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Webinar Transcripts

Demonstrating Critical Thinking in Writing Assignments

Presented Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

View the webinar recording

Last updated 7/7/2016


Visual: The webinar begins with a slide “Housekeeping” in the large central panel. The slide shows a graphic with information that Beth discusses. A captioning pod, Q&A pod, and files pod are stacked on the right side.

Audio: Beth: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today and welcome to the webinar. My name is Beth, and I'm going to get us started out by going over just a couple of quick housekeeping notes before I hand over our presentation. So just a couple of things if this is your first webinar, then welcome.

We are recording the webinar. So if you have to leave for any reason, you're more than welcome to watch this in our archive and you can watch over 40 or 45 of them in the archive. You're always welcome to go and watch the recordings.

We have lots of ways to interact. We have polls for you in sort of thinking about the content and getting your mind thinking about critical thinking and writing, but we'll be using chats and polls and have questions to test your knowledge as well.

The other thing to note is that the links throughout the slides are -- are interactive, so you're more than welcome to click those if you'd like to click on more to learn more. So watch out for those links, but you can download the slides if you'd like access to these later. They're listed as slides in that bottom right-hand corner pod.

We have our Q & A box on the right side of the screen, and we will make sure to answer any questions throughout the session. Myself and my colleague will be monitoring that, to make sure to answer questions and comments that you have.

Sometimes especially at the end of the session, if we have to end the session because of time, you're welcome to email any questions you have. And even if you think of questions after the session that you weren't able to ask during the session, please feel free to email those to us.

If you have any technical issues, I'll try to help as much as I can. But there's also the help option at the top right hand of your screen, and that's a great place to go for help. With that, I will hand it over to you, Melissa.


Visual: The slide changes to an introductory slide. Melissa’s name and job title are listed below the presentation title.

Audio: Melissa: Thanks, Beth. Hi, everybody. Today's webinar is how to demonstrate critical thinking in writing assignments. And this is such a wonderful topic because critical thinking is something that we do all throughout the writing process, and we have to make it obvious and clear to our reader in the writing. And that's what we'll be looking at today.


Visual: Slide #3 “Agenda” opens. A large graphic has “Critical Thinking:” in a bar at the top. Below that title bar are four columns labeled: Thesis Development, Paraphrasing, Analysis, and Synthesis. An arrow starting at Thesis Development curves down and points to Synthesis. Melissa discusses these.

Audio: We're going to talk about four different ways that you can demonstrate your critical thinking and four pieces of writing that relate to critical thinking. We're going to look at thesis statements and how to pull critical thinking into paraphrasing, analysis, and lastly synthesis.


Visual: Slide #4 “Critical Thinking” opens. To the left side is a definition of critical thinking. The right side has three horizontal segments that provide explanations and details about the definition: (a) Original: Not just a paraphrase/quote, (b) Informed: Backed up by scholarly research, and (c) Assessment: Takes a stand on an issue. Melissa reads the definition and the specific points.

Audio: So we're going to start off with a definition of what critical thinking is, and critical thinking is an original theory or phenomenon. It's also not a quote pulled from a source. It's original. It's something that comes from your brain. However, critical thinking still has to be informed, which means it's backed up by the research. We're going to be for or against something. We're going to suggest an idea or forward a familiar theory.

So always keep in mind that critical thinking is an original statement from you, but it still has to be backed and supported by you. You know, there's plenty of original statements that we could make and that does not demonstrate critical thinking. So it has to be an original thought, an original idea, or theory that is still backed up and informed by the research.


Visual: Slide #5 opens and continues with examples of critical thinking. The large box at the top identifies critical thinking and points to the larger box at the bottom which has this bulleted list of examples of critical thinking.

  • 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

Melissa reads and discusses all the information here.

Audio: You're asked to do a lot of assignments as a college student, and you have the opportunity to show you can develop new ideas, shape perspectives, and that you can conduct and report original research. So here on the screen, you see some examples of ways that you think critically in writing and assignments where your critical thinking would be obvious. So for example, any time you're asked to explore similarities or differences between ideas, you're going to be stating new ideas based on existing research. If you are ever taking a theory and asked to apply it to a new setting, it's a new idea informed by critical research. All of these are examples of critical thinking that you may do in assignments.


Visual: The same slide is open, but only the example on the slide about a discussion post assignment is left in the bottom box. As she reads the example, Melissa puts a null symbol over the example and displays a similar example that requires critical thinking. Melissa reads and discusses the poor example and then the good example.

