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Webinar Transcripts

Demonstrating Critical Thinking in Writing Assignments

Presented June 27, 2017

View the webinar recording

Last updated 7/19/2017

 

Visual: The webinar begins with a PowerPoint title slide in the large central panel. A captioning pod, Q&A pod, and files pod are stacked on the right side.

The slide says “Housekeeping” and the following:

  • Recording
    • Will be available online a day or two from now.
  • Interact
    • Polls, files, and links are interactive.
  • Q&A
    • Use the Q&A box to ask questions.
    • Send to writingsupport@waldenu.edu
  • Help
    • Choose “Help” in the upper right hand corner of the webinar room.

Audio: Beth: Hello everyone and thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Beth Nastachowski, and I'm going to get us started by going over a couple of quick housekeeping notes before I hand the session over to our presenter today, Melissa. So, a couple of quick things here, everyone. The first is that you may have noticed that I've started the recording for this webinar and I'll be posting the recording in full in our webinar archive probably by this evening if not a little bit sooner, and so if you have to leave for any reason or if you'd like to come back and review the session, you're more than welcome to do so. And you can find that recording in our webinar archives. And I also like to note here that we do record all of the webinars in the Writing Center so you're more than welcome to access those webinars at any time if you ever see a session that’s being presented live that you can't attend, you can always find the recording. Additionally, we have those recordings available any time so if you're looking for help on a particular topic you can always find a recording in the webinar archive as well.

There are lots of ways for you to interact with us, and with our presenter Melissa, today. So, I do encourage you to do that. I know Melissa has a poll and a couple chats put together throughout the session here, but also note that you can download her slides in the files pod at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. There are lots of links to additional information and resources in this webinar so you can access those links. You can click on them as Melissa is going through them in the webinar itself, but you can also save them by downloading those slides in the PowerPoint files pod on the bottom right-hand corner. So, feel free to do so. You can just click on the slides file and then click download files and it will save it to your computer.

The other way that you can kind of interact with us today is through the Q and A box. So, I will be monitoring that Q and A box throughout the session today. And I’m happy to respond to any questions or comments that you have throughout this session. So, do let me know how I can help, what information I can get you, what questions I can help you in that Q and A box, and then I also like to note that if you do have a question and maybe it's at the very end of the session and we just aren't able to get to it or if you come up with a question after the webinar, you think of it later, do make sure to e-mail us at writingsupport@waldenu.edu. We are happy to help and respond via e-mail as well, so do let us know.

And then finally, if you have any technical issues I am happy to help. I have a couple of tips I can give you if you're having technical issues, so do let me know if that Q and A box, but I also like to note there's the help button in the top right-hand corner of the screen and that's Adobe Connect's help option and that's really the best place to go if you're having significant technical issues. Alright, and so, with that, Melissa, I will hand it over to you.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the title of the webinar, “Demonstrating Critical Thinking in Writing Assignments” and the speaker’s name and information: Melissa Sharpe, Writing Instructor, Walden Writing Center

Audio: Melissa: Great. Thank you, Beth. Hi everybody. My name is Melissa Sharpe and I'm a writing instructor here at the Walden Writing Center and thank you for joining us today where we're going to be looking at what critical thinking is, as well as how to demonstrate it in our course work and academic writing. So, let's begin.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Agenda

Critical Thinking:

  • Thesis Development
  • Paraphrasing
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis

Audio: This is our agenda for today and we will return to it throughout the webinar to help stay on track just to remember where we've been and what's coming up next. The purpose for this webinar is to define critical thinking and then look at how we make it obvious that we're thinking critically in our writing. We hear the word "critical thinking" a lot but we may wonder, okay, how do I think critically in writing or how do I make it clear that I have used critical thinking skills. So today in this webinar we will look at the definition of critical thinking and then we'll see how we demonstrate that thinking in our thesis statement, in our paraphrases, in analysis and synthesis. And these are things that we include in our writing and when they are done strong, they provide the evidence that we have put critical thinking into our writing so we'll get to look at that relationship today. You may find yourself realizing throughout this webinar that you're already demonstrating critical thinking in your work.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Critical Thinking

An original and informed assessment of an idea, theory, or phenomenon.

  • Original: Not just a paraphrase/quote
  • Informed:  Backed up by scholarly research
  • Assessment: Takes a stand on an issue

Audio: So, we'll start off with that definition of critical thinking and the definition of critical thinking that we will use throughout this presentation, and it's a widely accepted definition, and that is critical thinking is an original and informed assessment of an idea, theory, or phenomenon. And really the keywords here are first original, and that means critical thinking isn't just repeating what someone else said. Critical thinking contains some amount, maybe a touch or a whole bunch of your original thought.

The next keyword is "informed," and that means your original ideas and thought don't come, you know, out of nowhere. Instead they are informed through the research, and that means high quality scholarly research and that becomes the foundation for critical thinking. If you aren't rooting your thought in those things, it's really easy to discredit your ideas.

Last, we have the keyword "assessment" and in this context, the word doesn't mean text or quiz. Instead, it means a position, a stance, a position. And that ties right back to it being an original idea, an original thought. When we put all of this together we can see that critical thinking means using research to say something new. It's really that thought process that you go through after reading the research. We could all read the same three articles on a topic, but as we think about it ourselves and apply our own background knowledge and experiences and opinions, what we have to say about it would be different if we were to sit and talk about those articles, and that's what critical thinking is, and so that process that we go through when we're thinking or talking about these things with people, what we're going to look at today is how that becomes evident in our writing.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Critical Thinking

Demonstrate that you can develop new ideas, perspectives, or research.

Examples:

  • Exploring the similarity or differences between ideas
  • Showing how a theory can be applied in a new setting
  • Making practical suggestions for change in processes
  • Discovering new connections
  • Arguing the importance or need for something

Audio: So critical thinking is especially important in graduate level writing because you use it to show that you have something to add to the conversation, and as you near your capstone document, whatever that may be, for many degrees you have to propose or complete original research or forward some sort of new, original thought, idea, theory on a topic, and critical thinking shows that you're able to do that because it is an original and informed assessment, and outside of those major documents I'm sure you'll recognize that all regular course work needs critical thinking as well. You may see it appear in some of these tasks that are on the screen. Maybe you're asked to look at the similarities or differences between ideas or you read about a theory and apply it in a new setting. Maybe you read about a theory and you apply it in your daily work life. Maybe you're asked to create a suggestion for change. That would be something new that is based on existing research. Sometimes we discover new connections or argue the importance or need for something. And these are the types of tasks that appear in a lot of writing prompts, and all of them by nature require critical thinking.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Critical Thinking

Demonstrate that you can develop new ideas, perspectives, or research.

