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Writing Guide with Handbook

8.1 Information and Critical Thinking

Writing Guide with Handbook8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
  1. Preface
  2. The Things We Carry: Experience, Culture, and Language
    1. Unit Introduction
    2. 1 The Digital World: Building on What You Already Know to Respond Critically
      1. Introduction
      2. 1.1 "Reading" to Understand and Respond
      3. 1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez
      4. 1.3 Glance at Critical Response: Rhetoric and Critical Thinking
      5. 1.4 Annotated Student Sample: Social Media Post and Responses on Voter Suppression
      6. 1.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text”
      7. 1.6 Evaluation: Intention vs. Execution
      8. 1.7 Spotlight on … Academia
      9. 1.8 Portfolio: Tracing Writing Development
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    3. 2 Language, Identity, and Culture: Exploring, Employing, Embracing
      1. Introduction
      2. 2.1 Seeds of Self
      3. 2.2 Identity Trailblazer: Cathy Park Hong
      4. 2.3 Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation
      5. 2.4 Annotated Sample Reading from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
      6. 2.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about How Identity Is Constructed Through Writing
      7. 2.6 Evaluation: Antiracism and Inclusivity
      8. 2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English
      9. 2.8 Portfolio: Decolonizing Self
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    4. 3 Literacy Narrative: Building Bridges, Bridging Gaps
      1. Introduction
      2. 3.1 Identity and Expression
      3. 3.2 Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
      4. 3.3 Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
      5. 3.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
      6. 3.5 Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
      7. 3.6 Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
      8. 3.7 Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
      9. 3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
      10. 3.9 Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
      13. Works Consulted
  3. Bridging the Divide Between Personal Identity and Academia
    1. Unit Introduction
    2. 4 Memoir or Personal Narrative: Learning Lessons from the Personal
      1. Introduction
      2. 4.1 Exploring the Past to Understand the Present
      3. 4.2 Memoir Trailblazer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
      4. 4.3 Glance at Genre: Conflict, Detail, and Revelation
      5. 4.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
      6. 4.5 Writing Process: Making the Personal Public
      7. 4.6 Editing Focus: More on Characterization and Point of View
      8. 4.7 Evaluation: Structure and Organization
      9. 4.8 Spotlight on … Multilingual Writers
      10. 4.9 Portfolio: Filtered Memories
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    3. 5 Profile: Telling a Rich and Compelling Story
      1. Introduction
      2. 5.1 Profiles as Inspiration
      3. 5.2 Profile Trailblazer: Veronica Chambers
      4. 5.3 Glance at Genre: Subject, Angle, Background, and Description
      5. 5.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Remembering John Lewis” by Carla D. Hayden
      6. 5.5 Writing Process: Focusing on the Angle of Your Subject
      7. 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
      8. 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
      9. 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
      10. 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
      11. Works Cited
    4. 6 Proposal: Writing About Problems and Solutions
      1. Introduction
      2. 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
      3. 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
      4. 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
      5. 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
      6. 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
      7. 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
      8. 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
      9. 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
      10. 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    5. 7 Evaluation or Review: Would You Recommend It?
      1. Introduction
      2. 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
      3. 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
      4. 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
      5. 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
      6. 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
      7. 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
      8. 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
      9. 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
      10. 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    6. 8 Analytical Report: Writing from Facts
      1. Introduction
      2. 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
      3. 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
      4. 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
      5. 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
      6. 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
      7. 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
      8. 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
      9. 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
      10. 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    7. 9 Rhetorical Analysis: Interpreting the Art of Rhetoric
      1. Introduction
      2. 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
      3. 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
      4. 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
      5. 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
      6. 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
      7. 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
      8. 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
      9. 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
      10. 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    8. 10 Position Argument: Practicing the Art of Rhetoric
      1. Introduction
      2. 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
      3. 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
      4. 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
      5. 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
      6. 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
      7. 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
      8. 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
      9. 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
      10. 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    9. 11 Reasoning Strategies: Improving Critical Thinking
      1. Introduction
      2. 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
      3. 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
      4. 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
      5. 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
      6. 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
      7. Further Reading
      8. Works Cited
    10. 12 Argumentative Research: Enhancing the Art of Rhetoric with Evidence
      1. Introduction
      2. 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
      3. 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
      4. 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
      5. 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
      6. 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
      7. 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
      8. 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
      9. 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
      10. 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    11. 13 Research Process: Accessing and Recording Information
      1. Introduction
      2. 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
      3. 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
      4. 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
      5. 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
      6. 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
      7. 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
      8. Further Reading
      9. Works Cited
    12. 14 Annotated Bibliography: Gathering, Evaluating, and Documenting Sources
      1. Introduction
      2. 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
      3. 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
      4. 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
      5. 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
      6. Further Reading
      7. Works Cited
    13. 15 Case Study Profile: What One Person Says About All
      1. Introduction
      2. 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
      3. 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
      4. 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
      5. 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
      6. 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
      7. 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
      8. 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
      9. 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
      10. 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
  4. Navigating Rhetoric in Real Life
    1. Unit Introduction
    2. 16 Print or Textual Analysis: What You Read
      1. Introduction
      2. 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
      3. 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
      4. 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
      5. 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
      6. 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
      7. 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
      8. 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
      9. 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
      10. 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    3. 17 Image Analysis: What You See
      1. Introduction
      2. 17.1 “Reading” Images
      3. 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
      4. 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
      5. 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
      6. 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
      7. 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
      8. 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
      9. 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
      10. 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    4. 18 Multimodal and Online Writing: Creative Interaction between Text and Image
      1. Introduction
      2. 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
      3. 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
      4. 18.3 Glance at Genre: Genre, Audience, Purpose, Organization
      5. 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
      6. 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
      7. 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
      8. 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
      9. 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    5. 19 Scripting for the Public Forum: Writing to Speak
      1. Introduction
      2. 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
      3. 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
      4. 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
      5. 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
      6. 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
      7. 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
      8. 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
      9. 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    6. 20 Portfolio Reflection: Your Growth as a Writer
      1. Introduction
      2. 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
      3. 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
      4. 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
      5. 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
      6. 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
      7. 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
      8. 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
      9. 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
  5. Handbook
  6. Index