Audio: So here's an example. It's a discussion post that defines two philosophies. There's no original new idea there. It's just a repetition of the existing research. We don't want to just repeat that research. We want to do something new with it. We want to have a new original idea or theory. So a discussion post would be one that compares educational philosophies and reflects on the ways that they could or could not be used in a classroom that you're currently or had observed in the past. It's making a suggestion. This is critical thinking.


Visual: The bottom box of the slide now shows just an assignment prompt for an essay that does not require critical thinking. As she reads the example, Melissa puts a null symbol over the example and displays a similar example that requires critical thinking. Melissa reads and discusses these.

Audio: This is another assignment. It details the stops taken during an inpatient facility. That is not critical thinking. A short essay that has critical thinking would be one that makes a recommendation to change those steps during the admissions. And again, that change in steps would be based on the current research. So here, we have a new idea, but one that is still based on research. So the steps that the student is writing about are going to be informed from the research that he or she did.


Visual: Slide #8 “Critical Thinking Red Flags” opens. It has a large caution sign to the left side of the slide and four horizontal textboxes stacked to the right. They are: (a) Ideas supported with a single source, (b) Extensive quotes, (c) Use of sources of questionable credibility, and (d) Just a restatement of what a source said. Melissa discusses these cautions.

Audio: When we include critical thinking in our writing, there are things you want to avoid doing. It may feel like you're creating new ideas, but you're falling into these traps. You don't want to rely on a single source. Even if you are using a source and building a new idea off of it, it ends up becoming a single source. Critical thinking is best when we pull in multiple sources and we will talk about this more. Also, if you find yourself using too many quotes, that's another red flag. You're letting your sources do most of the talking. We want to get away from that and we want to paraphrase more than we quote. If you find yourself using sources with iffy credibility, it means that the new ideas you are forwarding are based on shoddy research. And that makes your ideas also questionable. You are -- you want to make sure there are highly reliable sources. If you're paraphrasing, paraphrasing, summarizing, we're missing that analysis and that follow up and your ideas. That can be a red flag. Sometimes, when we have lots of sources, we can get bogged down and we want to avoid that. It's just -- it's just something to be aware of as a writer, to make sure your critical thinking really, really shines.


Visual: Slide #9 “Chat” opens and the layout changes. The slide move to the left and the Q&A and captioning pods are side-by-side at the top right. The bottom right has a large chat pod. The files pod is not available. Melissa discusses the participants’ responses.

Audio: So I just want you to talk it out. What parts of critical thinking do you struggle with the most? Maybe you struggle in your paraphrases or maybe you struggle somewhere else along the -- along in the writing process. So go ahead and let me know which parts you struggle with the most. (A break was taken.)


Visual: The layout returns to the previous setup and slide #10 “Thesis Statement” opens. Under the title is a list of descriptors of a good thesis statement. A textbox at the bottom has two poorly written thesis statements. As she reads and discusses this slide, Melissa changes the examples to good thesis statements.

Audio: So a thesis statement is that statement that occurs near the beginning of whatever it is you are writing, and it is a sentence that states your main argument. And we know that a thesis statement has to be argumentative. It has to be an opinion and to be something that is capable of advancement. You're able to write an essay about it. You don't want to have a thesis statement that's a dead end because you will have nowhere to go. That essay will be over with in the introduction statement.

A thesis needs to be concise. Sometimes, we see a thesis in two sentences and it has to be supported. That means you have to have research on that topic enough to back up the points you want to make. Down here at the bottom, I have two thesis statements that are no good. The first one says my thesis is to discuss dark chocolate. We don't really know what there is to say about dark chocolate, but it's definitely concise and I'm sure there is support, but it's not a rock solid thesis statement.

The next one is more of a topic statement when you're starting off writing. I'm going to write about dark chocolate. Okay. This is not something that will appear as a thesis statement in a final draft.

There's the examples I was trying to get pop up. It just took a couple clicks. We have a stronger thesis statement. I argue that dark chocolate has more benefits. They could say no, dark chocolate does not have more benefits. You could say that a different type of chocolate has more benefits. You can say the benefits don't make it worth the downsides of dark chocolate, but this is argumentative. This is an opinion that could be advanced throughout a paper. It's still a concise sentence and we have the research.

The same thing goes for the second one, which is a thesis for a discussion post that is going to show dark chocolate but it's proof and evidence of critical thinking and writing. These two thesis statements, because they meet the criteria, are now proof the critical thinking.


Visual: Slide #11 “Poll Practice” opens and the layout is similar to the chat layout earlier. Instead of a chat pod, a poll pod is visible with three choices for a good thesis statement. Melissa discusses the choices after participants make their selections.