Bad Example:

  • Æ A discussion post defining two educational philosophies. Æ

Good Example:

  • A discussion post comparing two educational philosophies and reflecting on the ways those philosophies could (or could not) be used to inform the teaching in a classroom environment you observed.

Audio: So, here's what critical thinking may look like in a discussion post. And a bad example would be if you were to write a discussion post that just defines two educational philosophies. That's definitely going to be based on research but there isn't anything new. There's none of us, the writer, the thinker in there. So as a discussion post that one does not require any critical thinking. A discussion post that does demonstrate and show critical thinking would be a post where you are comparing two educational philosophies and reflecting on the way that those philosophies could or could not be used to inform teaching in your classroom or a classroom you observed, and this discussion post we still have that research comparing and contrasting the two philosophies but we have that new idea, that new perspective, that new application and that is tying those philosophies into a classroom environment, so in that bad example we see a discussion post where critical thinking is not evident but in this better example the critical thinking is clear. There's that new application.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Critical Thinking

Demonstrate that you can develop new ideas, perspectives, or research.

Bad Example:

  • Æ A short essay detailing the steps taken during admissions in an inpatient facility. Æ

Good Example:

  • A short essay recommending a change in the steps taken during admissions in an inpatient facility, where the changes are based on current research.

Audio: And in a short essay we may also see critical thinking in the following ways. First, we'll take a look at the bad example. If a person were to write a short essay detailing the steps taken during admissions in an inpatient facility, that’s just research. It's just repeating something that was looked up. There really isn't any critical thinking going on there because there aren't new ideas, perspectives or a proposal of new research. Here we have a better example, and this example shows critical thinking. So, if somebody were to write a short essay where they recommend changing the steps during the admissions process and those steps are based on current research, this does demonstrate critical thinking because there's that new idea, that new perspective. Once again, it's based on research, but it is a presentation of some sort of new idea or thought. So, critical thinking sometimes appears in the subject matter or prompts that we're given, and when those are completed following directions you're kind of as a writer forced to critically think, but we're still going to look at all the ways that we can pull it into our writing.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Critical Thinking Red Flags

CAUTION

  • Ideas supported with a single source
  • Extensive quotes
  • Use of sources of questionable credibility
  • Just a restatement of what a source said

Audio: And sometimes it helps to know how to do something by looking at what not to do. So, if you see any of these four things in your writing, it's a little red flag that there just isn't enough critical thinking, yet. So, if in an essay that you see yourself supporting an idea using a single source over and over again, that might be a sign that the writing could be more informed. There's strength in numbers, I guess, if you are writing on a topic and you have a lot of sources that you've used to inform yourself and your opinion, it's just going to be stronger than if you were relying on a single piece of research because if you rely on a single piece of research even if it's really, really good, it helps to have that validated or backed up in other places as well.

Also, any time there's an essay that has extensive quoting if there's quote after quote all over the place, that also is a red flag that there isn't quite enough critical thinking yet and this is for a couple reasons. First having a lot of quotes means they're just taking up a lot of space. You're letting other writers do the talking for you, and it is just -- it's costing you time and space on the page. As the writer, you want to be in control of that and so instead of relying on other sources even if they happen to be amazing sources, it helps to paraphrase and that's one of the things we'll look at today. Also, if there's a lot of quotes, it means you haven't -- you've lost that space of where you're going to comment and explain what they mean and connect it to other ideas. Quotes just -- they cost you space.

So, the next one to look at would be having sources that have questionable credibility so if you look at your reference list and there's some kind of iffy sources, not a lot of named authors could be a red flag. A lot of sources that come from general websites, not websites of academic journals or other reliable sources. If you have something that's particularly tough to put on your reference list, sometimes even that can be a red flag because a journal article has a really straightforward pattern of what to include to put on the reference list and it's relatively easy to plug those in providing can you find them all on your page of course but some of our, like, website resources can be a little trickier to cite and if you notice that you have some sources with questionable credibility that means what you're basing your ideas on is a shaky foundation. You want to have a little bit more solid research.

And then the last red flag, is if you find yourself just restating what sources said over and over again, it means we're missing that new original thought, your argument, your assessment. So, if any of these four things you notice when you're revising your work or reading through a draft you can say okay, I think I need to add a little bit more critical thinking. And so, today we're going to look at four of the things that we include in our writing that are great places to show and demonstrate that we are critically thinking.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Chat:

What parts of critical thinking do you struggle with the most?

Critical Thinking:

  • Thesis Development
  • Paraphrasing
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis

[The webinar layout changes to open a chat box for students to type into in response to the chat question.]

Audio: So, as we're getting ready to look at those, how we demonstrate critical thinking in our thesis, our paraphrase, our analysis, our synthesis. Before we start that I want you to tell me in the chat box, which of these four you struggle with the most and, if you wish, why you feel you struggle with them most.

[Pause as students type.]

Right away I see a lot of thesis coming in, and I think one of the reasons why we sometimes think the thesis statements are difficult is because they have a really big job to do. They have to kind of preview the main idea and argument of the entire piece of writing, and unlike a paraphrase, analysis, and synthesis the thesis appears really in this one spot. We may repeat it or reflect on it throughout but a thesis statement sort of happens just once, and maybe that makes it feel higher stakes. We have a lot of great resources for thesis statements and some of these, I'll share links with you at the end of this presentation.

