mosaic of man reading
Critical thinking is fundamental to success at university. It is a way of interpreting, questioning, analysing, evaluating, inferring, explaining and exploring. Critical thinking shapes the way in which you see information, the way in which you interact with and respond to information, and also the way in which you report information. Critical thinking is essential to your reading, your writing and the discussions you have in classes and seminars. Finally, critical thinking helps you to self-regulate and monitor your own ability to recognise and understand.
In this learning activity you will explore how to think critically. You will also discover the value of thinking critically and the impact this style of thinking and reading can have on your studies.
Activity 1: An introduction to critical thinking
It has been said that three of the world's greatest thinkers, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were clever men. However, it has also been claimed that they were not intellectual geniuses. Yet, whilst they may not have been intellectual geniuses they all had questioning minds and a strong desire to answer questions. Through natural curiosity and a fundamentally inquisitve nature, they reshaped the way in which we view and understand today's world. As a result, they were some of the best critical thinkers the world has ever seen.
Whilst students are not expected to rethink the laws of physics or reshape the way in which people think about the world, like Darwin, Newton and Einstein, you are expected to have a questioning mind and the ability to think deeply and skillfully about what you read and write. In short, you are expected to think 'critically'.
Read the cartoon and identify 2 problem areas the student encountered.
1. The statistics in the book were different to those given by the office of National Statistics.
2. The statistics were 5 years out of date.
When dealing with statistics in an area which changes as rapidly and quickly as internet usage, try to make sure that your data is as accurate and up to date as possible.
Activity 2: Fact or fiction?
An important area of critical thinking is being able to distinguish between fact and opinion. Opinons are often presented as facts, therefore being able to differentiate between fact and opinion is fundamental to successful reading and writing at university, especially when it comes to researching an essay or dissertation.
Read through the following fact or opinion.pdf to learn more about how to identify facts and opinion.
Open the quiz and answer the questions. Use the information in the fact or fiction.pdf to help you determine what is fact and what is opinion.
Open the the Timeline about Plato and try to identify which pieces of information are fact and which are opinion. You will need to use the internet to verify whether the information is fact or opinion. You do not need to write anything in this activity, but you will need to check your answers with the feedback on this page.
Plato was born between 429 and 423 BC.
The exact date of his birth is unknown.
Plato had 2 brothers and 1 sister.
He became a student of Socrates.
Plato wrote thirty-six dialogues and thirteen letters, often termed as Socratic dialogues.
He never places himself as a participant in his dialogues and often speaks through the third person form,or through another character, such as Socrates his teacher.
His books are among the oldest in the world.
He founded one of the earliest known organized schools in Western Civilization on a plot of land in the Grove of Hecademus or Academus. The Academy received its name from an ancient hero. It operated until AD 529.
Plato is said to have died between 348/347 BC, although the exact date is unknown.
He thought they were not as clever as him.
He is said to have been the best student that Socrates ever had.
Historians think that the later works are the best.
It was the best school of its time.
Like his teacher Socrates, who was executed in 399BC because of sophist beliefs, he thought the notion and existence of Gods was absurd.
Plato had the busiest and most stressful time of his life during his last few years.
Activity 3: Beginning to think critically
In the following activity you will begin to think critically.
Look at the names of the following 10 famous people. If you do not know who they are, use a Google search to find out.
Aung San Suu Kyi
Try to think of 10 ways by which the 10 people can be categorised. For example, men (Barak Obama, Michael Jackson, Orlando Blum, Usain Bolt, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein) and women (BoA, JK Rowling, Kate Hudson, Aung San Suu Kyi). Write your 10 ideas in the text entry box.
men and women
old and young
nationality, American, British, etc
profession e.g. sports star, singer
dead and alive
colour of skin
colour of hair
country of residence
amount of money earnt
How did you choose your categories?
You probably compared the different people and their characteristics by thinking rationally and exploring the similarities and differences between them.
You may have asked questions like 'Do any of the people share characteristics? If so, which ones?' or 'What is the most basic difference between these people?'
If this is how you divided the people into groups, then this means that you have been thinking critically.
Activity 4: Preparing to read critically
Click on this link for a visual overview of critical thinking.