Audio: So I am going to have a poll for you here where I'm asking you to choose the thesis that you believe is argumentative. So go ahead and make a choice. Poll the one -- or I guess click the one that is argumentative. (A break was taken.)

All right. So I'll give you just a few more seconds here to make a selection, which means we're looking for the one that is an opinion. We're looking for the thesis statement that a person could disagree with. All right. Let's take a look here to view these results and see what you have chosen. And I want you to focus in on the middle selection there, which is our leader, and that is social media can create distractions for high school students as they focus on talking to their friends rather than their studies. Could somebody disagree with this? Somebody could.

One way would be to say social media does not create distractions and that proves it's not argumentative. However, I want to test the other two. The one up top says social media was responsible for corrupting the minds of high school students. Someone could say social media is not responsible, but this is a paraphrase of somebody else's statement. It is not an original opinion. So I don't want to go with that for a thesis statement because, first, it's not my original thought, and, second, it's going to rely on one source.

Let's look at the last possible thesis. The purpose is to consider the positive and negative ways social media affects high school students. The only way I can disagree with it sounds like I do not agree with it and it sounds rude. So that middle thesis statement is the one that's argumentative. Thank you for taking the time to participate in this poll, and great job. I love when the majority gets it right.


Visual: The layout reverts back to the main setup with the large slide. The next slide opens and continues the discussion for the best example from the poll. The bottom of the slide has a textbox with the thesis statement. Above and to the left is the definition of critical thinking. To the right is the definition for a good thesis statement. As she discusses this thesis statement, Melissa uses an arrow to point from “original” in critical thinking to “argument” in thesis statement. She uses another arrow to point from “informed assessment” to “supported.”

Audio: Here's another look at that statement again that's argumentative. And we're going to wrap this section up by seeing how it is an example of critical thinking. Remember, critical thinking is that original idea based on statements. It is based on research, which reasons it can be supported. So here is an original argument about social media distracting high school students, and it's going to be based on high school student use of social media, trying to find some proof that grades have dropped or academic performance has dropped. This is an original idea, but it's still based on the research. So the original idea is that this is an argument. It's a brand new argument straight from the writer, and it is supported in the research. It is an informed assessment. At this point, I am just going to see if any questions have come into the Q & A box that were worth discussing.


Visual: The slide changes to a large question mark.

Audio: Beth: Thanks so much, Melissa. One of the questions that came up was sort of balancing the concision and detail in statements while making sure that it's specific but not trying to get too wordy. Does that make sense?

Audio: Melissa: Yes, that does. And when I am working with students in the Writing Center, I recommend that you write a thesis statement. After you have a draft, you go back and revise the thesis to make sure that it matches the body. Now, if you are writing a short paper or a short discussion post, you can state the argument and preview the reasons you feel that way that you pull from the topic sentences. Your thesis statement will capture the main idea of each paragraph. Just kind of take it from the topic sentence, a few more words, read it out loud, make sure it flows.

Now, if you have a really, really long essay, and, let's say, you're looking at 25 paragraphs, you can't list 25 main ideas in your thesis. You have to step back and look for the broader ideas that you touch on and really try to get it down to, like, two to four points. What are those things that I am doing? That's where you write down the main idea of each paragraph. Look for similar threads and list those in the thesis. Go back to the thesis. You want to be specific to what follows without being overly specific, and I know that that is repeating that question, but you want the critical thinking to shine in the statement and then preview the specifics without too many of them.

Audio: Beth: I love that. That sounds great. That's all I have, Melissa.


Visual: Slide #14 opens and shows agenda again.

Audio: Melissa: Okay. Great, thank you. That means we are moving on from thesis development to looking at how critical thinking plays a role in paraphrasing.


Visual: Slide #15 “Paraphrasing” opens. It shows as 2x2 grid with details about paraphrasing in each box of the grid. The center of the grid has a large textbox superimposed that defines paraphrasing as: Placing ideas or information from a source in your own words. Melissa reads and discusses the information in the grid.

Audio: That is when we take research and put those ideas and information in our own words. Paraphrasing is always preferable to direct quotes because it allows you to take control of the author's idea and that doesn't mean you're going to be misleading in your presentation of your ideas, but it flows with your writing.

It also gives you the ability to relate the author's ideas to what you are saying because the whole thing is in your voice. We don't have to interrupt our flow. And then if you look at this definition in front of you to the upper right-hand corner, you always have to cite it. Always have to cite it, which means it will include the author's last name and year of publication. The page and paragraph number is optional for that citation. So it's where we repeat ideas or information in our own words.


