners Journalists Media Researchers ‘Stakeholders’ Contacting People –Conferences –Interviewing –Run a Workshop –Give a Seminar –Start a blog/tweets or join a discussion list

14 Reviewing: keep records Vital – or you will waste a lot of time Fully record sources – when you discover them Be efficient – use the same source for different purposes whenever you can Use a bibliographic package from the outset (e.g. Endnote, etc) Keep a research journal. This is a key resource in writing up to explain the rationale for research and your learning processes Finally, the “Production Process”: Notes -> Reviews -> Working papers -> PublicationNotes -> Reviews -> Working papers -> Publication

15 References Open University (2008) Thinking Critically study guide, Paul, R. and Elder, L. (2007) The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: concepts and tools. Dillon Beach, CA:The Foundation for Critical Thinking.

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