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A Critical Student Is One Who Ð''Does Not Accept Information Without First Examining It From Different Angles Or Perspectives'.

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Examining information from different angles and perspectives is central to critical thinking when reading and researching in preparation for essay writing. It enables students to gain comprehensive knowledge of a subject before accepting the information for use as a base of reference in an essay. Critical thinking skills are used in many aspects of everyday life and are particularly important for university students to master before advancing into a professional career.

On reflection of the readings referenced in this essay, my belief is that exercising critical thinking skills is crucial when reading and researching to produce the high-quality essays expected of university students. The purpose of this essay is to discuss the reasons why critical students do not accept information without first examining it from different angles or perspectives. I will give insight into what critical thinking is, outline the purpose of essay writing for students and explain why and how critical thinking is incorporated in the reading and research for writing an essay.

Shakespeare (Shakespeare and Furness 1877) once wrote, "there is nothing either good or bad - but thinking makes it so". These words are particularly significant in regard to critical thinking. Human beings have the power to choose their thoughts and beliefs and the opportunity to challenge and develop those of others. Individuals generally have inherent critical thinking skills that are used every day and universities expect students to develop and build on these skills (Christensen 2004).

Craig (1994, 23) states that critical thinking "means that you question the phenomenon of study rather than simply accept and repeat the facts". It is "reflective and reasonable thinking aimed at deciding what to do or believe" (Warren 1995, 148). Critical thinking involves questioning assumptions, looking at things from alternative perspectives, researching widely to substantiate facts and comparing gathered information so that students can gain accurate data and develop informed, well-balanced arguments.

The elements of critical thinking are central to the learning process. Karen Warren (1995, 151) offers the statement, "Critical thinking is necessary to learning. One cannot process information, form reasonable opinions, evaluate beliefs, construct positions, or articulate a thesis without the use of critical thinking". University students, therefore, cannot successfully read or research for essay writing without employing critical thinking skills.

It is expected that university students will analyse information thoroughly from many different angles or perspectives to gain insight into all aspects of the subject. Those who use critical thinking skills will not accept ideas or assume that information is accurate or correct until it has been thoroughly investigated. Critical thinkers read and research without personal bias, are open-minded and willing to consider alternatives to the issues before forming conclusions or arguments that will be the basis of an assessment or essay (Warren 1995).

The article Rites of Demolition (2000) by Deborah Tannen raises the issue of what is not expected of critically thinking students. The author states in reference to training students, "We assign scholarly work for them to read, then invite them to tear it apart." Students who tear the text apart are merely learning to be critical of the text. Critical thinking, however, involves being critical, or analytical, in the way that students think about and examine the text.

Essay writing begins with actively engaging reading and research. Information must be gathered from credible sources and analysed to ensure that it is correct, well researched and relevant to the essay topic. It is expected that university students will present information that is accurate, informative, well balanced and interesting (The Nature of University Essays 2004). Complete knowledge of all aspects of a subject cannot be gained until the information has been critically examined from all angles and perspectives.

Students can formulate essays without applying critical thinking to their reading and research. The essays may be very expressive and grammatically correct, however, they will fall well below the standard expected of university students. Students who fail to apply critical thinking skills are ill equipped to formulate, assess and present arguments (Warren, 147). If they have not have fully engaged in critically examining the reading and research information they will be unable to argue or present the facts from all angles and perspectives or offer well-informed, balanced arguments.

The critical thinking technique that involves examining alternative viewpoints, angles and perspectives is sometimes referred to as thinking outside the square. Coster and Ledovski (2005) stated, "Before one can think outside the square, one must know what critical thinking is". One of the expectations of university students is that they will think outside the square. Students are encouraged to study recognised texts and theories and then advance the study by using critical thinking and their imagination to find other alternatives or to challenge the established theory (Brookfield 1987, 8-9). Whilst challenging the views and ideas expressed in established study material, students are expected to consider alternative ideas and solutions. Advancement of established theories and beliefs will not emerge unless the current trends are contested and appraised.

"Identifying and challenging assumptions is essential to critical thinking" (Brookfield 1987, 8). Critical thinking students seek out assumptions in their research and confront the issues in order to assess and define information. Assuming that research information is accurate without examining the data will often lead to the presentation inaccurate, irrelevant, substandard essays. The critical student, therefore, quickly learns to isolate the assumptions and investigate their validity and accuracy.

It is expected that university students will utilize their critical thinking skills to question all aspects of the information, seeking out the most appropriate material, in order to present a high-quality essay. Some areas in need of questioning are: whether the author is qualified to write on this subject, whether the issues raised can be verified, if the author has written without bias or cultural persuasion, whether the information is outdated and whether the information has been taken out of context (Online Guide to Writing and Research 2005).

Critically thinking students analyse information from different perspectives in order to understand

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