Visual: Slide #16 opens and continues the discussion on paraphrasing. Four textboxes are arranged in a circle with arrows pointing clockwise from one to the next. Two arrows with helpful hints point to the third box “Look away.” Melissa reads and discusses the whole graphic.

Audio: Here is a little guide to help you with the actual steps of paraphrasing. So starting up at the top, read that and step back and think about it. What are you going to do with that evidence? What role is this information going to play? Supporting your ideas? Stop, get that passage out of sight, and write down the main points. You may adjust, revise, edit as needed. But if you put that original away, you're going to end up with your own paraphrase. And then, of course, remember to cite it.

One tip: If you're struggling how to get the words down on to the paper, imagine you're explaining it to somebody else. What would you tell them you just read?


Visual: Slide #17 “Paraphrasing example” opens and has a long quote in a textbox on the left. “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).

Audio: Now, we'll look at an example of it. Here is a very long quote that comes right from a piece of research. I am going to look at this, I am going to pull out some of the main ideas, then I am going to no longer look at the quote.


Visual: A long paraphrase of the quote appears in a smaller textbox on the top right. Melissa discusses this paraphrase and then replaces it with this one: “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.” An arrow points from the bottom of the first textbox to the second. Melissa discusses both paraphrases in relation to the original quote.

Audio: This is my repetition of just the main ideas. So here, I have chosen to name the authors in my paraphrase and say what it is that they discussed.

You'll notice that my paraphrase is much shorter than the original, and you'll notice that the words are different. I have restated these in my own words. Another way to paraphrase this would be even shorter. So it's still the same main idea about social media being a distraction, but it is new words and shorter.


Visual: Slide #18 continues the discussion on paraphrasing. Two textboxes are side-by-side in the middle of the slide. The left one has critical thinking with the definition and the right one has paraphrasing with its definition. An arrow at the top points to the right and one at the bottom points to the left. Melissa discusses the relationship between critical thinking and paraphrasing.

Audio: So now, you might be wondering: Well, how is this critical thinking? Well, Melissa, you spent a long time saying it has to be an original and new statement. It's the original restatement of research. It alone is not enough for you to sit back and say there's my critical thinking, but it still is a role because it is original. We see that word. Original restatement of research. Paraphrasing is something we will look at, but before we move on, I don't know if any questions have come in worth touching on, but talk to me.


Visual: The next slide opens with a large question mark.

Audio: Beth: Can you talk to me about how citations play a role?


Visual: Melissa flips back to slide #17 with the paraphrasing examples.

Audio: Melissa: Sure. A citation is a signal to a reader that what you are saying comes from some source. So I'm going to just back up to the -- to one of these examples. So here, you'll see in the quote, we have a citation at the end, but I still have a citation. I have included the year of publication. Even when you put the research in your own words, we have to include a citation. This lets your reader know that what you're saying is true. It does give weight and credit to the information you're basing your argument on.

Like I said earlier, your research is only as solid as the ideas that support them. We cite to give credit and to prove that our research is good. Even though it's your words, if you got the idea from somebody else, place the citation.

Audio: Beth: Thank you, Melissa. And I'm going to send out a link to our webinar calendar just because we have a session focused on citation next week.

Audio: Melissa: Perfect. Wonderful timing. So you have any questions on citations, that is going to be a great webinar to attend.


Visual: The agenda slide opens again.

Audio: Okay. We talked about paraphrasing, and I said that it alone was not enough to carry critical thinking in your writing.


Visual: Slide #21 “Analysis” opens. It shows four stacked textboxes with key points to remember about analysis: (a) Your own interpretation of other authors’ ideas, (b) Shows that you’re not just summarizing your research, but using it to support your argument, (c) How you’ll support your thesis statement throughout your paper, and (d) Important to include in every paragraph. Melissa discusses these.

Audio: Analysis is your interpretation and response to someone else's ideas. Analysis is very important because it shows that you're not just summarizing research, but you are doing something with it. It's really where your support comes in in the paper. It's important to include analysis in every paragraph. So if you're not sure if you are putting analysis in your writing, a good tip is to put it right after the paraphrase. This way, you are presenting the research and then you are immediately following it up with your interpretation, your comparison and contrast, whatever it is you think, whatever use you see.

So if you are making a suggestion for a change in process for the place where you currently work, you might present research as valid. And then right after it, you will explain how it improves your point. That is your analysis.


