Tips and guidance on effective study - simply choose the links that interest you!
Critical thinking is the process of applying reasoned and disciplined thinking to a subject. The higher grades at every level of university study require some critical analysis.
You will need to develop reasoned arguments based on a logical interpretation of reliable sources information. These skills are essential if you want to obtain high grades in your university study and, like other skills, they improve with practice.
As you read your module materials follow these three steps.
The OU booklet 'Thinking critically' gives you further information on this subject.Sign in to read this booklet
Most OU modules provide you with all study materials. However, if your studies require you to look for some supporting material yourself (e.g. case studies) make sure you choose appropriately. You will need to develop the skill of finding and evaluating sources of information.
The OU Library gives you access to over 5000 electronic journal titles, databases of journal abstracts, newspapers, etexts and other library catalogues. It also offers resources that can help you identify and evaluate material. Visit the OU Library website , which includes the interactive SAFARI (skills in accessing, finding and reviewing information).
Jo Parker, from the Open University library, talks about using online information resources during your studies.Sign in to listen to this audio
If you are new to finding your own web resources you may find it difficult to select trustworthy sites. For example, there is a mass of information on nutrition and diet, but much of it is sponsored commercially or potentially biased. You need to critically evaluate the resource. To help you think critically, here are some questions you could ask.
|Aspect of text||Questions|
|Relevance||Does the information match your needs? Look at the introduction or overview to check what it’s about.|
Is it clear where the information has come from? Can you identify the authors or organisations responsible? How was it published? Has it been peer reviewed?
|Objectivity||Is the author's position or interest made clear? Look for an introduction or overview. Does the author declare any connections that might compromise their independence? Is the language emotive? Are there hidden vested interests?|
Is it clear when the information was produced? Does the date of the information meet your requirements? Is it obsolete?
Is the information clearly communicated? Look at language, layout, and structure.
What research methods were used, and how are results reported? Do you need to reassure yourself about their importance?
Some module activities and assignment questions ask you to read and do a critical review of the various resources provided. Here are some more detailed questions that you might ask.
Section 5 of the OU Library's SAFARI resource gives you more information on evaluating resources you have found yourself.