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Distinguish between fact and opinion.
  • Recognize bias in reading and in yourself.
  • Ask critical thinking questions to explore an idea for a report.

Knowledge in the social and natural sciences and technical fields is often focused on data and ideas that can be verified by observing, measuring, and testing. Accordingly, writers in these fields place high value on neutral and objective case analysis and inferences based on the careful examination of data. Put another way, writers describe and analyze results as they understand them. Likewise, writers in these fields avoid subjectivity, including personal opinions, speculations, and bias. As the writer of an analytical report, you need to know the difference between fact and opinion, be able to identify bias, and think critically and analytically.

Distinguishing Fact from Opinion

An analytical report provides information based on facts. Put simply, facts are statements that can be proven or whose truth can be inferred.

It may be difficult to distinguish fact from opinion or allegation. As a writer, use a critical eye to examine what you read. The following are examples of factual statements:

  • Article I, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the legislative branch of the government consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
  • The school board voted to approve the administration’s proposal.

Facts that use numbers are called statistics. Some numbers are stated directly:

  • The earth’s average land and ocean surface temperature in March 2020 was 2.09 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the average surface temperature during the 20th century.
  • The total number of ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election was approximately 159 million.
  • The survey results showed that 45 percent of first-year students at this university attended every class, whether in person or online.

Other numbers are implied:

  • Mercury is the planet closest to the sun.
  • College tuition and fees have risen in the past decade.

Factual statements such as those above stand in contrast to opinions, which are statements of belief or value. Opinions form the basis of claims that are supported by evidence in argumentative writing, but they should be avoided in informative and analytical writing. Here are two statements of opinion about an increase in college tuition and fees:

  • Although tuition and fees have risen, the value of a college education is worth the cost.
  • The increase in college tuition and fees over the past 10 years has placed an unreasonably heavy financial burden on students.