As you can see from the diagram, it is necessary to think in a critical way before, during and after you read. This involves asking many questions. Questioning in such a manner requires using many different cognitive processes, some of which are of low complexity, for example asking 'what is this text about?, others high, e.g. evaluating proposed solutions.
Before you begin reading, it is advisable to assess the text itself and ask questions such as 'who is this text intended for?'. This is often thought of as as the 'questioning' stage. Following on from this, is the 'analysis' stage which takes place whilst reading. This involves asking questions such as 'what is the writer suggesting?' and 'Is all of the information correct/reliable?'. Finally, the 'evaluation' stage usually occurs after you have finished reading. It involves asking questions such as 'and, so what?' or 'what next?'.
Read the following questions and decide which process they belong to. Choose the correct answer by putting in one of radio buttons. You can check with the feedback box to see if you were correct.
Q1. What is this text about?
This is a question you should ask before you start reading and is therefore associated with the questioning process.
Q2. How do all the parts of this text/theory/study/research fit together?
This type of question would be useful whilst reading the text and is therefore associated with 'analysing' the text.
Q3. Why is this information significant? Why is the writer telling me this?
This question would be useful immediately after you have finished reading and is to do with 'evaluating' the text.
Q4. Why has the writer chosen this theory or solution?
Q5. Who has written this text?
Q6. What are the implications?
Q7. What can be learnt from this?
Q8. Is all of the information correct?
It is good practice to ask this question and to check more than one source to verify the integrity of the information you are reading.
Q9. When was this text written?
Q10. What next?
For more detailed information about critical thinking and questioning, read the Critical Thinking.pdf
Activity 5: Questioning the text
In a moment you will read a text about the Lost City of Atlantis, titled 'Lost city of Atlantis discovered? Grainy images show city-like formations at the bottom of the Caribbean'. This text has been taken from a newspaper and has been used to illustrate key points and issues associated with critical reading and thinking. Whilst a newspaper article (especially one from the newspaper in question) is useful for the purposes of introducing concepts such as critical thinking and reading, the language and learning unit do not recommended you use newspapers as the basis of any piece of academic writing you may do as part of your degree and postgraduate degree courses.
Before you begin reading, think of several questions you could ask about the text, for example, when was this article written? or, who wrote it?
Remember the 3 stages, 'questioning', 'analysing' and evaluating.
Use information learnt in the previous activity and the interactive overview you saw in activity 3 to help you with your questioning.
Write your questions in the text entry box before checking with the feedback.
Questions you could ask in the questioning stage are:
Who wrote it?
Why did they write it?
Why am I reading this text?
What do I hope to learn?
Who has this article been written about?
Who has been cited/referenced in this article?
Where has the evidence come from?
When was this text written?
When did the incident/research being discussed occur?
When will I be able to use what I have learnt in this text, in my own writing?
Open and read the article. Answer your questions. Write your answers in the text box provided. Check your answers with the feedback.
Here are some sample questions and answers:
Who wrote it? The author's name is not printed, but they are a journalist who writes for the Daily Mail.
Why did they write it? The story of the Lost City of Atlantis is a much debated topic which attracts a lot of interest. Prior to the publication of this story, There had been a significant 'development' which may or may not have shed further light on the mystery which surrounds the story.
Why am I reading this text? You are reading this text to try and learn if indeed the lost city has been found. In this case, you are also reading to try and improve your critical thinking skills.
What do I hope to learn? You hope to learn whether or not the city has been found. You also hope to learn how to critically analyse a text.
Who has this article been written about? The article has been written about Plato and his ancient texts. It also covers historians and a group of people who claim to have found the lost city.
Who has been cited/referenced in this article? There are no references in this article.
Where has the evidence come from? The evidence comes from a group of 'undersea archaeologists' who refuse to identify themselves.
When was this text written? It was written in December 2009.
When did the incident/research being discussed occur? The exact date is not mentioned, but presumably the discovery happened days before the article was printed.
When will I be able to use what I have learnt in this text, in my own writing? The evidence presented in this article is highly questionable as it comes from a newspaper which is notirous for printing right wing biased news. Aside from the reputation of the newspaper, this story is one sided (there is no evidence to support or counter the claims made) and therefore would not be advisable to use in an essay. It would be necessary to verify the discovery with other articles and historical sources before using the story in your own work.
Activity 6: Analysing the text
In this activity you will begin to focus on analysing a text, a critical part of the critical thinking and reading process.
