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Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Your reseach and project work needs to show critical thinking.

This blog reflects some of the questions people have been asking me... I am a bit surprised that people are not clear on what literature is as this was something that we covered in the last module, but after the summer months you might need to reconnect - I know this is something I need to do...

The research and project work that you are doing needs to be considered using critical thinking.

This means an thinking about the project work and research you are doing with conjunction with an examination of the literature - the things that people have written about your topic (this is the literature review in Chapter 2). Literature is a generic term for the things that you have read and seen (in the case of videos for example) that have informed the way you think about your topic - often in the case of academic research, the things that people have written about or researched have been peer reviewed so they have been scrutinised for their academic arguments and the evidence they have presented.

For example, Boal talked about (invented theories about) theatre being a political art form (you could quote something Boal said from his books using the Harvard style of reference - for example Harvard referencing style looks like this (Boal, year, page number) and maybe something someone has said about Boal like "... Boal is no stranger to crisis within the theatre and without. His engagement with disparate meanings of the political, and his persistence in finding meaningful applications of his work act against the impulse to have crisis bring theatre to an end" (Martin, 2006, p. 23). - this is the authors name but the source book the reference came from would be in my Bibliography/References. In your literature review you would explain what the quote had to do with the work you did. Not all of the literature is academic - it may be education policy that you had to refer to... a report from a dance organisation that said something about your topic etc.

Things that people have written about the methodology go in Chapter 3 - people who have written about the type of research and the process you are using - like Bell or your Handbook - need to be included to back up the methods you are using. You may need to find a source to explain what you are doing. Your Academic Advisor can help with this.

 The lack of critical thinking means that the work will not be as strong in the assessment process...  

Getting back into the project work - refer to your learning objectives in your 3861 Handbook and to the Level Descriptors for Level 6 on the MDX website...  - think about your own work and compare - have you looked at 'arguments' in your reading up about your topic? What concepts or ideas or issues have been discussed ? What do you have to say about your project? What did the research you did say aobut what you do in the workplace? What did other experts say about your topic? Were they right?

As you analyse your data from your research - these ideas are used to consider the 'findings'... Be prepared to discuss these with your Academic Advisor and peers... they are interesting becaseu they are real but you will need to back up what you say with 1. evidence from your research and project 2. from the things you have read.

Some key words repeated below:

Arguments “are sets of ideas which are expressed, and how they are constituted, in writing or in other forms is fundamental. Making an argument therefore involves working out how to construct, communicate, support and substantiate it….” (Mason 2003)

Concept – an idea “a unit of thought or element of knowledge that allows us to organize experience” (Janet Gail Donald (2001)

Theory –a rationale or justification based on ideas or evidence… “a system of ideas intended to explain a phenomenon especially a system based on general principles and therefore independent of the target phenomenon” (Brewerton and Millward 2001)

*Note – this is so that theories can be used to relate to more than one ‘problem’ being examined or explored in the field (first hand phenomena)

What does an academic theory have?
Academic theory – a way of looking at something – a way of explaining to inform and direct a point of view – when applied, it can structure an argument - different academic disciplines interpret concepts and theories differently (Anita Walsh 2008) i.e. the Health professional needs to understand theories and practice in a clinical setting that might have different ‘givens’ than a creative arts professional

Critical thinking

“critical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do`’ (Norris and Ennis, 1989,extracts from Fisher 2001).

Glaser (influenced by Dewey) defined critical thinking as:

“Critical thinking calls for a persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends.” (1941, p. 5 from Fisher 2001)

Stella Cottrell (The Study Skills Handbook 3rd ed) says that Glaser emphasises the importance of 3 main points about critical thinking
1. persistence
2. evidence
3. implications

Stella Cottrell (The Study Skills Handbook 3rd ed) also suggests applying analytical thinking - being able to do things like
•    “ looking for possible flaws in the reasoning of evidence, or the way in which the conclusions were drawn”
•    “comparing the same issue from the point of view of other theorists or writers” and “checking for hidden assumptions” (Cottrell 1999).

You use critical reasoning to:

•    Identify elements of a reasoned case
•    Identify and evaluate assumptions
•    Clarify and interpret expressions and ideas
•    Judge the acceptability and credibility of the claims
•    Evaluate the arguments of different kinds
•    Analyse, evaluate and produce explanations
•    Analyse, evaluate and make decisions
•    Draw inferences
•    Produce arguments (Fisher 2001)

These ideas are linked to what I would call critical curiosity  - your ability to want to know about something using a framework that is wider than what you already know (Nottingham, 2009).

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