I also see a lot of paraphrasing coming through. Actually, it looks like we are touching on all of them, which is great because we will look at all four of these things, today. And throughout this webinar even though we touch on all four of these we're going to look at how doing them well demonstrates critical thinking. We won't be going into detail about how to do all four of these, at least not into great detail. However, in our Writing Center both on the website and in other webinars, we have some tools that will help you go into detail if you need help like, how do I even start to write a thesis? We have a webinar about that. So, if you need any of those resources, you could even send us a question in the Q and A box and I'm sure Beth could get those links for you. All right.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Thesis Statement:

A sentence that states your main argument; must be:

  • Argumentative
  • Capable of advancement
  • Concise
  • Supported

The purpose of my paper is to discuss dark chocolate.

My paper will explore dark chocolate.

Audio: So, the first part of writing a text and that could be an essay, a major assessment, a discussion post but the very first thing we're going to look at is the thesis statement, and here you can see in this checklist the things that make for a good and a strong thesis. A thesis states the main argument of an essay, that main idea, the purpose, what's going to happen in the writing. And so, it should be argumentative and what that means is, it doesn't have to be combative in nature, but it should state an opinion, it should state the opinion that you are going to present and forward and develop throughout the writing. And that means the thesis also has to be capable of advancement and what that means is, your thesis has to be something you can continue to write about over the length of an essay. If a thesis is something that you can't expand on, if you could say everything you have to say about it in a paragraph but your essay is supposed to be five pages long, that thesis isn't as strong as it could be.

Next a thesis should be concise. And that means not too long or wordy. Yes, we want to preview what the work is going to do, the ideas that are coming forth in the writing, but it has to be digestible. A reader should be able to read that thesis, beginning to end, and understand it. We don’t want anybody to get lost along the way. And a thesis should also be supported and much like being capable of advancement that means your thesis has to be supported with research, proof, and evidence. Otherwise that writing and the ideas in it are going to be a little bit faulty.

 These four things are what we use to make sure a thesis statement is sound. If you take a look at that red box on the bottom of the slide we'll see two thesis statements that, they just are not quite good enough, yet. And so, let's take a look at the first one. “The purpose of my paper is to discuss dark chocolate.” Well, that is great. We definitely know your topic. But I don't see an argument or an opinion. I don't also have like a direction. As a reader, I'm not sure where this is going to go. Like, what are we going to discuss about dark chocolate? If it's everything about dark chocolate that could be an entire book, that could be a series of books. So, this… Although there's a lot that could be said, it's not really capable of advancement because it's too broad. Sure, it is nice and short, but this doesn't have enough of a focus for us and it doesn't help us to present an opinion.

Same thing with the second one. “My paper will explore dark chocolate.” Well… Again, we're going to wonder what? Where is this going to go? And so, these two thesis statements do not demonstrate critical thinking because we cannot see any thought process. It's just a statement of topic. We're missing that originality that critical thinking is based on.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Thesis Statement:

A sentence that states your main argument; must be:

  • Argumentative
  • Capable of advancement
  • Concise
  • Supported

In this paper I argue that dark chocolate has more positive benefits than other types of chocolate.

My discussion shows that dark chocolate contributes to people’s happiness and satisfaction.

Audio: So here are the revised thesis statements. These are better because they meet the four criteria and therefore they're going to demonstrate some critical thinking. In that first example thesis, it says, “in this paper I argue dark chocolate has more positive benefits than other types of chocolate.” Here we have an argument and that is that dark chocolate has positive benefits, that are lacking in other chocolate. Great. We have an opinion. That means we have this original thought that's going to be supported throughout the writing. I would personally prefer to see this thesis statement stated without “in this paper I argue.” I think we can do away with that stylistically, but we're here just to take a look at the critical thinking and not the wording.

The second thesis statement for a discussion post also has that original thought because there is an argument here. “My discussion shows that dark chocolate contributes to people's happiness and satisfaction.” As a reader, I know after reading that thesis that I'm going to read a discussion post that's going to tell me how dark chocolate makes people happy, might have a paragraph or two about that, and I'm going to read about how dark chocolate makes people satisfied. We'll have a paragraph or two about that. This thesis statement presents an opinion that's argumentative. It can be advanced because we can use research to support those two points and it's short enough that when I read it I get the idea. So, here we have a thesis statement that's strong and that is showing critically thinking because I can tell there's gonna be research, yet the writer is sharing their thoughts. The writer has decided that dark chocolate contributes to these two things and there is that newness that we're looking for.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Thesis

Poll Practice:

Which thesis statement is argumentative?

[The webinar layout changes to open a poll for the students to respond to the question.]

Audio: So, we're going to practice to try to find a thesis statement that shares an argument, a thesis statement that has that new and original thought. So, here there should be a poll on your screen and I want you to use that poll to choose which of these three thesis statements presents an argument.

[Pause for students to participate in the poll.]

Sometimes it helps us to find the one that is, by first finding the ones that are not. And so, we want to find a thesis statement that presents an opinion. Our thesis should not just repeat existing research. Remember if something repeats existing research alone, it's informed, but in critical thinking it also needs to be original. So, definitely a thesis statement that just repeats existing research is not going to be argumentative, so -- and I'm assuming, and I apologize if I'm wrong, but these are appearing in the same order on your screen as they are in mine but this first thesis statement, the on “in his article Jefferson insisted,” that one is just repeating what an article said. If that's a thesis the entire post or essay would be a summary of an article and that's not an argument so we do not want to identify that as being the argumentative one.

The next thesis statement here says that “social media can create distractions for high school students as they focus on talking with their friends rather than their studies.” Now, this is an argument. It is I believe pretty narrow in focus, so perhaps it is more appropriate for a discussion post or a short essay rather than something long because it is very narrow in focus but it does present an opinion because you could disagree with it. I could say social media does not create a distraction or I could say it creates a distraction but not because high school students are talking with their friends, but for some other reason. So, this is argumentative. This is a thesis statement that shows critical thinking provided that the writer has drawn this conclusion his or herself. If this had a citation at the end showing that this also came from the Jefferson article, then it becomes just another paraphrase or a summary, and as a thesis statement that would mean the entire essay would also be a summary and that's not what we're looking for.

