Thinking, Researching, Writing
Once you have developed the ability to manage yourself, being able to think critically is the next quality that you need to develop to be successful in college and your career. The rest of this course is devoted to helping you develop your critical thinking skills. This will involve learning how to ask the right questions; Voltaire said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” He knew that asking the right questions is the key to finding the most helpful answers to your problem.
Questions direct thought and thought directs action. Therefore, good questions can lead to good solutions.
• Questions of fact direct thoughts in a very specific way. Who, what, where, when, and how are questions of fact.
• Questions of understanding focus on the reasons or causes. Why? is an example of an interpretation question.
• Questions of application focus on how we can use the information. How? is an example of an application question.
• Questions of analysis break down complicated issues into manageable parts.
• Questions of evaluation are based on criteria for performance or values.
• Questions of synthesis ask how to combine several ideas to form a new concept or solution.
These questions should look familiar – they are from Bloom’s taxonomy and you have been working with them already. To help clarify your thinking even further, you need to understand the difference between facts, opinions, arguments, and personal experience.
• Facts represent information that has been researched, tested, and verified. They are universally accepted as true.
• Arguments are series of statements that can be used to form conclusions. Good (deductive) arguments are used to form conclusions that can be shown to be true or false. Good (inductive) arguments are based on thorough research and many observations.
• Opinions are beliefs and judgments that may or may not be based on evidence or proper evaluation and are usually based on personal experience.
• Personal experience can be used to understand similar situations. Personal experience can be used to achieve similar success or to avoid repeating past failures or disappointments.
There are two types of arguments: deductive and inductive. Inductive arguments begin with a theory and facts are collected via observation. The inductive argument ends with conclusions, which either are supported (reliable) or are not supported (unreliable) by the data or observations. The conclusion of an inductive argument never proves a theory. When we think of scientific experiments, we are thinking of inductive arguments in action. Some theories have great support – germ theory, for example – and other theories do not have much support (such as theories about crop circles). Other theories have different levels of support, depending on the data or observations that can be found. While some theories are called laws (e.g., the law of gravity) because they are supported so thoroughly, the theory has technically not been proven.
Deductive arguments begin with general claims or conclusions (based on inductive reasoning). These claims are applied to a specific situation. The conclusion can then be either true or false, and the reasoning is either valid or invalid.
Well-formed arguments supported by facts and illustrated by experience are the foundation of good writing. Well-formed arguments are what your professors are looking for when you respond in the online discussion area. We will look more at how critical thinking informs good writing, but first let’s look at how to do research that is more likely to be based on facts, rather than opinion.
College Level Research
When you are researching, you want to find sources that provide reliable information based on facts and sound reasoning. The most valuable resource for you is the DeVry University Library. Within the DeVry library are a number of databases that contain a multitude of articles. All the periodicals and other sources (newspapers, magazines, journals, peer-reviewed or scholarly journals, white papers, etc.) you find in the DeVry University Library databases have been validated, but it is always advisable to review each resource based on the principles of information validity discussed in last week’s lecture. This information, however, is generally more trustworthy than much of the information you would find on the Internet. While there are some government and education sites that you can trust on the Internet, the information you can find in the research databases is usually of a higher quality.
Once you complete your research and you read it, you need to begin forming an idea of how you will organize and present the information to your reader. An important concept to keep in mind is what your audience knows about your topic. You have to ask yourself, what does the average person already know about your topic? What might he or she think about it? How does he or she feel? Asking these questions can help you find a starting point for your writing and organizing process. Another starting point for writing is to read and reread the instructions the professor gave you for the writing assignment. The assignment lets you know the purpose of the paper: Are you supposed to explain something? Take a stand on a controversial issue and argue your point? Analyze the pros and cons of an issue?
An important part of the process is to brainstorm ideas for your topic. What have you found out about it so far? To begin, you might draw pictures, engage in free writing, build a traditional outline (with Roman numerals), draw a mind map, talk about it aloud to yourself, or try telling a friend about what you found in your research. The method you use (learning strategy) will be based on your learning style and dominant intelligence. (Remember what you learned in Week 2?) This part of the writing process is often referred to as prewriting.
Once you’ve formed an idea of what topics you need to present, it is time to focus on how you will structure your paper. Most students understand the importance of separating their paper into an introduction, body, and conclusion. In the introduction, you tell the reader what you will discuss in the paper. The introduction also contains your thesis statement, which is a concise sentence describing what your paper is about.
In the body of the paper, you discuss the concept you said you would describe. It is important to separate the body into paragraphs. Each paragraph should discuss a different aspect of your topic. You should organize these paragraphs into a logical order. In the final paragraph of the paper, you summarize what you discussed above.