Visual: Slide #22 “Analysis: MEAL plan” opens. It shows the acronym for the MEAL plan for paragraph structure:

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

Melissa reviews and discusses the MEAL plan.

Audio: We see this in the meal plan. We refer to this a lot in the Writing Center if you've have appointments with us. This may be something that has come up. It's a tidy little way to explain paragraphing if you're getting stuck on creating those packages of ideas. It's this chunk of understanding for the reader, and the analysis is an important part of that. A paragraph should start with: What is the main idea? State the main idea of the paragraph. Then after that, you're going to include the evidence, which is all of the evidence you compiled or a quote, used sparingly, of course. This is how you're using it, how it supports and forwards your thesis statement. And this should be the bulk of the paragraph. Just take a look at how many lines in Word are paraphrased and how many lines are analyzed and see if you can get a strong balance between the two or more analysis. That way, we're focusing on your ideas and your thoughts. Then I like to see, at the end of the paragraph, you repeating the idea, wrapping it up in some way or preparing to move us to the next point. So it's an important part of paragraphs, but it's important to show you have thought critically about paragraphs.


Visual: The next slide identifies a resource “Handout: Including Analysis and Explanation in Your Writing” available in the files pod.

Audio: If you want more information, in the lower right-hand corner, this is a document down there that gives you more of an analysis than we can today.


Visual: Slide #24 opens and continues the discussion of analysis. A paraphrase is at the top of the slide and then as Melissa reads and discusses the slide, a textbox opens with analysis following the paraphrase.

Audio: So we're going to take a look at how this works, then I'm going to have you help me add analysis. This is a paraphrase that I have created. 88% of patients are able to do so within a month. That's just my paraphrase. It's an original statement of the research, but it's missing the analysis, so my critical thinking has started, but, oh, I have so much more to include. So here is one way that I could add analysis to this data. You'll see the same paraphrase, and then my analysis is that this statistic shows that more than 10% of the population needs to wait to receive urgent medical care. I am using this to support my argument that the current healthcare system needs to be reformed. I am using this to support and forward my opinion that there is a problem. There is a program. More than 10% has to wait. That's a problem.

Now, imagine I have a classmate who's writing also on healthcare, and she wants to use the same source. So she writes a paraphrase and adds her own analysis, which is, in other words, in terms of seeing a specialist, the U.S. healthcare specialist is meeting the needs of the majority of patients. So I say there is a problem, but she is saying it's pretty good. We don't need to change much of anything here. So you'll see how the research can support multiple opinions and multiple arguments. It's the analysis that makes the connection.

Now, if I were to only include this paraphrase and say nothing after it, you as a reader might wonder, okay. 88%, that's cool. But without the analysis there, you don't have the solidification of the thesis of my argument and you're left to draw those conclusions yourself. And we don't want our reader to draw their own conclusions. That's our job as the writer to make sure the evidence explains where we think we were coming from and make sure the reader follows us and agrees with us. So one can be used to support multiple opinions. It depends on what follows.


Visual: The layout changes and slide #25 opens with a chat prompt. The Q&A and captioning pods are side-by-side in the top right of the screen. The chat pod is below that. The slide pod is in the top left and a notepad pod is in the bottom left. Melissa reads the prompt and exercise. Participants enter responses in the chat pod. Melissa copies some responses into the notepad pod to discuss.

Audio: At this point, I want you to tell me in the chat box that will appear how you could add analysis to this paraphrase. And I'll read it for you as you start thinking about this. 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. Take a minute and add some analysis to the end of this paraphrase. (A break was taken.)

I am enjoying watching all of these examples come through in the chat box. And if you have already typed yours in, take a moment to scroll through some of the responses. I see some wonderful pieces of analysis coming through, and I say that because these sentences that you are sharing are original ideas and there's a couple themes.

And I've pulled some out to talk about, but they are all based on the research. I don't see any examples of analysis that are off-topic or don't connect to the paraphrase at all, and that is so important. Remember that our critical thinking is an original statement that's based on research. So all of these are based on this bit of research that you just looked at about social media being a distraction to some but also helping first generation students. These are some of the strongest pieces of analysis I have seen come through in a while.

So there's a couple major themes that I saw come through in that chat box, and the first one is that some people responded to technology in general. And so one piece of analysis was, therefore, having this experience with technology can be a benefit. This can be a sort essay about the inclusion of technology in a curriculum or some other program that would help bring technology to these students. So this paper could potentially be arguing for that and would use this paraphrase to support it.