Now that you have 'questioned' the text, it is time to analyse it.
Using the interactive overview as a guide, think of a set of questions which are useful to ask when analysing a text. Try to make your questions relevant to the text you are reading. Write your questions in the text entry box.
Questions you could ask during the analysing stage are:
How does this research fit in with what everyone else says?
How has this author arrived at this conclusion?
How do those parts of the picture fit together?
Why has the author chosen to present the information in this way?
Why has the author chosen to present only the information that they have presented?
Why has the author chosen to believe this theory?
Read through the article again, but this time try to answer the questions you have just asked.
Sample questions and answers could be:
How does this research fit in with what everyone else says? The research in this article does not tie in with previous theories. In fact, it presents completely new information, some of which is highly questionable due to the lack of evidence.
How has this author arrived at this conclusion? The author has arrived at the conclusion based on visual evidence provided by a group of scientists who wish to remain anonymous. An academic essay would require far more substantial evidence than this if it were to seriously address an issue/argument/thesis.
How do those parts of the picture fit together? There are still parts of the picture which do not appear to fit together. For example, the supposed date of the city (9600BC). According to the story in the Daily Mail, 'this date would make the city nearly as old as the end of the last ice age' which 'seems rather unlikely' (Daily Mail, 2009). However, if this date is true, perhaps we need to rethink the whole of history as we know it.
Why has the author chosen to present the information in this way? The author is writing in a sensationalist fashion, trying to provoke the audience into a reaction; either one of complete belief or compelte disbelief. In this instance, the author's main concern is selling papers as opposed to providing a balanced and reliable account. Whilst sensationalist writing has no place in academia, author's do often present facts and information in a particular manner to try and give more wieght to their theory or to try and influence the reader in some way.
Why has the author chosen to present only the information that they have presented? If the author were to present more information about the story (of which there is a lot, mostly contradictory), he would be undermining the plausibility of the evidence he has used. It is for this reason that the story is one sided and non credible.
Why has the author chosen to believe this theory? It is clear from the story written that the author does not believe the theory being advocated. We can see his/her lack of belief through the language he/she uses, e.g. "A group of 'undersea archaeologists' have become the latest to claim they have uncovered the lost city of Atlantis". The words 'the latest' suggest that there have been a lot of prior attempts at identifying the lost city, and the the word 'claim' suggests that there is no definite proof to substantiate the statement.
Activity 7: Evaluating the text
Evaluating a text can be the most difficult stage of critical thinking and reading. It can often involve complicated cognitive processes. It is during this stage that you are expected to tie all your thoughts together and to look beyond the text to see its value to your own writing and research.
Re-read the article on the Lost City of Atlantis from the Daily Mail, and evaluate it, using the question 'and, so what?'. Try to think about the following areas:
what does all this actually mean?
what impact does this have on my line of reasoning?
what effect does this have on future research?
does this evidence negate other evidence?
why should I believe what I have just read?
how does this influence the conclusions I draw?
what should I do with this information?
what relevance does this have on the wider research community?
Questions you could ask during the evaluating stage are:
What does all this actually mean? The new evidence provided in the Daily Mail articles means that historians are no closer to locating the lost city. In fact, the added possiblity of this new location makes the task even more difficult. It also means that previous theories are being questioned and that much research is being undermined.
What impact does this have on my line of reasoning? Dependent on whether you were previously convinced by other theories relating to the lost city, i.e. that Santorini was the ancient and mythical city, you may now find that you are unsure what to believe.
What effect does this have on future research? Future research will now have to work hard to prove that this theory is either true or false. Much more research will need to be carried out and more substantial proof will need to be found.
Does this evidence negate other evidence? In some respects, yes. In others, no. For example, the text has highlighted that this is a mystery which will go unsolved for many years to come. It has called into question the idea that the city had been found. Furthermore, it has shown that a mystery as old as this cannot be solved overnight. Nor for that matter, can it be disproved over night. The evidence produced by this new research is not comprehensive enough to rule out previous research.