For many students, their first draft is part of the prewriting process. You wrote your thoughts as they came to you, and they are now assembled in some type of order. Now, reread the instructions the professor gave you for the writing assignment: What were the goals of the paper? Have you met them? This is the beginning of the revision process.
Revising or editing your paper is an important part of the writing process. You are not done when you have the first draft down on paper. That is part of the prewriting process. Now you need to make sure your paper is organized, that you have transitions between your paragraphs, and that you supported your ideas with research. Are your arguments well formed? Is the reasoning valid? Have you cited your research in the text of the paper? We will look at citing your sources in more detail below.
You also need to review your paper for proper punctuation, capitalization, spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Microsoft Word can help you with these mechanical issues. Under theReview tab, you can click on Spelling & Grammar (all the way to the left) and it will help you check your paper. Note that Microsoft Word is not always correct for all grammar and sentence structure issues because there are many subtleties in writing, and Microsoft Word cannot account for them all. However, it is a helpful tool. Definitely use this tool to help you look at your paper more closely and to reexamine parts of it.
The above description is the briefest of reviews on the writing process. Through DeVry’s online tutoring help, Smarthinking, you have access to a writer’s handbook. Click on Tutor Help above on the left under Course Home. Then click on the Go to Smarthinking icon about two-thirds of the way down the page. It will open up a new page in a new tab or window. Then, click on theAcademic Resources icon. On the new page, under Subject-specific Study Guides select Writing, and it will take you to an extensive resource on writing. There are over 80 sections organized into five chapters. Definitely check out this very helpful resource.
Proper documentation of your research is another important step in the writing process. Most students have some familiarity with including their research at the end of the paper in a bibliography or works cited section. However, in academic papers, the kind you write in college, you need to also include in-text citations of your research. That is, at the end of each sentence that contains a quote, a statistic, a fact, or an idea, you need to include a reference of where you obtained that information. Note that you need to include an in-text citation even if you didn’t copy any words from a source, but just used that author’s ideas. You must cite all your research with in-text citations.
At DeVry, we use a method of citing your sources called APA documentation. APA is the American Psychological Association. They have developed a meticulous method for citing information from dozens of different types of research. You can learn all the details of how to correctly identify your research, but there are some basic guidelines that apply to all forms of documentation of your sources. Those guidelines are reviewed below.
It is easiest if you include your in-text references as you write. As you learned in the Week 3 Lecture, failure to include in-text citations in your work is plagiarism. Please review this section if you missed it last week. An easy way to include in-text citations at the end of each sentence that contains material that you learned from one of your sources is to use Microsoft Word’s References tool. With this tool, you fill out the table for each source, and then, with a simple click of a button, you can insert a correctly formatted in-text citation at the end of each sentence that contains material you learned from that source. Check out the document in the following link that shows you how to fill out this table: Word 2007 Citations.
APA References – Basic Guidelines
Whether or not you choose to use the Word 2007 Citation tool for your APA in-text citations and the references at the end of the paper, the following information will be helpful when you are completing the Reference section in your paper or filling out the table with the References tool.
Author, F. M. (date). Title. Source. Publication information.
Note that there is a period at the end of each field.
The AUTHOR’S last name goes first. Then add just the initials, no first names. Use first initial and middle initial, if available. If there is no author, then the title field is moved over to replace the author field. If there are multiple authors, you will list an author’s last name, insert a comma, and put each initial followed by a period. Insert a comma between authors. Always put an ampersand (&) before the last author’s name. Example:
Rashan, R. F., Alibaba, R. E., & Smith, J. D. (2009). Note that there is a space between each initial and a comma separating each author.
The DATE field should always have the four-digit year first (2006). This is the publication date, not the accessed or retrieved date. If it is a daily, weekly, or monthly publication (like a magazine or newspaper) then put the month and date like this: (2006, May 16). Do not use the month and date for journal articles. If no publication date is listed (as is the case for many government and education websites), you put n.d. in the parentheses, lower-case, like this (n.d.).
The TITLE field contains the chapter or article title. If there is no title other than the source, like for a book, then you skip the title field. Only the first word of the title should be capitalized unless the word is a proper noun. Even if all or most of the letters are capitalized in the original, do not have them capitalized in your APA reference. Here is an example of a reference with no author:
All about cats. (2009). Catz R Us. Retrieved on July 16, 2010 at http://www.catzrus.com.
The SOURCE field is the name of the book, magazine, journal, newspaper, or Internet source. It should be in italics. The first letter of most words should be capitalized. Again, even if most of the letters are capitalized in the original source, only capitalize the first letter of most words (except for words like for, to, and, a, the).