Another piece of analysis that I saw was: This shows device policies are missing an opportunity to help students reach their goals. This might be a post for zero tolerance policies and it's saying they should be eliminated. Meanwhile, there could be a person supporting zero tolerance policies. Then another thing I saw was a bit of analysis that relates directly to social media itself. So that analysis is: While social media can be a hindrance at times, it can provide understanding. So you can paraphrase about social media itself and maybe this is part of a research proposal about the role of social media in general or the role of social media among high school students, whatever the case may be. Here, we have research that can be used to support many different ideas and topics. So analysis is a place to let your critical thinking shine.

Thank you so much for participating in this. Look at all those responses in the chat box.


Visual: Slide #25 opens and continues analysis discussion. The left side has a circle labeled critical thinking with a textbox of the definition and the right side has a circle labeled analysis with a textbox of the definition. Arrows show the relationship between the two that Melissa discusses.

Audio: I just want to remind you that there is had a connection between the definition of critical thinking and the definition of analysis. Remember, it's that critical statement and it's your own interpretation, completely new from your brain into the word document, but it still has to be informed. And an analysis is an interpretation of that research. It's a very strong relation between critical thinking and analysis. Before we move on, I will stop to field any questions.


Visual: The next slide opens with a large question mark.

Audio: Beth: We've had questions about the use of first person and I in analysis. And I wondered if you could talk about when it might be appropriate to use I.

Audio: Melissa: Oh, definitely. So sometimes, when we are including that analysis and we are responding and reflecting on the research, we as writers might slip into the “I think, I believe” type of statements, and we do that because it creates a separation of this is what the research said and this is what I say, but that separation is artificial. You don't have to use those I believe, I think statements. In that case, first person should definitely be eliminated and avoided. And the easiest way to do it is to remove the I statement. We as readers know that you think it and it's your opinion because your name is on the title page. We know that it's your opinion. So in those instances, I prefer to not see first person in analysis.

Now, the times when you would include first are when you are responding, reflecting, sharing specific examples and experiences that you have connected to, you would go ahead and say I, me, my regarding what it is you're working on whether it's student teaching or a stud nursing facility. You don't want to refer to yourself by name or this writer or this researcher or something awkward like that because, you know, it's strange. It sounds strange, it sounds odd.

The other time that you would use first person is if you are presenting what research you will do. Then it's okay to say I will do this. Those are the -- those are the times that you would go ahead and use first person. But generally, if you're just responding, reflecting, thinking about what you have read in the research and what you have paraphrased, you will leave the first person out. And we have an -- maybe Julia or Beth could copy the link. We have a great page on our website about first person and kind of the Walden stance on it. And at times, first person is good to avoid. And at times, it is fine to include.

Audio: Beth: Thank you so much, Melissa. I just sent the link out.

Audio: Melissa: Great. Thank you. So that's a great place to go for using that perspective or point of view. Anything else before we move on?

Audio: Beth: No. I think we're good so far.


Visual: The agenda slide opens again.

Audio: Melissa: So we're at that very last piece now, which is the synthesis.


Visual: Slide #29 “Synthesis” opens. It shows two key points for synthesis: Combining independent elements to form a cohesive whole and Involves (a) Critical analysis of sources (b) Comparing and contrasting what the authors have to say and (c) Evaluating and interpreting that information. Melissa reviews and discusses these.

Audio: We'll jump right into it. This is where we take a bunch of independent separate elements. And that sounds so scientific, so think of it where you're combining things you have read on your topic. And you're taking all of those and you're building something new out of them. In order to synthesize, you have to analyze those sources. You have to think about your sources, and you have to compare and contrast what you're saying. You have learned that there's a lot of scholars out there who seem to agree with each other a lot. So you will be able to compare and contrast what authors have to say.


Visual: Slide #30 opens and continues synthesis. It has the first key point at the top and a funnel at the bottom. The circles in the center of the funnel are labeled statistics and expert advice and an arrow pointing out of the bottom of the funnel is labeled “Your recommendation of how to combat the negative effects of social media on high school students.” Melissa discusses this graphic.

Audio: However, you will also evaluate and interpret and analyze that information. So critical -- so synthesis -- I have a wonderful image for you. Think of it as taking lots of images and pulling them into a new whole. You'll see that the circles are the research. So we take the articles that we've read, maybe even personal interviews that we've conducted, and it's going to create something new, which is your recommendation on how to combat the negative effect of social media in high school. In order to create that thesis that we see down at the bottom -- or that focus, we have to take the bits of research and mold them into something new and that's what synthesis is all about, going from parts to a new whole.