In our last example thesis statement, which is “the purpose of this paper is to consider positive and negative ways that social media affects high school students.” This is kind of an in-between thesis statement. It could maybe be an argument. It also could maybe not be one. For me as a reader, I'm not exactly sure where this essay is going to go. I think it's a great topic but there's so many different ways it could affect high school students. Perhaps that could be narrowed a little bit. There's just some ways to make this more specific so there's probably an argument brewing underneath in this thesis. It's just not as obvious as that option in the middle. And I'm pleased to see that the majority went with that option in the middle, which is an argumentative thesis.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following:  Thesis Statement:

Critical Thinking:

An original and informed assessment of an idea, theory, or phenomenon.

Thesis:

A statement of the main idea of the text, which is argumentative, capable of advancement, concise, and able to be supported.

Social media can create distractions for high school students in schools as they focus on talking with their friends rather than their studies.

Audio: All right. Now we know what a good thesis is and we know what critical thinking is, so how does a good thesis demonstrate critical thinking? Remember our keywords for the definition of critical thinking are original and informed assessment. A good thesis is argumentative. That means it is a new and original argument. Argument is assessment as we talked about earlier today. A good thesis is also able to be supported. That means it is informed by the research. Here is that sample thesis that we said was argumentative, and when we look at it we can see that original idea which is that it creates a distraction in these ways, and we can tell that it's going to be informed at least ideally unless this particular writer gets sidetracked. It's going to be backed by research showing that social -- that students focus on talking with their friends and that perhaps they're spending less time studying and paying attention to school work. All of that research has informed the argument that social media is a distraction. Before we -- well -- oh, here are my arrows. I apologize. Look at this. I have connected these two thing for you. So, we can see how the keywords are repeated in the definition of critical thinking and in the definition of thesis.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions?

[Slide includes an image of a question mark.]

Audio: I'm going to stop here before we move on and just see if any questions came into the Q and A box that I haven’t touched on yet or that we should look at before moving forward.

Beth: Yeah. Thanks so much, Melissa. We had a great question where a student was asking, you know, whether you had any suggestions or strategies for how to come up with a thesis topic. Anything, if students are kind of struggling with that. Things to keep in mind or things to do to help with that.

Melissa: Yeah, I think that sometimes it helps to keep your thesis statement alive as you're writing. So, what that means is just because you've written a thesis statement doesn't mean it's going to stay that way forever, so when I'm writing I will look at my prompt, or my directions, my purpose first and after doing all the reading and research and I'll say, okay, what am I going to do, and it can help to start off by saying in this paper I will, and start listing what you're going to do. That is not my favorite type of thesis to see in a final draft but it is the -- it is a good way to stay focused on that idea as you're writing. Now, you can write your whole draft, come back and make sure that the paragraphs that you create still match the thesis statement, and if they do, then it's time to try rewriting that thesis statement in a few different ways trying to really nail it down into a sentence or two and then going back and applying that checklist. Okay, is this an argument. If you are doing this after you've written the essay you can probably say, yes, I have been able to advance it, and then if you continue to struggle with the thesis or wonder if it is as good as it can be, this is where you might want to make an appointment in the Writing Center and in that appointment form say, you know, I need some help with my thesis statement, or you might want to go and watch the recording of our thesis webinars but just know that that thesis statement is going to change and grow and shift with the writing.

Beth: Fantastic. Do you mind if I note a couple of other things that I mentioned in my response?

Melissa: Oh. Please do.

Beth: I love what you were saying about shifting and sort of working with the thesis as you're writing. But a couple other things I also said was go ahead and take a look at your notes again, once you’ve taken a look at your assignment prompt. Maybe you have some ideas in your notes where you say wow I was really interested in this part of this topic and maybe that's where I can focus my paper this week but also, we presented on sort of using your discussion posts as a basis for a paper a couple weeks ago. That was a webinar we did and that might be another idea is to take a look at your discussion post and the discussion forum for the week and see if there's anything that catches your eye and that might help you kind of come up with some ideas to focus your paper too.

Melissa: Yeah, that's a great idea because if we're looking for that original thought in the presentation of our own argument, we have to go digging back through our ideas.

Beth: Sure. Yeah, I think that's all we have for now, Melissa.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Agenda

Critical Thinking:

  • Thesis Development
  • Paraphrasing
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis

Audio: Melissa: Okay. Great. That means we can move on to the next part of our writing that we can use to demonstrate critical thinking and that would be paraphrasing.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Paraphrasing

Placing ideas or information from a source in your own words

  • Preferable to direct quotes.
  • Citing page/paragraph number is optional.
  • Usually shorter than the original.
  • Condense, reframe, and restructure the author’s idea.
  • Relate author’s ideas to your own ideas, perspective, and argument.

Audio: So first we're going to define a paraphrase, and a paraphrase is when you take source material and we take that source material and put it in our own words. For example, if I read an article about a health care bill and I repeat the key points in my own words, as soon as I do that I have paraphrased, so some additional details about paraphrasing is that it's preferable to direct quotes and that's because it allows us to maintain our role as the writer. There's nothing wrong with including quotes especially when the writer has said it in a way that you just can't duplicate, but as we are the writer of our own work we want to keep as much of it in our own words as possible, so paraphrasing is preferable because of that. Know when that when you paraphrase you also have to cite the paraphrase but including the page or paragraph number is optional and that's because unlike a quote which definitely exists on a page or a specific paragraph, a paraphrase could include information that's not all on one page or all in one paragraph. A paraphrase is also usually shorter than the original, although it can be of a similar length. You could take two sentences and paraphrase it and that paraphrase will still be two sentences long.

In a paraphrase our purpose, of course, is to condensed, reframe, restructure, restate the author's idea in our own words, but we don't want to change the idea itself. We want to maintain what the original point of information or expert opinion is. And then the purpose of a paraphrase is not just to repeat that information, but it gives us a point to relate the author's ideas to what we are writing about. A paraphrase is that first step. If writing does nothing but paraphrase, it's kind of like piecing together, you know, like cutting up a bunch of articles and gluing them on a piece of paper. We still need our own ideas in there, and a paraphrase helps us to connect what we are saying to the larger conversation.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Paraphrasing

Read passage until you understand its meaning

Consider context of assignment: What will you do with this evidence?

Look away from passage to write main points of what you read

Cite source in your paraphrase

  • Rework, revise, and rephrase as needed.
  • Imagine you are explaining that information to a colleague or classmate.

