?THE ROLE OF CRITICAL THINKING IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHARACTERISTICS OF ACADEMIC WRITING
JOSE A. ONYANGORE
The term critical thinking was derived from a Greek word ‘critique’ which means the art of judgment. Critical thinking exemplifies the ability to discern based on intellect by use of inductive and deductive reasoning. It has its origin in psychology and philosophy. The meaning of critical thinking has been defined by various scholars offering a variety of explanations based on their approach and perspectives. Paul (1992, p.9) defines critical thinking as “perfection of thoughts.” Bailin (2002) defines it as essentially good thinking that meets certain set criteria or standards of accuracy and adequacy. According to Ennis, (1981, p.8) “critical thinking is a reflective and reasonable thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.” While Facione (2000, p.61) defines it as, “judging in a reflective way what to do or what to believe.” Regardless of various definitions, it is evident that critical thinking as a skill is crucial in the learning process. Academic writing widely uses critical thinking tool to develop adequacy and draw relevance.
An academic writing is a concise, structured piece of writing that meets criteria set by a university or college. It encapsulates critical thinking as a cognitive approach that relies upon criteria to pass certain set parameters and achieve specified goals. Academic writing has various characteristics such as: formal in nature, objective perspective, critically engaged, responds to wider scholarships claims, references and usually persuasive in in nature. All of which bears a specific purpose.
Academic writing is relatively formal in nature. The purpose of formality is to avoid clichés, euphemism, offensive words, slang and offensive words that add no meaning. Formality entails being precise and straightforward in your statements following the officiated rules. Academic writing always follows official procedures excluding irrelevancy.
Academic writing is objective. Any piece of task or assignment was given out by an instructor is meant to address a certain area of interest, for instance, a specific topic with an intention to gauge the students understanding on a given area. This implies academic writing is target oriented and thus avoids generalizations. Its objectivity is evidenced by the existence of parameters and rules to follow. This aims to gauge understanding and comprehension.
Academic writing is critically engaged in the sense that it requires a student to use his or her requisite knowledge on the subject to assess and evaluate a given task using available gauges and then come up with a suitable piece of academic writing. Academic writings are tailor-made to suit certain criteria. This involves engaging the writer to write relatable content that is precise and relevant as such is based on the writer’s view or approach to things.
It responds to wider scholarship’s claims. This is based on the fact that it acknowledges other people’s ideas and thoughts through citations. It also attempts to verify claims and controversies and ascertain their worth to credibility. Academic writing facilitates ownership of ideas by the protection of author’s rights from infringement. It avoids plagiarism in writing thus protecting the writer’s right and consent on their own work instilling originality in ideas and pieces of writings. Branthwaite, Trueman ; Hartley (1980) states that originality is a key criterion to successful academic writing.
References are crucial in academic writing. Whenever a piece of work is written through the acquisition of ideas from other authors, a list of references is always provided to show the source of the ideas. This makes a writing more credible and reliable as it can be traced to its source. All facts are supported by evidence making academic writing self-reliable and self-explanatory in nature. Referencing purposes to give consent to idea owners and provide the basis for further research and study.
Academic writing is persuasive in nature. All writings whether an essay, a report or dissertation, they are mostly argumentative. They are always meant to support or object a theory or fact based on available evidence. Thus a writer is always on the move to persuade the instructor that he or she knows a certain topic well and cannot be swayed by or simply tries to show that his or her perspective to a certain fact is the right one which ought to be followed. As such academic writing becomes persuasive and its aim is to attract better scores by convincing the reader you know what she or he wants you to.
Critical thinking is regarded as a vital skill that is attained through a tertiary learning process. Tapper (2004) states that employers always sort out for graduates with the ability to transfer their critical thinking ability to the workplace. Andrew (2007, p.11) states, “To be critical is to take on a powerful position.” To attain success in academic writing, one has to reconstruct information, transform available knowledge and tailor it to conform to the set criteria.
Toulmin, Rieke ; Janik (1984 in Andrews 2000, p.5) define critical thinking as, “the central activity of providing reasons in support of a claim.” Critical think presents the voice of reason in every idea presented. Tapper 2004 relates to it the cognitive skill of rational judgment. While Siegel (1998) defines it as “the educational cognate of rationality.” All the questions pertaining to academic writing require skillful evaluation and appropriate answers. This cannot be achieved without critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking pertains to interpreting, analyzing, evaluating and inceptive reasoning to come up with sound judgment in regard to solving a set problem. Academic writings are problem-oriented tasks meant to solve a problem by use of logic and practicality. Critical thinking enables a student to solve problems provided to them by his or her instructors. Usage of critical skills in academic writing translates into better grades as one develops a reflective thought tolerating ambiguity.
Authoritative evidence, objectivity in academic writing are all achieved through thorough research, weighing information and coming up with detailed conclusive yet precise work. Critical thinking being evidence-based contributes remarkably to the provision of facts through references which are listed out in academic writing leaving more vivid answers rather than questions for the reader to ask. Academic writing tasks are always set to evaluate ones analyzing power and ability to induce reason to achieve the desired goal. Cadman (2000) study states that students are aware of what is expected in regard to their approach to academic writing. He emphasizes the importance of argument and critical thinking in academic writing.
In conclusion, critical thinking skill is of paramount significance to successive academic writing as it aids in navigation though set gauges following rules to come up with a satisfactory piece of writing that is acceptable. It aids in consistency, coherency, relevancy, and adequacy and helps a student to be cognizant, aware and tentative to all assessment requirements before embarking on writing down a piece of academic writing on a given task. Thus critical thinking intuitively plays a critical role in the development of the characteristics of academic writing as it is eminent that they are all subjects of critical thinking skill. Critical thinking comes in handy when writing a persuasive piece of academic writing if at all a student aims to soar high grades.
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