Visual: Slide #31 “Synthesis: Not Quite” opens. There are two sentences in a mock paper that Melissa reads and discusses.

Audio: Here’s an example of not quite synthesis. 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. This is the placement of multiple sources side by side. It definitely has differing viewpoints, but they're just kind of dropped. They're plopped into the paragraph. There's no comparison and contrast, there's no original statement, which means there's no critical thinking. We need that original statement. And so this synthesis is just -- it's not quite there. It's multiple pieces of research. And again, this is where the writer is relying on the reader to connect the dots.


Visual: Slide #32 “Synthesis: with the MEAL plan” opens. As she reads the new paragraph, each section of the MEAL plan appears.

Audio: In order to synthesize this, we start with a strong topic sentence. “Research on social media’s effect on high school students is far from reaching consensus.” Now, anybody reading this paragraph is going to know where the rest of the paragraph is, how people think that social media has no effect, a great effect, and that the experts and the research -- it just doesn't agree right now, which is actually an awesome place to be. Because if you are writing on a topic where there isn't a consensus, that's a place for you as a scholar, as an expert.


Visual: The next section of the MEAL plan paragraph opens “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.” Melissa refers to it in her discussion.

Audio: Then I will present those pieces of research, which is the one that says social media has no effect, then the source that says it has an effect. If I stop here, all I have is my main idea and my evidence. I don't have the analysis that's doing the heavy lifting, so I need to add that in.


Visual: The next section of the paragraph appears and Melissa reads and discusses it.

Audio: I need to get the brain working and add in the analysis. “However, both authors neglect the possibility that high school students are simply not aware of the negative influences of social media.” When I was doing the research, I would have realized that the experts in this field, the authors have a gap in their response. And I'm going point that out.

So what you see in blue here, that last statement, starting with however, is my analysis that is my critical thinking. It is creating a new hole out of two pieces of research. So in the -- the last chunk of this webinar, we looked at critical thinking and analysis. And we based it off of just one paragraph, one source of an analysis. Here, we have two sources, analysis of both. And that's what makes it a synthesis.


Visual: The final section of the paragraph appears. Melissa reads and discusses this.

Audio: Before I wrap up my -- well, as I wrap up, I want a statement that is going to lead out. Restate the main idea, get it out in some way. “Future research, therefore, should closely examine this level of awareness and whether it can predetermine particular adolescent behavior.” I have a chance here to showcase my ideas, my recommendations, and end the paragraph with a piece of critical thinking. So I have include aid sources here, two sources, but I am doing something with them to pull it together into one original idea that is my own. That's what synthesis is all about: Taking those pieces and making something new out of them.


Visual: Slide #33 opens and continues the discussion on synthesis. There are two large arrows side-by-side pointing to each other. The left arrow has the definition for critical thinking and the right arrow has the definition for synthesis. The words original and cohesive whole are in red font and the words informed assessment and independent elements are in black font. The remaining text is in white font. Melissa discusses the relationship between critical thinking and synthesis.

Audio: So it's informed assessment, and synthesis is combining elements to make a new whole. And the new whole is the original statement. So critical thinking is made evident and clear in your writing when you pull together sources to form an opinion or a recommendation or a response that you have. Have any questions come through about synthesis, Beth?


Visual: The next slide opens with a large question mark.

Audio: Beth: They haven't, no. Nothing so far.

Audio: Melissa: Okay. So that's an easy one for me to respond to. (Laughing.) All right.


Visual: Slide #35 “Recap” opens. It shows the agenda again, but now with details below each item. Melissa reviews thesis development, paraphrasing, analysis, and synthesis.

Audio: So let's do a recap. We looked at how critical thinking is a part of critical development. It has to be an original idea. It has to be an argument, an idea. However, it has to be able to be supported.

So if critical thinking is an original idea that isn't supported, your thesis isn't an original idea that you can support. It doesn't matter how long something is. The thinking and analysis should be present. Critical thinking is part of the paragraph. It's using your own words to look at the research. Critical thinking is also -- probably strongly connected to analysis of -- in the clearest way because this is where you are making your original statement about the research. If you are -- and this might be another great link to include in the Q & A box is our page on the meal plan. The analysis which appears in every paragraph is where you have your original statement based on the paragraph. You can drop your analysis after the paraphrase, then you know it's always evidence. That is where you are pulling in multiple sources to compare and contrast and analyze them. And again, it's an original statement based on the research.