Audio: And it's important to look at how we paraphrase. It sounds easy, just put it in my own words. But really this is something academic writers struggle with because it often ends up not being in our own words enough, and then it would be an issue with academic integrity or plagiarism or maybe the paraphrase feels like it just isn't saying the right thing or, sure, I can paraphrase the article but where am I actually going to put it in my own essay. So, these are some things that can make paraphrasing difficult.

So when you paraphrase the first step we start at the very top of this circle you’ll see how we move through a paraphrase. The first step is to read that passage until you understand its meeting. Read it over and over again, take some notes. In order to repeat the ideas, we have to know what the ideas are. So, start by reading that passage until you really get the meaning. Then we want to consider our assignment. What are we doing? What is the purpose of this discussion post? Why am I writing this essay? And once you know that, you can try to figure out where this paraphrase will fit in. Does it support one specific idea that you know you’re going to say? How can I use this? Knowing how you can use the paraphrase before you're drafting or how you can use your sources before you draft, maybe if you're a person who creates detailed outlines it just helps you prepare to insert that research in a way that makes sense.

And then when you're actually writing that draft, look away from that original article, look away from the passage when you're writing your main points and you’re repeating it. If you have your article next to you as you're typing that paraphrase it becomes easy to start borrowing some of the words and phrases and at that point it's not really a paraphrase and needs to be quoted. And when you're working on that you want to kind of stop and you can revise your paraphrase, you can rework it a bit. Okay? If you are really struggling with how to put this in my own words just imagine you're explaining it or telling it to someone else and see how it comes out. And if you don't like that version, like I said, just revise, rework and go ahead and what you need to.

Now, once the paraphrase is complete remember the citation. It's a really good habit to get into to cite as soon as you write the paraphrase because it becomes very difficult to try to figure out where the citations go after the fact. And sometimes students will put “citation needed” as a reminder to themselves to add that citation, but if you're working with 7 sources you might forget what source it is. So, citing as soon as you're done with the paraphrase is a really good habit to get into.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Paraphrasing: Example

“The most significant contribution of this work is the explicit focus on the informational resources available via social media and their role in the process of applying for, planning to attend, and feeling confident about succeeding at college. Importantly, and perhaps not surprisingly, social media does not play a major role for non first-generation students but does for first-generation students. This may be due  to the fact that first-generation students are less likely to have these instrumental and informational resources available in their immediate household, as they do not have parents who have experienced successfully graduating from college”

(Wohn, Ellison, Khan, Fewins-Bliss, & Gray, 2013, p. 27).

è

Wohn, Ellison, Khan, Fewins-Bliss, and Gray (2013) discussed the role social media plays for students’ actions and feelings about college. First-generation students are more affected by social media’s in their decisions related to college. First-generation students sometimes don’t have the experience of people around them to use as they make decisions regarding college, one reason social media might have more of an impact for them.

Audio: And so, here's an example of how to paraphrase. You're going to see this rather long paragraph from an article. As an academic writer, it's my job to read this as an academic writer over and over until I know what the main idea is. I'm going to look away from it when I write my paraphrase, and when I do that my paraphrase may look something like this.

Right away you can see that this is shorter than the original. And that's a good sign. If we compare the wording of the two, there's no -- there isn't a point at which I've used more than two words in the same word order as the original source. And that means this wording is totally new, the wording is all my own. Also, I have cited it. Note that this citation comes at the beginning of the sentence and what matters is that I have the names of the writers and the year of publication. I could have cited it at the end if I wanted to and then I would have a parenthetical citation where the name and year was all in. That stylistically is up to you as long as it is cited.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Paraphrasing: Example

“The most significant contribution of this work is the explicit focus on the informational resources available via social media and their role in the process of applying for, planning to attend, and feeling confident about succeeding at college. Importantly, and perhaps not surprisingly, social media does not play a major role for non first-generation students but does for first-generation students. This may be due  to the fact that first-generation students are less likely to have these instrumental and informational resources available in their immediate household, as they do not have parents who have experienced successfully graduating from college”

(Wohn, Ellison, Khan, Fewins-Bliss, & Gray, 2013, p. 27).

è

While social media can be a distraction to high school students during school hours, Wohn, Ellison, Khan, Fewins-Bliss, and Gray (2013) found that social media can help first-generation students successfully apply and be accepted to college.

Audio: Here is another example of what a paraphrase could look like and this is what I think is my better one, I apologize, that is short and has a clear citation. In this previous example I had too much going on. There we go, there's my good one. Okay. So, this is the one that's nice and short and I have a citation. The citation you can see appears at the beginning but not the total beginning of the paraphrase and that's okay because the work is still cited and once again I can cite at the beginning, I can cite at the end. As a writer, I get to choose stylistically what works best for me.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Paraphrasing

Critical Thinking:

  • An original and informed assessment of an idea, theory, or phenomenon.

Paraphrase:

  • An original restatement of information from research.

Audio: And so now the big question. How does paraphrasing actually demonstrate that I'm critically thinking. We know that a paraphrase is repeating existing information. So where is the originality coming from? Well, a paraphrase is your original restatement, so the connection here is that you have put that information or research in your own words. Remember critical thinking is creating something original and new out of the existing research. So, remember it doesn't take any critical thinking to copy a quote, but it does take critical thinking to create and craft a paraphrase.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions?

[Slide includes an image of a question mark.]

Audio: Again, I'm going to pause to make sure I haven't left anything out or there's any lingering questions so let me know, Beth.

Beth: Yeah, thanks so much, Melissa. We did have a student asking sort of about quoting and asking whether they should never quote or it there is a certain number of quotes they can use, that kind of thing. Do you have any suggestions or guidance on that since we're talking about paraphrasing and kind of comparing the two?

