Introduction to Critical Thinking Papers

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Introduction to Critical Thinking Papers
Although the process of thinking critically begins with an open mind, forming conclusive ideas and arguments later, the formally written Critically Thinking Paper should read as an argument paper. Having only 550 words with which to convince your audience, it is necessary to be clear and concise.
There will be three Critical Thinking Papers, valued at 70pts, 80pts, and 100pts.

  • There are four ways to guarantee yourself a ZERO SCORE on these paper. Learn the requirements and follow them.

1. Unacceptable sources as noted below.

2. Not properly citing all four of your primary sources in the text of your paper.

3. Not having 425 ± 25 in “Analysis” and not having 450 – 550 words for the entire paper

4. Not using the required format, i.e., Interpretation, Analysis, Evaluation, etc.

Critical Thinking Paper Format (there is no flexibility, all papers must use this format):
Explanation of Sub-Headings

This is, in essence, the introduction to your paper. The goal of this section is to convey to your audience the meaning of your topic, its significance, and how your paper will clarify and elucidate the issue. It might be helpful to attempt to write this section in three sentences: the first clarifying the topic, the second justifying why it is worthy of attention, and the third acting as a thesis statement (a concise explanation of your side of the argument).

Condensed to its bones: Introduce the topic; present a clear argument [be VERY specific]

The “Analysis” section is the largest at 425 ± 25 words . Under this sub-heading it is necessary to provide facts with accompanying explanations as to how and why these support your argument. Be sure to provide logical transitions from one idea to the next, elucidating your train of thought, if necessary. It will be assumed by the reader that the arguments presented are judged to be valid.

Condensed to its bones: Include only facts that support your specific argument. This is the largest component of your CT paper.

The “Evaluation” section provides an opportunity to critically examine the facts and/or arguments used. It is necessary to point out any biases that might exist in the studies, experiments, or statistical analyses and the effects that they have on conclusions, both in your specific essay and for a popular audience consulting their respective works. It is not sufficient to write that the sources were all taken from academic journals and are therefore valid. Stating that Cook is a professor is insufficient. Did he cite supporting material? Where did Allen get the information for his table/map?

Condensed to its bones: Identify bias in the arguments of at least two sources that you are using [be very specific]. If you are citing a piece written by the CEO of Exxon-Mobil concerning petroleum, note his conflict. Go over the source of the bias. If it helps, think of “bias” as the limitations of this particular paper or book.

The intent of this sub-heading is to highlight for the reader how the specific issue has broader consequences. It may be helpful to think in terms of scales; if your issue is on a local scale, what might the effects be on a national, international, or global scale? Essays concerning natural effects might be extrapolated to the human population or vice versa.

Condensed to its bones: Expand your topic to include its significance/impact on the broader scale, or if you are speaking of a global issue, how will it affect the local scale? [be very specific]

The explanation is analogous to a concluding sentence or paragraph. In this section it is necessary to state your argument, briefly summarize the findings that support your point of view, and concisely speculate on the broader effects; in other words, this may be seen as a re-iteration/reinforcement of the interpretation and inference sections.

Condensed to its bones: Summarize ALL of the above.

The “Evaluation” section requires an analysis of other authors’ biases. The “Self-Regulation” section is your own self-conscious critique of your own argument. What factors might influence why you believe this viewpoint. Is there a way that you could remedy this, thereby making your paper more objective? This is the only section where personal pronouns (I, me, we, etc.) can appear.

Condensed to its bones: Identify your bias. We all have biases from our upbringing and education and peers—learn to recognize yours and how it applies to this topic. “I’m rich and from a rich country” won’t cut it here. Where does your bias come from?

Format/Content Guidelines

  • Must have 425 ± 25 words under “Analysis” and 125 ± 25 total in other five headings. 550 words maximum (this means that you can’t put max words in both “Analysis” and other five headings).

  • Cite a minimum of four sources from the 21st century, using any combination of the following:

    • Any Book that is appropriate to your topic, including the downloaded versions of Brown and Mackay.

    • Any Peer-Reviewed Journal (identified in EBSCO HOST by checking the “peer reviewed” button.)

Other sources are OK in addition to the four sources from books and/or peer-reviewed journal sources. These additional sources can be anything that you feel pertinent to your argument.

  • What is a Peer-Reviewed Journal?????? This is how the OSU Library explains how to identify a peer-reviewed journal: "Peer-reviewed journals can be identified in several different ways: Journals identify themselves as peer-reviewed (in the small print describing who they are in each issue, or on the publisher's website about the journal). You can also do a search in several databases such as Academic Search Premier and limit your results to "Scholarly" or "peer-reviewed." We ONLY accept articles that appear in EBSCO supported databases with “peer-reviewed” button checked.

  • Every quote; fact or idea taken from an outside source needs to be cited, using ONLY the following format: (Friedman, 2008:page 16) after the cited information, or “according to Friedman (2008:page 16) . .” For web-based sources without page numbers give the paragraph number. Direct quotes must be in quote marks.

  • Papers are graded in the following categories and grading percentages change with succeeding papers. For the first paper grading goes like this:

Lose points for not including the following:

      • -1 point each for not including Name; Student ID #; Recitation Time; TA Name; Word Count; and Question #. -15 for no score sheet; -5 for not initialing score sheet; -5 for no title.

25% for “Style/Format”

      • 1% off each for grammatical error (up to a maximum of 14% deducted)

      • 6% for correctly formatted bibliography (which style you use--MLA, etc.--doesn’t matter, just be consistent and complete.) Entries must be alphabetized. Access date for websites must be included.

5% max for correct in-text citation. We accept only this format: (Friedman, 2008; p. 16) or As noted by Friedman (2008; p 16).
65% for “Content”

      • Interpretation = 5%; Analysis = 45%; Evaluation = 5%; Inference = 5%; Explanation = 2.5%; Self-Evaluation = 2.5%

      • Choose your sources carefully and integrate your citation into your writing

      • Good Critical Thinking Papers will briefly outline the topic, analyze it, and then draw obvious conclusions.

Other Considerations

  • Make your paper creative and unique. Each TA reads many, many papers. Make yours stand out.

  • Proof-read your paper, or have a friend with some talent for written English (or the OSU Writing and Learning Center) look it over. "A" papers do not have grammatical and spelling errors.

  • TAs will all follow the same guidelines when grading papers, but we all have different personalities and backgrounds. We do work to have our average grades be pretty close at the end of the term.

All Papers will adhere to the Critical Thinking format outlined above. To think critically about something is not as intuitive as it might sound, so we will compartmentalize papers into this format. The word limits of 425 ± 25 for the “Analysis” section and 125 ± 25 total for all other headings, must be strictly adhered to. Note that there is some flexibility between Analysis and the other headings, but the paper total MUST not exceed 550 words. To write concisely, glance at your paper’s title after writing each sentence. Does it fit, is it necessary, can it be written more effectively as a shorter sentence?

These Critical Thinking paper will not cover both sides of an issue. Some would call them “Position” papers. Take sides--always title your paper with either a declaratory statement, or a question. For example: Your broad topic is “Wind Energy.” Your title could be “The Future is Blowin’ in the Wind.” Or “Wind Generated Energy is too Chancy.” Or “Why is Wind Generated Electricity the Fastest Growing of all Renewable Sources?” (This title could actually be argued either way, i.e. It’s good that it is growing OR Subsidies are skewing the market.)

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