Why should I believe what I have just read? There are many clues in this text that should lead you to the conclusion that you cannot believe all that you have just read. For example, the fact that the scientists wish to remain anonmous. The fact that the writer uses the words 'insist' ("They insist the snaps show what appear to be the ruins of a city that could pre-date Egypt's pyramids")
to report about the scientists claims - it seems as though many people have already discounted their story. The writer reports "Now the anonymous group wants to raise funds to explore the secret location where the images were taken", which highlights that as yet, this story is based on speculation rather than hard evidence. No research has been undertaken and as we all know, photographs often show false images. In addition, the writer states that 'eyebrows have been raised' which again suggests people are sceptical about the story.
How does this influence the conclusions I draw? The only true conclusion that can be drawn after reading the Daily Mail article, is that no conclusive conclusion can be drawn. Until more research is carried out, the story is once again unresolved.
What should I do with this information? This information should make you think. For example, it is good to know that there are other possibilities which are yet to be explored. This highlights the fact that until conclusive evidence is provided, nothing is certain. This information reminds you that we need to critically think and evaluate all that we see, read, hear and write. This information/situation should be stored for the future.
What relevance does this have on the wider research community? The relevance of this new information has an enormous impact on the research community. At the least, it creates a fresh discussion on the topic. At worst, it negates much of what has been previously thought. Either way, it will cause historians to re-evaluate all that they know about the topic and to re-examine and re-question all the evidence which has been collected thus far.
For more information on critical thinking and analysis, click here and see a short, interactive example of a critically analysed text.
Activity 8: Thinking critically
In this activity you will begin to think critically about a couple of newspaper articles. You will need to use the information and skills you have learnt in the first 7 questions of this Learning Object.
Read the newspaper headlines beneath. One has been taken from the Telegraph, a reputable broadsheet. The other from the Sun, a popular tabloid newspaper.
Lost city of Atlantis 'could be buried in southern Spain'
'Atlantis' spotted on ocean floor off Africa
Q1. Which newspaper does the headline 'Lost city of Atlantis 'could be buried in southern Spain' come from?
This headline belongs to the Telegraph. The clue is in the word 'could'. In using 'could be' rather than 'is', the newspaper has identified the possibility that this may not be true. This type of caution is very common is academic writing, especially when making strong claims that may later be discounted. Identifying usage of, and lack of, hedged language [5kb], is an integral part of critical thinking. Being able to identify clues such as these can be extremely useful when ascertaining the validity of a source.
Q2. Which newspaper does the headline 'Atlantis' spotted on ocean floor off Africa' come from?
This headline belongs to the Sun. There is no attempt to address the notion that this may not be true. Such bias is a vital clue that this story is unreliable and implausible. The fact that the author is so committed to the story shows an unreserved desire to sell newspapers and tomake people believe what he has to say. Headlines as obvious as these are not common in academic writing, although it is good to be aware of how well the author is writing a balanced, reliable, supported account of the story.
Both of the headlines mention alternative locations for the lost city of Atlantis. This calls into question the information you read in the Daily Mail article.
At university it is not uncommon to read two contradictory articles. Quite often, a researcher will try to, and often succeeds in, disproving an established theory, or at least, proposing an equally plausible one. It is through critical thinking that we are able to judge which of the theories is the most reliable and which we believe to be more accurate.
Q3. How could you verify which story is true/which story is more plausible?
It would be a good idea to check all of the items listed above. This would be the only way you could verify if the evidence is real, if the story is accurate, if the theory is plausible and how this new information fits into the established theory about the Lost City of Atlantis.
Firstly, check the dates of the articles to see if either headline is old or out of date. You will notice that the Daily Mail story and the Telegraph story are not dissimilar in date. They are the most recent. The story by the Sun is the oldest. It was written nearly a year before the other 2 stories.
Secondly, check if there are any other articles about the Lost City. If you do your research, you will see that the Sun ran a follow up article (The follow up article), and that are are numerous articles about this topic.
Thirdly, check the primary evidence. The evidence presented in the Sun, was later shown to be sonar data collected as boats mapped the ocean floor, and not actually the foundations of a lost city at all. You will also find out that the man who presented the information to the Sun, had actually taken the idea from an American couple who had previously built a website about it. In other words, he plagiarised the information.
Fourthly, see how this story fits (or does not fit) into the establised theory that the Greek Island of Sanotrini is the Lost City. Most historians would not accept the newer ideas.
Read the articles by The TelegraphandThe Sun and answer the questions beneath.
Q4. Which of the 2 articles do you find to be more plausible/convincing? Why do you think this? Write your answer in the text box beneath before checking with the feedback.