Visual: Slide #36 “Critical Thinking Toolbox” opens. There are four lists of links for additional resources. Each list has resources for each of the four areas of critical thinking that were discussed in the webinar. Melissa briefly discusses these.

Audio: Here, I have a whole bunch of links that will give you additional information on the four things we've looked at. I'm not going to leave this up for too long and we are going to do a post-quiz here in a moment. You'll have access to this and the links will be live. Also, you can explore some of these pages that we have. At this point, I'm going to go ahead and hand it back over to Beth. Thanks for joining us everybody.


Visual: The layout and slide changes. The slide shows ways to contact the Writing Center with future questions as well as hyperlinks for additional webinars related to critical thinking. The slide pod is in the bottom right corner of the screen. Above that is the Q&A pod. The files and captioning pods are side-by-side at the top right. The main part of the screen has the final quiz.

Audio: Beth: Thanks so much, Melissa. That was a fantastic session. Before we sort of end with our last Q & A and last poll, we have questions on the topics that Melissa has discussed today. Let's take a few minutes to answer those, and you can see how much you learned. I'm going to go quiet to give you a few minutes to read through the questions. Please, stick around because I'll be posting the answers and we'll be having last thoughts from Melissa as well. (A break was taken.)

All right. Keep submitting your answers if you haven't already. I did want to note that there's a typo and that's my fault. I take full responsibility for that. I apologize, everyone. I am going to send out the answers to these in the Q & A box right now. And so if you have any last questions that you'd like to address, please make sure to address those since we'll have a few minutes for those. If you don't want to know the answers yet, don't look in the Q & A box. But here we are, everyone.

All right. I'm looking in the Q & A box and I don't see any other questions. So I wonder, Melissa, what is the one tip that you would give students for making sure that they can engage in -- and include critical thinking in their writing? What's one strategy you would highly recommend?

Audio: Melissa: I think the one thing that I would want all student writers to keep in mind to make sure critical thinking is present in their writing is to -- not to pick a favorite, but to include the analysis after ever paraphrase, especially if you are feeling unsure if you are including enough in your writing. This is where following all pieces of analysis to make sure critical thinking is present. And as always, if you have a question about critical thinking or you want to make sure it is critical and strong and there's analysis and synthesis, make an appointment with us in the Writing Center and there will be someone to review your work and point out places where you can develop your critical thinking or to maybe consider adding different -- I'm trying to think of like a real life example to share here.

Sometimes, if you're working on something and you're not sure if it's present, having someone help you can be helpful. I know sometimes I ask my students questions like have you thought about how this could affect the residents? And then that might give you a starting point to include the analysis. So my one tip is try the meal plan. Dump in the analysis after the evidence and that will help to ensure that there is critical thinking going on and you're not getting swept up in restating the research.

Make an appointment with the Writing Center, too. You've got wonderful writing instructors in the Writing Center who are ready and love to give feedback on writing. And this is something I know you guys do a great job giving feedback on and I think enjoy giving feedback on, too.

Audio: Beth: We have a question about who can submit papers for review. I did want to note that anyone can submit papers. So if you're a doctoral student and you're in your coursework, you can submit your writing for a coursework. See the Writing Center for those paper reviews.

Audio: We do have a question about the poll A -- not A. Number one. (Laughing.) The question is whether you can explain the answer because the correct answer was letter C. Cool. Thank you.

Audio: Melissa: Oh, definitely. So when we're looking for an assignment, the correct answer here is C. C is a recommendation for a particular leadership style to be used in a hospital setting. First of all, it's an opinion. It's an original idea. You are making a recommendation. However, that idea, that new idea you have, will be based on research. Because it's your recommendation, that's what makes it an example of critical thinking. Now, we are write to avoid answer A there, which is just a definition. That is repeating the research and not creating a new idea. And then B is getting into the gray area because you may synthesize and analyze them. However, the summary itself is just a repetition of research and that new original idea isn't there. Definitely informed if you have 12 sources, but the new idea is missing.

Audio: Beth: Thanks so much, Melissa. Let's go ahead and call it a night. Thank you so much for the wonderful presentation and the session. Any -- any last words or last thoughts? I know I kind of --

Audio: Melissa: You know, down in the PowerPoint slide, there is a hashtag if you want to continue this conversation. Any questions or observations you have, I will fire up my Twitter account to kind of follow along with that conversation and tweet out my final thoughts.

Audio: Beth: Awesome. Well, thank you for attending. Make sure to tweet after the session, too, if you'd like to continue the conversation and have a wonderful evening. We hope to see you at another webinar coming up this month, and thank you, all.