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5a

CRITICAL THINKING, READING, AND WRITING

For a food that is traced to Neolithic beginnings, like Mexico’s 42 tortillas, Armenia’s lahmejoun, Scottish oatcakes, and even matzos, pizza has remained fresh and vibrant. Whether it’s galettes, the latest thincrusted invasion from France with bacon and onion toppings, or a plain slice of a cheese pie, the varieties of pizza are clearly limited only by one’s imagination. —Lisa Pratt, “A Slice of History”

EXERCISE 4-10

Working individually or in a peer-response group, return to Exercise 4-1, in which you wrote introductory paragraphs for three informally outlined essays. Now, write a concluding paragraph for each.

CHAPTER 5

Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing
The word critical here has a neutral meaning. It doesn’t mean taking a negative view or finding fault, as when someone criticizes another person for doing something wrong. Rather, critical here applies to a mental stance of examining ideas thoroughly and deeply, refusing to accept ideas merely because they seem sensible at first thought, and tolerating questions that often lack definitive answers.

5a

What is critical thinking?

Thinking isn’t something you choose to do, any more than a fish chooses to live in water. To be human is to think. But while thinking may come naturally, awareness of how you think doesn’t. Thinking about thinking is the key to critical thinking. Critical thinking means taking control of your conscious thought processes. If you don’t take control of those processes, you risk being controlled by the ideas of others. The essence of critical thinking is thinking beyond the obvious—beyond the flash of visual images on a television screen, the alluring promises of glossy advertisements, the evasive statements by some people in the news, the half-truths of propaganda, the manipulations of SLANTED LANGUAGE, and faulty reasoning.

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How do I engage in critical thinking?

5b

5b

How do I engage in critical thinking?

To engage in CRITICAL THINKING, you become fully aware of an idea or an action, reflect on it, and ultimately react to it. Actually, you already engage in this process numerous times every day. For example, you’re thinking critically when you meet someone new and decide whether you like the person; when you read a book and form an opinion of it based on reasonable analysis; or when you interview for a job and then evaluate its requirements and your ability to fulfill them. Box 5-1 describes the general process of critical thinking in academic settings. This same process applies as well to reading critically (5c and 5d) and writing critically (5f). The steps in the critical thinking process are somewhat fluid, just as are the steps in the WRITING PROCESS. Expect sometimes to combine steps, reverse their order, and return to parts of the process you thought you had completed. As you do so, remember that synthesis and evaluation are two different mental activities: Synthesis calls for making connections; evaluation calls for making judgments.

B OX 5 - 1

S U M M A RY

Steps in the critical thinking process
1. Summarize. Extract and restate the material’s main message or central point. Use only what you see on the page. Add nothing. 2. Analyze. Examine the material by breaking it into its component parts. By seeing each part of the whole as a distinct unit, you discover how the parts interrelate. Consider the line of reasoning as shown by the EVIDENCE offered and logic used (5g). Read “between the lines” to draw INFERENCES (5c.2), gaining information that’s implied but not stated. When reading or listening, notice how the reading or speaking style and the choice of words work together to create a TONE (1c.4). 3. Synthesize. Pull together what you’ve summarized and analyzed by connecting it to your own experiences, such as reading, talking with others, watching television and films, using the Internet, and so on. In this way, you create a new whole...
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