Possible answer: The Telegraph article seems more plausbile because it mentions other possible locations for the lost city and thus highlights the fact that this is an age old mystery which is still a long way from being solved, even with the new evidence. In doing so, it gives the reader a balanced account of the facts as we know them to date. It provides a list of reasons why southern Spain is a definite contender for the location of the lost city of Atlantis. In addition, much of the information in the article is hedged (for further information on hedging refer to the Hedging learning object). We can see the hedges in the words 'claimed' and 'most likely'. In using hedged language, the writer is not giving a fully biased account. (However, all writing contains some bias and this is something you as a reader should always be aware of). Above all, the writer refers to and quotes from researchers who are undertaking detailed work at the actual archealogical site. That is, he provides tangible evidence to prove that the location in southern Spain could be a possiblity.
The Sun article does not contain any real information at all. It is based on one man's experiences with Google Earth. The article therefore is not based on reliable evidence. In fact, the article contradicts itself at the end as it tells the reader that the evidence it has used is not really the foundations of a lost city, but is sonar data created by a moving ship mapping the area. In addition, the article does not discuss or mention any other theories or possibilities for the location of the city. In this respect, the article is biased and unbalanced. Whilst the article does use hedged language in parts, this is more to do with the author's stance on the subject than the subject itself. Furthermore, the article provides a considerable amount of superfluous information, for example, the part about the t.v. series. This means the article lacks credibility.
Q5. In which way does the article by the Telegraph differ from the article written by the Daily Mail? Which do you think contains more bias? How did you arrive at this conclusion?
In the same way that the Sun does not base it's article on research, the Daily Mail fails to use research as the basis of its article. This means the article lacks credibility. In this respect the Telegraph article is different from the Daily Mail article in that it is more plausible and more credible. However, as mentioned several times in this learning object, no news story is unbiased.
Both of the articles are biased. That is, they are both written from a subjective perspective and both try to convince the reader to read the whole article and believe what they read.
Bias can be seen in the words 'believe', 'until now', 'it is claimed', 'new evidence', 'the site most likely', 'have already proved', 'have given weight to the theory' and 'insist'.
Activity 9: Reading between the lines
When reading the news, it is good to remember that no news is reported without bias. In fact, this can be said about most types of writing, even academic writing. This observation is best reflected by the following quotation
'The great blockbusteer myth of modern journalism is objectivity, the idea that a good newspaper or broadcaster simply collects and reproduces the objective truth. It is a classic Flat Earth tale, widely believed and devoid of reality. It has never happened and never will happen because it cannot happen. Reality exists objectively, but any attempt to record the truth about it always and everywhere necessarily involves selection' (Davies, N., 2005 cited in Edwards, D & D. Cromwell, 2009 p 3).
As Edwards and Cromwell point out, '[Facts] are gathered by human beings guided by mundane, earthy, often compromised beliefs and motives. To choose 'this' fact over 'that' fact is already to express an opinion. To highlilght 'this' fact over 'that' fact is to comment (Edwards, D & D. Cromwell., 2009).
Read the following extract from the Sun newspaper.
Migrant rush hits services hard.
ROCKETING immigration has left schools, hospitals, police and housing at full stretch, watchdogs warned yesterday. Towns have been hit by racial tension, street crime and binge drinking as foreign arrivals flood in. And roads are more dangerous than ever because of poor driving by some newcomers. The knock-on effects of mass immigration since Labour relaxed our border controls are laid bare in a report by the Audit Commission. It says many councils are struggling to cope with the flood of workers from Eastern Europe. A staggering 662,000 arrived last year. But many organisations were unprepared for them. The impact on housing has been greatest with an alarming rise in overcrowded properties. Ministers are urged to give immigrants crash courses in English to ease pressure on councils. This would help them to integrate properly with communities, learn about their entitlements and avoid exploitation. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis, said: “The consequences of uncontrolled immigration are hitting local authorities up and down the country.”
Sourced from: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article30583.ece on 4/5/10 [No longer available]
Q1. Is this article in favour of immigration by East European migrants?
No, it is most definitely not in favour of immigration.
Q2. Which words/phrases in the text lead you to this conclusion? Write your answers in the text box beneath.