Melissa: Yeah, you know, each assignment is going to be different when it comes to when, where, how often to quote. I think that if you're able to paraphrase, it's usually the better choice. Occasionally, there are sentences or phrases that you can't state any better, maybe their research dense or the phrasing is beautiful, maybe somebody was a great writer when they presented some information or fact and you want to keep that original phrasing, or you're quoting an expert in the field, and it just supports your research, and you really want to give that expert credit for saying it, just because they carry so much weight. All of those are cases where quoting is fine. I think if you have back-to-back quotes or quotes that appear very close together, then that's a sign that the number should be reduced, either it would help to say more in between them or to turn one into a paraphrase. It’s really… You have to look at each specific assignment to see if there are too many quotes and I think if you look at your page, like if you have a whole page pulled up on the screen and you kind of step back, you can see the quotes and I think really what's most important is that space between them.

Beth: Awesome. Thanks so much, Melissa. So, we had another question come in, so do you have another minute for another question?

Melissa: Yes, of course.

Beth: Okay. Awesome. So, when you are paraphrasing and sort of thinking about the process of paraphrasing we had I student ask about synonyms and asking whether synonyms are acceptable for paraphrasing and king of how those work into the process of paraphrasing. Could you talk about that a little bit?

Melissa: Yeah, so there's, well, there’s kind of a bigger idea that is lingering under that question of using synonyms and that is if you're going to take a sentence and just hit up every other word and change it to a synonym, that's not going to be the strongest paraphrase and it might come out sounding a little awkward. So, in a paraphrase, it's both about kind of shuffling the order of words in addition to changing some of them. In some research, there may be words or phrases that are technical or specific and in which case we wouldn't want to rephrase them. I'm thinking like “differentiated instruction” in the world of education. Calling that something else might be a little clumsy. So, we would want to maintain that word. But a paraphrase is both about changing the order of words as well as what they actually are.

Beth: Perfect. Thanks so much, Melissa. I think that's it for now.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Agenda

Critical Thinking:

  • Thesis Development
  • Paraphrasing
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis

Audio: Melissa: Okay. Great. So, taking a look at our agenda today we just finished talking about paraphrasing and that means we are ready to move on to analysis.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Analysis

  • Your own interpretation of other authors’ ideas
  • Shows that you’re not just summarizing your research, but using it to support your argument
  • How you’ll support your thesis statement throughout your paper
  • Important to include in every paragraph

Audio: And analysis is one of the words that I think we hear a lot. It appears -- I know we talk about it a lot in the Writing Center. I see it in assignment prompts but it may not be something that's easy to have a solid definition of. We have a lot of great resources related to analysis spread throughout the Writing Center including the website and other webinars and I think these are four things that really help to define analysis in as brief of a way as we can get through here in this webinar.

So first an analysis is your own interpretation of other authors', writers' ideas. It's what you think, what you get out of it, what occurs to you after reading that source. And analysis shows that you are not just summarizing the research you completed but that you're using it to support your argument. You have read research on a topic and now here's what you think. The analysis is where we kind of present that “here is what I think.” So, there's a lot of weight and importance to including an analysis. The analysis is that actual support. If you have facts and statistics and all this research based on a topic and you just present it on the page, the reader could draw their own conclusions. The analysis is the conclusions you have drawn, and that's really how you support the thesis or how you support your argument. The sources give you what you need to make those claims and to share those ideas, but you have to yourself as the writer make the claim and share the idea. And the analysis is where all of that happens, and it's important to include in every paragraph. Now I'm going to say every paragraph but of course each assignment may have different purposes and goals so occasionally there are types of paragraphs where we don't have analysis but I think if this is something you're worried about not including just try to get it in there in every paragraph. The short of all of this is analysis adds you to the writing. Analysis is where you happen.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Analysis: MEAL Plan

Main idea: Topic sentence—what subject will the paragraph be about?

Evidence: Research, data, and sources

Analysis: Interpretation of research, data, sources for your reader

Lead out: Emphasize main point, reiterate a conclusion, explain significance of           information

Audio: One place where you may have heard the word analysis is the MEAL plan and the MEAL plan is a paragraphing plan we refer to a lot here in the Writing Center. It's featured on our website, all throughout the blog. Maybe Beth could put a link or two in the Q and A box if you want to learn more. Or if this is something you just aren’t’ familiar with yet. But the shortest explanation of the MEAL plan is that it helps you write a paragraph so long as you include the four parts, and the four parts are the main idea. The main idea is the topic sentence or the first sentence or two of the paragraph and that's where we state what the subject of the paragraph is, what the paragraph is all about. Next an MEAL plan paragraph includes evidence, and that evidence is all of our research, our statistics, data, other sources. It's everything we've looked up. After evidence, we have analysis and the analysis is that interpretation, what it means, exactly what we just looked at on the previous slide. It's you, your thoughts, what you have to say about it. And then an MEAL plan paragraph ends with some sort of lead-out where you can repeat the main idea of the paragraph. Reiterate your conclusion, explain the significance. There are a lot of strategies you can do at the end of the paragraph.

When we look at this MEAL plan one thing to note is that the paragraph could have a topic sentence, two sentences of evidence, three sentences of analysis and a lead-out and that could be it, but an MEAL plan paragraph could also open with a topic sentence, have some evidence followed by analysis, a little bit more evidence and more analysis and then lead out. So, it's not an exact template that you can just drop one sentence into for each. There's flexibility with this, how long each of those four things are, and if your evidence and analysis repeats or not. But the MEAL plan can be very, very useful.

 

Visual: Slide change to the following: Handout:

Including Analysis and Explanation in Your Writing

Audio: Now, before we take a look at examples of adding analysis, I do want to point out that we have a handout that is down in that files pod near the bottom of your screen, and in this handout, it will explain how you can include analysis and explanation in your writing. And this is useful if that's something that you feel stuck on or right now you're sitting here thinking you need a little bit more information about that. So, you'll see this handout and even though we're looking at examples of what analysis looks like, if you want those specific steps or information about doing it yourself, you're going to find it here, and I just wanted to draw your attention to that before we check out the following example.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Analysis

According to recent data, 88% of patients in the United States needing to see a health care specialist are able to do so within a month (Roland, Guthrie, & Thome, 2012).

According to recent data, 88% of patients in the United States needing to see a specialist are able to do so within a month (Roland, Guthrie, & Thome, 2012). This statistic shows that more than 10% of the population needs to wait to receive what might be urgent medical care.

