Critical Thinking Lesson 3. Lesson 3 Objectives Identify and use questions and decision-making strategies for drafting a written assignment Identify and apply critical thinking steps to successful decision making in life situations Identify and use the four stages of the revision process
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Lesson 3 Objectives
Identify and use questions and decision-making strategies for drafting a written assignment
Identify and apply critical thinking steps to successful decision making in life situations
Identify and use the four stages of the revision process
Use language (vague, figurative, euphemistic, trite, emotive) appropriately for specific effect
Most decisions made while drafting a piece of writing are not made in a “first this, then that” sequential order.
The writing process is usually recursive. A recursive process is one that can repeat itself indefinitely.
In the writing process, ideas are generated, drafts are made, more ideas come, revisions are made, new drafts are written—back and forth until the writer says “this is it.”
Throughout this recursive process, writers must make decisions on purposes, audiences, subjects, and specific ideas and words.
Decide What Your Purpose for Writing Is
The writing you do in college and at work usually has a clear purpose. But if you are composing an email about reunion plans to go to your family list or a letter to the editor about a community problem, you might need to define your purpose. Do you want family members to help? Do you want the city council to act?
Decide Who Your Audience Is and What Its Needs Are
Different audiences have different needs. When you write, think carefully about who you are writing for: What background information will they need or not need? What tone and vocabulary is suitable?
Decide What Your Subject Is and Why It Is Interesting
You should write about a specific subject in order to maintain focus in your writing. In addition, you should have a sense of what it is about your subject that may be of interest to people other than yourself.
Decide Who You Are as a Writer
Are you speaking as someone who is an expert on an issue? Are you writing on a subject about which you have considerable personal experience? Or are you writing for an audience of experts whose conversation about a subject or issue you would like to join?
Decide on a Working Thesis
After some drafting, you need to think again about the thesis you may have started with or think about formulating one if you have not yet done so. As you continue to draft, you will decide exactly how to state your thesis and where to place it.
Decide What Information to Use and What More You Need
You may need to review your idea-generating activities and your tentative thesis at this stage. What information do you need to support your thesis? Think about what you know and don’t know, and think about what your audience needs to know.
Decide When to Outline to Bring Order to Your Draft
A rough outline that indicates the order of sections but is not carefully formatted usually helps get a draft into shape. Some writers make an outline or a plan before drafting, some writers outline after drafting, and some simply revise and redraft until they are satisfied.
Decide on an Introduction and a Conclusion
Although you will look carefully at these parts of your draft as you revise and refine, don’t forget to work out possible beginnings and endings as you draft.
Throughout your life you will continue to make decisions and to deal with decisions others make that affect your life.
Recalling a previous decision about your education, your relationships, your athletic activities, or any other part of your life will remind you of how important those choices are.
Summary for Making Decisions in Writing and in Life:
Define the decision clearly.
Consider all possible choices.
Gather all relevant information and evaluate the pros and cons of each possible choice.
Select the choice that seems best suited to the situation.
Implement a plan of action and monitor the results, making necessary adjustments.
Revision is the key to producing your best possible work. It is very rare for a first draft to represent your most effective writing.
The five-step decision-making process in the previous slide can be applied to revising your drafts:
Define the decision and your goals by identifying what needs to be revised and what should be left as is in your draft.
Consider possible choices for improving a draft, especially with major components such as the thesis statement, evidence, and arranging material in sequences, sections, or paragraphs.
Gather relevant information and evaluate the pros and cons of the different choices in order to select the one that best meets the needs of the writing situation.
After implementing your choices by revising the draft, re-read it to be sure it is as good as you can make it.
The following method can be used for revising your own papers and for reviewing your classmates’ papers. It can be applied to any assignment.
Step 1: Think big. Look at the draft as a whole.
Does it fulfill the assignment’s purpose in terms of topic and length?
Does it have a clear focus?
What parts of the draft, if any, do not relate to its focus?
How could the draft be reorganized to make it more logical for your audience?
What evidence could be added to help to accomplish your purpose?
How could the flow between paragraphs be made smoother?
Do you have a consistent point of view about your subject throughout?
Develop alternatives based on the answers to these questions, decide which alternatives will improve your draft, and then make changes to your draft before proceeding to the next level of revision.
Step 2: Think medium. Look at the draft paragraph by paragraph.
First consider the introduction.
How could you rewrite your lead to make your audience more interested?
Is the tone consistent across your draft?
How could you more effectively indicate your purpose for writing?
Then look at each of your body paragraphs.
Does each paragraph support the thesis or claim?
Does each paragraph present relevant, specific evidence about the subject?
Which, if any, body paragraphs should be combined or eliminated?
Which body paragraphs use topic sentences effectively? Which don’t?
Could you use transitions to improve the flow within or between body paragraphs?
Now look at your conclusion.
How could you make your conclusion more effective?
Does the tone of the conclusion match your overall tone?