Words and expressions such as:
'at full stretch'
'Towns have been hit'
'foreign arrivals flood in'
'The knock-on effects'
'councils are struggling to cope'
'an alarming rise'
Q3. Do you think that the text has given a fair and balanced account?
no. His argument is flawed, his reasoning is unclear and his logic is skewed. He has clearly based his whole article on one sided data which is fundamentally flawed. Any article about immigration will confirm this, for example, this article.
Parts of the text raise questions as it seems that the journalist is only reporting the alarming sides of the problem. For example, the part in which they report that 'Towns have been hit by racial tension, street crime and binge drinking as foreign arrivals flood in'. This would lead an uninformed reader to believe that these were new problems, caused as a direct consequence of migration to the UK by East European migrants. However, problems of racial tension, street crime and binge drinking are not new to the UK. They have existed in UK towns for a long time, and although may be exacerbated (this would need to be verified by a second source) by migration, are certainly not caused by it.
Q4. Which other parts of the text raise questions? Write your answer in the text box beneath before checking your answers with the feedback secction.
Where is the evidence to support the claim that services are at full stretch?
How does the journalist know that people are driving badly? Where is his evidence?
What is the name of the report published by the Audit Commission? Where can I read a copy as I would like to verify the claims?
Which organisations were unprepared? Where is the evidence?
Is immigration really uncontrolled? Where is the evidence to support this claim?
Activity 10: What is critical thinking?
Now that you have completed a series of exercises designed to help you learn and reflect on the nature and necessity of critical thinking and reading, it is time that you tested your knowledge.
Read the following statements and decide if they are true or false. Tick the appropriate check box.
1. You should always believe what you read without questioning the information.
2. Critical thinking requires engagement with the text and is therefore an active activity.
3. Critical thinking and reading involves making reasoned judgements.
4. The language a writer uses does not affect the message s/he is portraying.
5. It is easy to identify when a writer is using persuasive and biased language.
6. Critical thinking involves trying to find weaknesses and flaws in arguments.
7. Critical thinking involves logical thinking based on facts and evidence.
8. Understanding the key points in a text is not essential, just getting the basic gist of the text is fine.
9. Evaluating evidence is time consuming and can be skipped over.
10. Information in facts can always be questioned.
1) False: You should always question what you read.
2) True: Writers often write with bias, as they are trying to persuade you to believe their point of view. You therefore need to question, analyse and evaluate before, during and after you read. Additionally, you need to read between the lines and effectively 'read' information that hasn't been written. This makes critical thinking an active activity.
3) True: Writers often present facts which support their argument rather than presenting the full picture. It is therefore necessary to judge whether what you are reading is accurate and balanced, or biased and subjective (opinion based). A reasoned judgement is often the only way of interpreting data.
4) False: Writers often use emphatic language, such as 'claims', 'purports', 'undoubtedly', to greatly influence the message/argument being advocated.
5) False: It is often very difficult to spot that a writer is using persuasive language. This is where we have to use critical thinking skills in order to analyse and evaluate what we are being told.
6) True: Written arguments are often built upon facts which support the argument. Facts which point out flaws in the argument are often left out, leaving a one sided argument. As a reader and critical thinker, it is helpful to try and identify instances of this. Additionally, conclusions are often drawn.
7) True: In higher education in the UK, all claims, arguments, hypotheses and theories are based on evidence. Interpreting the claims, arguments, hypotheses, theories and evidence involves logical thinking.
8) False: It is imperative to understand the key points of the text. If you do not fully understand them, try to find someone who can help you, otherwise you miss the crux of the text.
9) False: Evaluating evidence is vital in all reading you do. It is important that you are reading actively, engaging with the text and asking constant questions, such as 'where is the evidence to support that claim?' and 'why does the author use the word 'definitely' here? Does s/he have evidence they are not showing?', rather than reading passively and believing everything you read. This stage should not be skipped over.
10) True: There have been many instances in history when we have believed something, only to be shown later that it is in fact, incorrect. For example, many years ago it was believed that the world was flat and as a result people were frightened to sail to the edge of the earth in case they fell off. This was later proved wrong when people did indeed sail around the world without falling of the end.
Would you like to review the main points?
In sum, critical thinking is crucial to academic success. Thinking in a disciplined manner helps you to evaluate evidence, build arguments and draw logical conclusions from data. When reading it is necessary to critically question, analyse and evaluate the text. It is also important to be able to distinguish facts from opinions, be able to read between the lines and to see the flaws in an author's reasoning, logic and argument.