The PUBLICATION field varies by type of publication:
Books: Contains the city and the state to accompany all publishers for the book like this: City, State: Publisher. After the city, put a comma and the state abbreviation then put a colon and put the publisher name. Here is an example:
New York, NY: Pearson.
Journal articles: Provide the volume, issue, then pages (start to end). Do not include the following words in this section or any abbreviations (volume, issue, pages). For example:
Journal of American Dog Catchers, 17(3), 223–249. [17 is the volume, it is the third issue, and it is on pages 223–249. The 17 is italicized in a Word document, but the (3) is not.]
Newspaper and magazines: Just put the page numbers because you already have the complete date in the DATE field. For example: A1, A7.
Internet sources: Use the following format for the publication field: Retrieved May 16, 2006 at (PUT URL HERE without parentheses or period). The 6th edition prefers using a DOI (Digital Object Identifier — a lot of journals list it on the first page of a publication) number instead of a URL, when available.
Databases: The 6th Edition of APA no longer calls for a retrieval statement with the database name since the print information is available and usually easy to locate. However, if the article is difficult to locate, the database name should be included.
Institute of Medicine. (1999, November). To err is human: Building a safer health system. Retrieved from http://www.iom.edu/CMS/8-89/5574/4117.aspx
When you are writing your research paper, you need to cite every quote, paraphrase, statistic, and idea. Any direct quotes need to have a page number reference following the in-text citation: “direct quote” (Smith, 2011, p. 5). If you didn’t know about something before you did the research and you write about that information in your paper, you need to include an in-text citation at the end of that sentence, like this:
An in-text citation contains the author’s last name and the year of publication. When there are multiple authors and no date, it looks like this:
(Roepnack, Terzich, & Williamson, n.d.).
If there is no author (as in a newspaper article and many web articles), then a short form of the title is used. If the title of the article is “The best of both worlds: How to eat your cake and have it, too” and there is no author given and there is no date for the article, then it would look like this in your in-text citation: (The best of both, n.d.). However, in the Reference section at the end of the paper, the reference would look like this:
The best of both worlds: How to eat your cake and have it, too. (n.d.). Desserts R Us. Retrieved on from www.dessertsrus.com
This week, you learned about critical thinking, research, writing, and how to cite your research. Review this information and use it in your writing (see assignment you begin this week on building the APA references for your Leadership/Role Model project).
For more help on APA references, check out the following tutorial in the HUB: APA Style Basic Citation Forms Reference Guide. You can get to the HUB through the Student Resources link above under COURSE HOME. Or, you can go directly to http://hub2.devry.edu.
APA Style Basic Citation Forms Reference Guide
This video will give you examples of different citation methods based on the type of source you are using.
In order to achieve success with your studying, you need to have a plan or goals. To complete your Learning Plan (assigned next week), you will need to choose four areas in which you will improve your performance. Using the results of the various assessments you have taken, and based on your own experience, you will develop five goals. A well-known acronym for setting both long- and short-term goals is SMART. That is, a goal needs to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Framed. SMART goals are similar to action steps.
Goals can be set up using the following pattern:
○ Identify the specific goal.
○ List the action steps that must be taken to complete it successfully.
○ Estimate the time needed for each step. (Note: The time-frame needs to be specific; in fact, setting a specific date to reach your goal works best).
○ Create a plan to follow in order to get to that goal.
You have set goals before without even realizing it, in many cases. When you plan a vacation, for example, it’s a lot easier to plan when you know where you are going first! Armed with that information, you can develop a plan on how to be at the right place at the right time, and at the right cost as well. You should take a similar approach to your education and career goals. Many students sign up for a college degree program based on things they might like to study, and while this is okay, wouldn’t it be important to know you are working on a degree that will be in demand by employers when you finish your program? Of course it would.
Rather than set a long-term goal as completing your degree, wouldn’t it make more sense to first use some critical thinking skills by researching exactly what you would like to do? Then you can research what companies are looking for and make a plan to get there. For example, you will want to find out exactly what specific degrees companies are looking for and what skills and experiences they desire as well. Remember, you will be competing against others for that same job, and the hiring manager at a company will look at all the applications and resumes and select the person who is not only the best qualified for the open position but who will be the best fit as well. Once you know what potential employers are looking for in a job applicant, you can now do a self-analysis to see which of the requirements you already have and which ones you don’t have yet. You can then make a list of all the things you need to do to be sure you are the one hired when you get ready to apply. This means your long-term goal would be your “dream job,” and your short-term goals would be all the things you need to do to land that job!