According to recent data, 88% of patients in the United States needing to see a specialist are able to do so within a month (Roland, Guthrie, & Thome, 2012). In other words, in terms of seeing a specialist, the U.S. health care system is meeting the needs of the majority of patients.

Audio: And so, one trick to doing analysis is to include a quote or paraphrase and then just follow it up with what you think. This way it forces you to include that analysis right away, and because we know analysis is how we add more of ourselves to the topic, more of ourselves to the research, we want to say this, we want it to be something new and from our own brains and responding immediately to a paraphrase helps us with that. It's a good habit to get into.

First here I have a paraphrase which is awesome because I'm presenting the facts in my own words, but I add even more critical thinking by analyzing or saying something new about it right after.  So here I have my paraphrase. “According to recent data 88% of patients in the United States needing to see a health care specialist are able to do so within a month.” There's my paraphrase, so here's one example of analysis. Immediately after I could say “this statistic shows that more than 10% of the population needs to wait to receive what might be urgent medical care.” So, as a writer I read that article. I paraphrased it and I thought that is not good. That means there's a lot people who are not getting the help they need, so I had that idea and I put it into writing and that becomes my analysis.

But because analysis involves adding my own thoughts, it can look different in each paper. So, here's another example. I read that same article, and my analysis is, “in other words, in terms of seeing a specialist the U.S. health care system is meeting the needs of the majority of patients.” So, in this case I'm a writer who read that article and said 88%, that's amazing and I’ve included that in my analysis. So, see how the one paraphrase could be used to support two totally different ideas? That's because analysis is coming from me as the academic writer. It's me. I'm not just repeating what I read in the article, I’m adding my thoughts. So, on the one case, I'm a student who thinks this article shows the health care system is great and on the other hand, I'm a student who read the article and thought it showed that health care system needs to be improved. Two totally different ideas. Both are good. Neither is better than the other. The point is that analysis is going to come from you, so you could read the research and have one idea. Someone could read it and have a different idea, but both are correct.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Analysis

Chat:

Provide analysis of my paraphrase

While social media can be a distraction to high school students during school hours, Wohn, Ellison, Khan, Fewins-Bliss, and Gray (2013) found that social media can help first-generation students successfully apply and be accepted to college.

[The webinar layout changes to open a chat box for students to type into in response to the chat question.]

Audio: And just to demonstrate how people can read the same bit of research and draw their own conclusions, I want you to write an analysis of this paraphrase, what this -- what I'm asking you to do is to read through the paraphrase and then share a follow-up conclusion, observation, thought, something new. What does this make you realize? I'm going to give you a couple minutes to complete this task, and as you work or after you're done, take a look at the variety of responses.

[Pause as students type.]

So, when I take a look at some of the analysis that's coming in I see some people are using this research to focus on communication. Some people are going to use this to help forward an opinion about students going on to further their education. Some people are focusing on how social media becomes a learning tool. So, this one paraphrase could be used to support four different essays, no problem. And that's because the analysis is coming from us. And you may notice that sometimes people will use the same sources for totally different papers, totally different purposes and that's because that analysis is all about how you have chosen to use it. So, I hope you what can see here is that in the analysis we have a demonstration of critical thinking, it's what we think about that topic. Thank you so much for participating in this chat. This one requires a lot of -- well, no surprise, critical thinking, so thank you.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Analysis

Critical Thinking

  • An original and informed assessment of an idea, theory, or phenomenon

è

Analysis

  • Your own interpretation of other authors’ ideas

Audio: And so, we can solidify how including analysis demonstrates critical thinking and we'll return to that definition, critical thinking is an original and a form of assessment and an analysis we provide our own ideas, our own interpretation. Our ideas and interpretations are original, so we have that match up well and because those ideas are based on other authors' ideas and work it is informed. So, see if you include analysis you're demonstrating critical thinking.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions?

[Slide includes an image of a question mark.]

Audio: Once again, I'll pause just to see if there's anything I should address before we move on.

Beth: Yeah, I don't really think so, Melissa. I think we're pretty good.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Agenda

Critical Thinking:

  • Thesis Development
  • Paraphrasing
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis

Audio: Melissa: Oh, great. Okay. So here we are. The final way to show critical thinking in our writing which is synthesis.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Synthesis

  • Combining independent elements to form a cohesive whole
  • Involves
    • Critical analysis of sources
    • Comparing and contrasting what the authors have to say
    • Evaluating and interpreting that information

Audio: And synthesis I think you may feel that these are getting a little bit more complex concepts as we move along, but synthesis is when we take a whole bunch of stuff, independent elements and we take all of those things and pull them together into something new into a cohesive whole. So really those independent elements that could be a whole bunch of research like five different articles. So, for example I synthesize when I read those five articles about school reform and then I create my own plan or I plan new school reform. I've taken a lot of independent elements, those five articles, and I've used them to create a cohesive whole and that would be my plan. Originally those five ideas had nothing to do with each other, maybe the two authors had dinner once or something, but the articles all existed totally separate. It was me and my brain that pulled them together to create something new. I did the synthesizing. And, so, in order to synthesize we use a lot of brain power because we have to analyze the sources. We have to compare and contrast what they say. We have to evaluate and interpret the information and then we still have to use it to create something new.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Synthesis

Combining independent elements to form a cohesive whole

  • Expert advice
  • Statistics                 
  • Research study

è Your recommendation of how to combat the negative effects of social media on high school students.

[Slide shows the three bullet points as balls put into a funnel, with the recommendation coming out as the result.]

Audio: So, here's a visual I like to share whenever I talk about synthesis. Imagine putting all these things into a funnel or a bowl or something and you mix them up and squeeze it out through your brain and there it is, something new that you created. So, for example, I could take statistics about high schoolers' use of social media, I could read a bunch of articles about what experts advise when it comes to social media and high school students. I could see what they say, what's the same, different, what's valid, what is flawed. I could also read a research longitudinal research study on the topic and I would think, think, think about all of these things. I would draw conclusions. I would compare and contrast and then I would present my synthesis. And that's my recommendation how to combat the negative effects of social media on high school students. Nobody else wrote that recommendation. That's all me. So, synthesis is taking a whole bunch of pieces and using them to make them new whole thing.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Synthesis: Not Quite

According to Peterson (2008), 83% of teenagers claimed that social media had no impact on their academic performance. Carol (2010) noted that teenagers who used social media reported a higher dissatisfaction with their academics than did teenagers who use little or no social media.