Whilst the texts used in this Learning Object were taken predominantly from newspapers, they highlight the necessity of using the aforementioned skills. They show that it is necessary to think logically, to question, to analyse and to evaluate the information you are being presented with.
Upon first glance and with a small amout of questioning, it is clear that the Sun's article is non credible. It discusses a television series and also includes an account from Plato himself (even though he has been dead for almost 2500 years). In addition, if you read (the Sun's follow up article) and do a small amount of investigation on the web, you will find that the man who submitted the evidence to the Sun, had actually taken his ideas from an American couple. The evidence is therefore unreliable and the article easily identifiable as a non credible source.
Whilst the Telegraph's article appears to be a credible piece of text, it contains a large degree of bias. That is, it presents few facts to counter the claims being made. Yet, the evidence used has been drawn from an archeological dig currently being undertaken in Spain, by a group of researching academics and is thus more reliable than the images from Google Earth.
The credibility of the Daily Mail's story is a little more difficult to ascertain, as it gives a first impression of being believable. Yet whilst it lists several possibilites for the location of the lost city (and thus removes an element of bias with it), it does not draw its evidence from a viable source, rather from the reports of a group of scientists who wish to remain anonymous and who have also taken their evidence from Google Earth. The conclusion of the article reveals that Google Earth is flawed and does not always provide accurate information. Indeed, at the end of the article, the reader finds out that the evidence has been discounted by Google itself. This renders the whole article useless and effectively brings one to question why it was written in the first place.
When reading the news, it is good to remember that no news is reported without bias. In fact, this can be also be said to be true about most types of writing, even academic writing. This observation is best reflected by the following quotation 'The great blockbusteer myth of modern journalism is objectivity, the idea that a good newspaper or broadcaster simply collects and reproduces the objective truth. It is a classic Flat Earth tale, widely believed and devoid of reality. It has never happened and never will happen because it cannot happen. Reality exists objectively, but any attempt to record the truth about it always and everywhere necessarily involves selection' (Davies, N., 2005 cited in Edwards, D & D. Cromwell, 2009 p 3). As Edwards and Cromwell point out, '[Facts] are gathered by human beings guided by mundane, earthy, often compromised beliefs and motives. To choose 'this' fact over 'that' fact is already to express an opinion. To highlilght 'this' fact over 'that' fact is to comment (Edwards, D & D. Cromwell., 2009).
For further information got to The Critical Thinking Community
Brickhouse, T & N.D. Smith (2009) Plato. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosopy. A peer reviewed academic resource [online]. Available at http://www.iep.utm.edu/plato/ [Accessed on 8/6/10]
Critical Thinking Community. (n.d.) Available at http://www.criticalthinking.org. [Accessed online on 4/6/10].
Govan, F. (2010). Lost city of Atlantis 'could be buried in southern Spain' . [Online]. Available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/7019522/Lost-city-of-Atlantis-could-be-buried-in-southern-Spain.html [Accessed on 7/6/10]
Jowett, B. (2009). The Republic. [Online]. Available at http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html. [Accessed on 9/6/10]
Kemerling, G. (2006). Plato [Online]. Available at http://www.philosophypages.com/ph/plat.htm. [Accessed on 8/6/10]
Mail Foreign Service. (2009) Lost city of Atlantis discovered? Grainy images show city-like formations at the bottom of the Caribbean [online]. Available at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1236651/Is-lost-city-Atlantis-Grainy-images-released-showing-city-like-structures-beneath-Caribbean-Sea.html. [Accessed on 7/6/10]
Markova, E & Black, R. (2007) East European immigration and community cohesion [online]. Available at http://www.northamptonshireobservatory.org.uk. [Accessed on 10/6/10].
Doe, J. (2002) Studies of learning objects. Southampton: Soton univ. press.
Davies, N (2005) Flat Earth News p. 350 cited in Edwards, D & D. Cromwell. (2009). Newspeak in the 21st Century. pp 3
© Jessica Cooper / Queen Mary University of London /Photograph used courtesy of takomabibelot under flickr creative commons attribution license / Comic produced courtesy of makebeliefcomix.com / Images on pdf used courtesy of googleimages
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