Both statements indicate that the writer will make an argument. In the first, the writer will defend the increases in college tuition and fees. In the second, the writer will argue that the increases in tuition and fees have made college too expensive. In both arguments, the writer will support the argument with factual evidence. See Proposal: Writing about Problems and Solutions for more information about fact and opinion.

Want to know more about facts? Read the blog post Fact-Checking 101 by Laura McClure, posted to the TED-Ed website.

Recognizing Bias

In addition to distinguishing between fact and opinion, it is important to recognize bias. Bias is commonly defined as a preconceived opinion about something—a subject, an idea, a person, or a group of people. As the writer of a report, you will learn to recognize bias in yourself and in the information you gather.

Bias in What You Read

Some writing is intentionally biased and intended to persuade, such as the editorials and opinion pieces described above. However, a report and the evidence on which it is based should not be heavily biased. Bias becomes a problem when a source you believe to be neutral, objective, and trustworthy presents information that attempts to sway your opinion. Identifying Bias, posted by Tyler Rablin, is a helpful guide to recognizing bias.

As you consider sources for your report, the following tips can also help you spot bias and read critically:

  • Determine the writer’s purpose. Is the writer simply informing you or trying to persuade you?
  • Research the author. Is the writer known for taking a side on the topic of the writing? Is the writer considered an expert?
  • Distinguish between fact and opinion. Take note of the number of facts and opinions throughout the source.
  • Pay attention to the language and what the writer emphasizes. Does the author use emotionally loaded, inflammatory words or descriptions intended to sway readers? What do the title, introduction, and any headings tell you about the author’s approach to the subject?
  • Read multiple sources on the topic. Learn whether the source is leaving out or glossing over important information and credible views.
  • Look critically at the images and any media that support the writing. Do they reinforce positive or negative aspects of the subject?

Bias in Yourself

Most individuals bring what psychologists call cognitive bias to their interactions with information or with other people. Cognitive bias influences the way people gather and process new information. As you research information for a report, also be aware of confirmation bias. This is the tendency to seek out and accept information that supports (or confirms) a belief you already have and may cause you to ignore or dismiss information that challenges that belief. A related bias is the false consensus effect, which is the tendency to overestimate the extent to which other people agree with your beliefs.

For example, perhaps you believe strongly that college tuition is too high and that tuition should be free at the public colleges and universities in your state. With that belief, you are likely to be more receptive to facts and statistics showing that tuition-free college benefits students by boosting graduation rates and improving financial security after college, in part because the sources may seem more mainstream. However, if you believe strongly that tuition should not be free, you are likely to be more receptive to facts and statistics showing that students who don’t pay for college are less likely to be serious about school and take longer to graduate—again, because the sources may seem more mainstream.

Asking Critical Questions about a Topic for a Report

As you consider a topic for a report, note the ideas that occur to you, interesting information you read, and what you already know. Answer the following questions about potential topics to help you understand a topic in a suitably analytical framework for a report.

  • What is/was the cause of ________?
  • What is/was the effect of ________?
  • How does/did ________ compare or contrast with another similar event, idea, or item?
  • What makes/made ________ a problem?
  • What are/were some possible solutions to ________?
  • What beliefs do I have about ________?
  • What aspects of ________ do I need to learn more about to write a report about it?

In the report that appears later in this chapter, student Trevor Garcia analyzes the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Trevor began thinking about his topic with the question What was the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Because he had lived through 2020, he was able to draw upon personal experience: his school closed, his mother was laid off, and his family’s finances were tight. As he researched his question, he moved beyond the information he gathered from his own experiences and discovered that the United States had failed in several key areas. He then answered the questions below to arrive at an analytical framework:

  • What was the cause of the poor U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020?
  • What was the effect of the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020?
  • How did the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic compare/contrast with the responses of other countries?
  • What are some possible solutions to the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What do I already believe about the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What aspects of the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic do I need to learn more about?

For his report, Trevor chose to focus on the first question: What was the cause of the poor U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020?

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