Audio: And here’s an example of synthesis that isn’t quite there.  Let’s take a look. Here I have “according to Peterson 83% of teenagers claimed that social media had no impact on their academic performance. Carol noted that teenagers who used social media reported a higher dissatisfaction with their academics.” And so, what I have here is actually just two paraphrases back to back. I have my independent elements, or the whole bunch of pieces, all the stuff we just talked about, but I haven't done anything with them. I haven't made anything new.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Synthesis: With the MEAL Plan

Research on social media’s effect on high school students is far from reaching consensus.

While Peterson (2008) noted that 83% of teenagers claimed that social media had no impact on their academic performance, Carol (2010) found teenagers who used social media reported a higher dissatisfaction with their academics than did teenagers who use little or no social media.

However, both authors neglect the possibility that high school students are simply not aware of the negative influences of social media.

Future research, therefore, should closely examine this level of awareness and whether it can predetermine particular adolescent behavior.

Audio: So, here's how I could do that using the MEAL plan. And first here is my M, my topic sentence, that is going to present the main of idea of the paragraph. And then now I'm going to have my evidence, and so that evidence is those two paraphrases we just looked at. I'm going to use these as my independent elements based on my synthesis. And now here's my analysis. Yes, analysis, analyzing is necessary for a synthesis. We can't create something new, whole without analyzing or responding to the research. And analysis and synthesis are closely related because of this. Here's my comparison. And then I'm going to end with a lead-out phrase that's going to wrap it all up and when I wrap it up here what I’m doing is I'm creating this new idea. It's a recommendation of what we should do. The proposal is a new whole thing. This taken together this paragraph is me synthesizing.

So, synthesis can happen in the paragraph level like this. Here we see independent elements and what I've done with them but it can also be an end result of an entire essay. It's just that on this slide I can't walk us through an essay easily so we're looking at it on the paragraph level. I noted there's a public health or something like that assignment out there where students are asked to create a policy to address a health issue. That assignment requires heavy duty synthesizing. The policy that students are proposing is a new original plan that is a result of looking at a lot research and other existing plans.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Synthesis

Critical thinking: An original and informed assessment of an idea, theory, or phenomenon

Synthesis: Combining independent elements to form a cohesive whole

Audio: So, as you can expect synthesis helps us demonstrate critical thinking. Remember critical thinking is an original and informed assessment. We see the idea of original in the definition of synthesis because you're creating a totally new thing, brand-new, and we see the idea of informed up here in the definition of synthesis because synthesis is based on research or those independent elements. It's helpful to see how the definition of thesis, paraphrasing, analysis and synthesis all overlap and so having strong -- a strong thesis, a strong paraphrase and analysis and synthesis will all demonstrate the strength of your own critical thinking.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions?

[Slide includes an image of a question mark.]

Audio: And I don't know if we want to stop questions before we recap and share resources. Did anything come through?

Beth: It didn't, no. So maybe just talk about those resources, and yeah, wrap us up here.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Recap

Critical Thinking:

  • Thesis Development
    • Arguable
    • Supported
    • Capable of advancement
  • Paraphrasing
    • Preferable
    • Relate source to your own ideas
    • Use own words and phrasing
  • Analysis:
    • Interpret sources
    • MEAL plan
  • Synthesis
    • Compare, contrast, and analyze sources

Audio: Melissa: Okay. Sounds great. So, just to recap critical thinking is something we're asked to do as academic writers, and if you're wondering how do I show I've thought critically? I mean, I'm sure when a student is preparing an assignment, or even a discussion post, a lot of thought goes into it. How do we make that thought visible? We can make it visible in your thesis, in your paraphrasing, in the inclusion of analysis and in the syntheses as you pull together multiple sources to create something new. In these four ways, your critical thinking becomes visible and it becomes something that you can say okay, my critical thinking, people will know that I've used resources. I have an informed assessment because I've created this new idea based on research.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Critical Thinking Toolbox

Thesis statements:

Paraphrasing:

Analysis:

Synthesis:

Audio: And now, here is a page that has links to more details about the four things we looked at. And I have to apologize because it looks like these links are not clickable here in this presentation today so if you go to the files pod you'll be able to download the slides and when you download the slides, these will be completely accessible so that you can take a look at some of these that will help you if you wanted more information about how to write a thesis, how to paraphrase.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions:

Anytime: writingsupport@waldenu.edu

Continue the conversation on Twitter with #WaldenU

Develop your Critical Thinking Skills:

Check out the recorded webinars “Adding Analysis and Synthesis to your Writing” and “Writing Effective Academic Paragraphs”

Audio: And that brings me to the end of my presentation and I will hand it back to Beth to wrap things up for us.

Beth: Thanks so much, Melissa. We didn't get any other questions that came in and I know we're here the top of the hour so I wondered if you just have any sort of final tips or strategies, for students. I know this is a lot that you went over. So, I wondered if you had any tips for students who might be feeling a little overwhelmed for trying to incorporate all of this into their writing.

Melissa: Oh definitely. And in this webinar because we talked about four really important things rather quickly, the big take away here is just to know that when we include these things in our writing we are demonstrating our critical thinking skills. If you're feeling like you need more support in one of those areas, first download the slides and access those links but also feel free to make an appointment with us in the Writing Center and just mention where you want the instructor to focus. You know, can you focus on my analysis. I'm not sure if I have enough synthesis. I'm worrying about the amount of critical thinking and you can get that one-on-one help that way with whatever you think you will need the most help with.

Beth: I love that. Fantastic. Thanks so much, Melissa. This is a great sort of really in-depth I feel like but broad overview of all these different elements so thank you. And thank you everyone for coming. I know we're at the top of the hour so we're going to go ahead and close out but do let us know if you have any lingering questions at that e-mail writing support and check out those other webinars and resources Melissa mentioned and we hope to see you at another webinar coming up. Thanks everyone. Have a great night.