Develop alternatives and make changes to your draft before proceeding to the next step.
Step 3: Think small. Look at the draft sentence by sentence.
Which sentences are difficult to understand? How could you reword them?
Which, if any, sentences are so long that your audience could get lost in them?
Are there short, choppy sentences that can be combined?
Which sentences seem vague? How could you clarify them?
Which, if any, sentences have errors in Standard English grammar or usage? How could you correct them?
Make necessary changes to your draft before proceeding to the next step.
Step 4: Think “picky.” Look at the draft as the fussiest critic might.
Which words are not clear or not quite right for your meaning? What words could you use instead?
Are any words spelled incorrectly? (Run the spell-checker program on your computer, but don’t rely on it alone.)
Are the pages numbered consecutively?
Does the physical appearance of your draft meet the assignment’s requirements for format?
Is there anything else you can do to improve your draft?
Sloppy language leads to sloppy thinking. Clear and precise language leads to clear and precise thinking.
Improving Vague Language
We often use words that are imprecise and general. Such nonspecific words are referred to as vague.
To avoid vague language, look for word choices that are more specific and less general. Consider the examples below, which move from the general to the specific.
She is really smart.
She does well in school.
She gets straight As.
She earned an A+ in physics.
You should work to become increasingly more precise in your use of language. When you revise your work, be on the lookout for vague words such as nice, good, fine, interesting, well, special, bad, really, very, old, young, situation, and so on.
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, / And then is heard no more. . . .”
In the passage above, from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we know that the speaker does not literally mean that life is “a walking shadow.”
Language like this, in which the words are not meant to be understood literally, is referred to as figurative language.
When should you use figurative language in your writing?
Extensive reading will help you develop a feel for opportunities, but here are four suggestions:
When you have trouble finding the right words
When you want to express a profound thought in a strikingly original way
When you want to add an extra dimension to a description
When you want to amuse your audience
Two common forms of figurative language are metaphor and simile.
Similes are direct comparisons that include the words as, like, or than. Example: “To the goalie, Mia Hamm’s shot looked like a photon of light.”
Metaphors are implied comparisons, usually using some part of the verb to be, and not including the words as, like, or than. Example: “To the goalie, Mia Hamm’s shot was a photon of light.”
Another form of figurative language is euphemism.
Using a euphemism involves substituting a pleasanter, less objectionable expression for a blunt or direct one.
For example, we often use euphemisms like passed away or went to her reward to disguise the unpleasantness of death.
People use euphemisms to help smooth out the rough edges of life, to make the unbearable bearable and the offensive inoffensive.
Euphemisms can be dangerous when they are used to create misperceptions of serious issues. For example, an alcoholic may describe herself as a “social drinker,” thus denying her problem and need for help.
In this Lesson you’ll write a paper in which you discuss some specific aspect of your experience with language. (See the text for more detailed guidelines.)
Before you start, consider these guidelines for connecting a personal experience with a complex issue:
Present your experience vividly and use specific details.
Clearly state how the experience affected you. What is the best place in your paper to do this?
Be explicit about the connections you see between your experience and the language concepts they illustrate.
Consider using some of the language techniques explored in this chapter (such as figurative language).
The Writing Situation
Purpose: One purpose you have here is to connect abstract ideas about language with real- life experiences so that you and your readers can understand the concepts better. As with any writing project, another major purpose is to make your points clear and convincing to your audience.
Audience: As always, consider who could benefit from reading your paper. Perhaps your ideas would appeal to a larger audience, in which case you could submit your writing for publication, possibly in the opinion pages of your campus newspaper, or some other publication or website.
Subject: Because language is such a large subject, one involving fairly simple as well as very complex ideas, writing about a real-life experience can clarify—and test—the ideas you choose to write about.
Writer: This project requires an analytical approach rather than a narrative one, even though you may decide to write about an event. Try to recall your experience as directly as you can, but then distance yourself as you analyze how language affected the experience.
The Writing Process
Generating Ideas: Think of times when something you heard, read, or even said had an impact on you:
Did someone use harsh language that upset you or comforting language that soothed you? Did you say something funny, helpful, embarrassing, or astute?
Are there any common denominators among the experiences? Does one experience stand out?
Have your significant language experiences typically involved spoken or written words?
Have any of your experiences involved more than one language or more than one dialect or level of usage?
Defining a Focus: What do you want your audience to understand about the way the experience has affected you? Draft a thesis statement that makes a point about your experience(s).
The Writing Process, Continued
Organizing Ideas: The organization of this paper will depend on whether you are discussing one or more experiences. However you approach it, you will need to consider what arrangement will best help your audience understand the effects of your experience(s).
Drafting: Remember that shaping ideas is your biggest concern at this stage. Trust yourself to speak about your own experiences and to explain what they mean to you.
Revising: Begin your revision by referring to “A Step-by-Step Method for Revising Any Assignment,” on page 169 of the textbook.