Background on the Course

Classroom materials

Writing assignment sheets

Workshopping and workshop sheets

Sample materials grouped by instructor

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Authors & Contributors

Definitions and Purposes for Critical Thinking (Harper)

Critical Thinking
"Thinking critically is the ability to understand a concept fully, taking in different sides of an issue or idea while not being swayed by the propaganda or other fraudulent methods used to promote it." --Denise Selleck

"A definition of critical thinking is the disposition to think clearly and accurately in order to be fair." --Richard Paul

Critical thinkers question their own beliefs as well as those of others, formulate well-reasoned arguments to support their beliefs, recognize the possibility of change in their beliefs, and express their beliefs in clear, coherent language.

Logic is the branch of philosophy that studies the consistency of arguments.

Audience and Purpose
A major distinction between writing outside the classroom and writing for a class lies in the audience to whom we write, what novelist and essayist Virginia Woolf refers to as "the face beneath the page."

Job-related writing tasks include a designated audience and a real purpose, but in a class, students are asked to write papers for the teacher to critique and grade, usually with no specified purpose beyond successfully completing an assignment. (In this class, you will create your own purposes/audiences for your essays).

Contrary to the advice of many writing texts, essays in real life (and most college-level academic settings) are not limited to prescribed numbers of paragraphs or a required sequence of parts (nor to the rule "never use I"). Essays, whether explanatory or persuasive, should be designed to communicate a writer's ideas in such a way that the writer's purpose is clear and logical and satisfies the needs of a particular audience.

"Thinking is the activity I love best, and writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers." --Isaac Asimov

(Excerpts from Ergo, Cooper & Patten, 2-11)