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Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions



Chapter 42: Critical Thinking in Research Papers

What are some critical thinking qualities to identify or add?


A Toolbox of "Heuristics"

Checklist of Critical Thinking Tools in Good Research:

        Recall, Comprehension, and Application

        Analysis and Synthesis


Additional Resources and Activities



A range of good critical thinking skills are important in research papers.  "Critical thinking" is not negative thinking; rather, it can be defined as a variety of thinking tools used to thoroughly, logically, and creatively examine subjects.  Below is a list of critical thinking tools or skills found in most good research papers.  They are based on a very famous document, "Taxonomy of Thinking Skills" by Benjamin Bloom.  Can you identify by name what thinking tools and skills you are already using?  Can you see how you might add some of the ones you are not using, or add more of the ones you aren't using very much?


A Toolbox of "Heuristics"

What you need to develop as a good critical thinker is your own "toolbox" of thinking tools.  Try to imagine critical thinking not just as something that is completed, like a final great idea or a finished project.  Instead, try to see critical thinking as a series of tools that you collect and add to your toolbox of thinking tools.  These thinking tools are different methods you can take out of your toolbox and use in many different situations and needs. 

For example, when you hear the word "box," do you imagine some kind of already boxed goods--a box with something in it?  Or do you picture yourself boxing something--making a box?  Can you picture yourself using basic steps of making a box, and applying this to a number of situations?  Once you can do this, you have changed from seeing just one box to boxing things in general--boxing as a tool.

A similar example would be when you hear the word "analysis."  Do you imagine an analysis paper or analytical speech?  Or do you picture yourself analyzing something--making an analysis?  Can you picture yourself using basic steps of making an analysis, and applying these steps to a number of situations?  Once you can do this, you have changed from seeing just one analysis to analyzing things in general--analyzing as a tool.   

In both of these examples, the more common way of seeing--one final box or one final analysis--is just seeing a final result.  But seeing the process you can use in a number of situations is your thinking tool: you can take out this process, or tool, and apply it anytime to a number of potential situations. 

When you have a thinking tool like this, it not only can help you create results or products.  It also can act as a means of discovery.  For example, you can apply the thinking tool of analysis to figure out what a book, an article, a speech, or someone's complex action might really mean.  When you do this, you are thinking "heuristically."  A "heuristic" is a thinking tool that helps you discover or learn something.  In this way it is much like a screwdriver that you use to take something apart to see how it works, or a knife that you use to cut into something to see what is inside.  This kind of thinking is "heuristic thinking."  Your goal in good critical thinking is to develop your own toolbox of heuristics--heuristic heuristic tools--to help you find new ways to explore ideas, events, and people.  Below are some examples of common heuristic thinking tools.


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Checklist of Critical Thinking Tools in Good Research

Which of these ten types of heuristic thinking--from Bloom's six-point "Taxonomy of Thinking Skills"--do you use in your paper?

How often do you use them: once in your paper, once every 2-3 pp., or on every page?

Bloom's "Recall, Comprehension, and Application":

1.      Do you provide backgrounds, summaries, or definitions of main ideas or subjects?  (You may use historical, cultural, social, intellectual, statistical, graphed, or other explanations.)  For example, write a summary or background of an issue or book.

2.      Do you use thorough, consistent logic to prove your viewpoints?  [You may use “induction” (use specific facts to create a general idea) or “deduction” (use a general idea to predict specific results).]
E.g., offer clear, logical steps for a cause, effect, or conclusion.

3.      Do you clarify the difference between fact vs. opinion in main ideas?  (You may use fact vs. hypothesis, known/expected vs. unknown/unexpected, common knowledge vs. possibilities, etc.)
E.g., differentiate the facts and the opinions supporting an idea.

4.      Do you clarify differences between causal vs. correlational or parallel relationships? (You may use cause-and-effect to explain one, and simple connection or parallelism to explain the other.) E.g., describe cause/effect, connection, or accident in two ideas’/subjects’ relationship.

5.      Do you consistently relate or connect your points?  (You may use comparison, connection, or similarity, or show how they function or occur similarly.) E.g., use transition words well to connect ideas.

Bloom's "Analysis and Synthesis":

6.      Do you show clearly how ideas may be opposite or different?  (You may use contrast, dissimilarity, limits, opposition, or other difference.) E.g., use transition words well to show/explain differences between ideas.

7.      Do you explain important exceptions or alternatives to your ideas?  (You may use realistic exceptions/alternatives, or unrealistic ones that some may mistakenly assume are true.)  E.g., show a good or bad way of believing or acting that some people use (and explain whether it works).

8.      Do you synthesize or suggest original, unique, or unusual ideas?  (You may offer completely new, little known, unusual, or revised ideas.)  E.g., show a new possible result at the end of the paper or a body section. 

9.      Do you use supporting proofs for your ideas?  (For proofs you may use physical fact, sufficient circumstantial evidence, deductive probabilities, inductive possibilities, and/or experiences.)  E.g., use quotations, charts, or personal experiences to prove an idea may be true.

Bloom's "Evaluation":

10.   Do you evaluate differences of opinion about ideas?  (You may offer offer +'s and –'s; explain competing alternatives; or use phrases like "the other side of," "on the other hand," "it may be possible," etc.)  E.g., show the thinking of two opposing sides.

11.   Do you evaluate your own thinking or conclusions?   (You may state the +’s and –‘s, quality or lack of  it, or good and bad points of your own thinking or results.  E.g., evaluate your thinking/conclusions and/or offer differing possibilities or outcomes at the end of the paper or each section.

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Additional Resources & Activities

Critical Thinking in General:

  • Longer, more introductory discussion: See the chapter called "Thinking" in the "Starting" section.

Individual Types of Critical Thinking:

  • "Providing Deeper Explanation," "Offering New Evidence," and "Working with Audience Bias": See "Other Processes" in the "Advanced" part of the chapter called "Disagreeing with a Reading."

  • "Types of Analysis": See "Types of Analysis" in the "Basics" part and "Advanced Types of Analysis" in the "Advanced" part of the chapter called "Analyzing a Reading."

Critical Thinking Activities & Exercises:    


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 36. What Is "Research"?

 37. Research Process

 38. Choosing Resources

 39. Developing the Paper

 40. Quoting/Paraphrasing

 41. Avoiding Plagiarism

 42. Critical Thinking



MLA Ppr. Examples:
   Dialogic Args.
   Thesis Args.

APA Ppr. Examples:
   Case Studies
   Mag. Article


 Related Links in

  Examples of Several
  Bibliography Styles

  12. Types of Papers


  14. Online Readings

  16. Research Writing

  17. Citation & Documentation

  18. References & Resources

  19. Visual/Multimodal Design

  20. Major/Work Writing


Updated 1 Aug. 2013

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Previous editions: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted
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