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  1. 1. Information skillsCritical Thinking and Evaluation: how to critically evaluate information sources Linda Kerr
  2. 2. Information skills
  3. 3. Critical thinkingIf you want to make claims for someone else to support:Claims (premise) Claims (conclusion)What do you need to support your claim..?
  4. 4. Critical thinking• Identify the focus of the assignment• Identify your own point of view• Consider how you’ll persuade other people of your point of view• Find the proof• Engage in debate• Structure your argument • Cotterall, S (2006). Critical Thinking Skills. Palgrave McMillan .
  5. 5. Information/Evidence• Where do you get information?• Eg How did you decide to come to Heriot-Watt University
  6. 6. Potential Pitfalls• Essays, assignments, dissertations, theses: – University students can fail assignments or get poor marks in their coursework because they have used the Internet in ways that are inappropriate for work at this level – Repeating information from a single source (eg a text book, encyclopedia or Website) is not sufficient. – Copy information from the Internet and dont acknowledge sources – Gain better marks, produce better academic work
  7. 7. Finding information : sources• Books, journals and theses (Library catalogue)• Articles, reports etc (Library databases)• All above and more – Internet (need to sift and evaluate)• Combination of above
  8. 8. Appropriate resources• If you are writing an essay on something like popular culture or political bias it might be appropriate to: • reference informal or primary sources that represent different points of view • discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these.• Scientific information – find accurate, peer- reviewed information
  9. 9. How to critically evaluate information sources• Journals (online and print)• Books and ebooks• Websites
  10. 10. Book• Publisher – eg a University Press, professional society press?• Author or editors credentials• Read content pages – any bias?• Reference books - check a piece of information you know is correct
  11. 11. Journal Articles• Look at author credentials – Place of work, professional affiliations – Is there an abstract? – Are there references at the end of the article – Do other people cite this paper? Or only self-citation? – timeliness of the entry – keywords to see what other categories the work falls into.• Evaluate this information to see if it is relevant and valid for your research.
  12. 12. Journals• For example, if you are doing formal scientific research you will probably want to rely on peer-reviewed articles (validated and checked by academics).• Avoid advertorials• Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals
  13. 13. Research Paper Structure• Abstract• Introduction• Materials and Methods• Results• Discussion• References
  14. 14. Abstract• Advertisement for the paper• Summary of paper – Reason for performing the study – Hypothesis – Important results – Implications of the findings
  15. 15. Introduction• Background to the study• Brief overview of the current state of the field – Citing of other people’s work“The function of tendons can be classified into two categories: tensile force transmission, and storage of elastic strain energy during locomotion (Ker et al., 1988, 2000; Shadwick, 1990; Pollock and Shadwick, 1994).” (Maganaris and Paul, 2002)
  16. 16. Introduction• Background to the study• Brief overview of the current state of the field – Citing other people’s work• How the authors arrived at their research question• Why this is the most important question in the world!• HYPOTHESIS – Simple – Easily answered
  17. 17. Results• What they found• Visual representation of the data – Graphs – Tables• Good figure legends• Description of their results - no discussion of the implications
  18. 18. References• Expansion of the citations in the text• Record of the authors, title and journal where the papers were published• Critically important to avoid plagiarism – must include the sources of all information that is other people’s intellectual property• Two citation methods – Harvard System – Numeric System• Individual journals will request specific methods
  19. 19. Reading a research paper• Skimming – Check if article is for you – Topic sentence at start of paragraph – May miss arguments• Scanning – Concentrate on parts of interest – Identify key facts – Useful if clear goal in mind
  20. 20. Evaluating websitesAsk questions:• Who is the publisher?• Who sponsored or funded the site?• Do you recognise them as an authoritative source?• What are their credentials, qualifications, background, experience?• Has the information been edited or peer reviewed?• Are the sources trustworthy?• What are their motives for publishing the information?• What standpoint do they take: impartial? biased?• Do other Internet sources that you trust link to this site?
  21. 21. Evaluating websites• Photographs of the author or offices of the organisation.• A copyright statement to help establish the owner.• Consider how you came by the site- was it a link from a trusted source?• The URL (.gov;; .edu)• Anyone can set up a (.org)
  22. 22. Wikipedia• Wikipedia can be a useful place to start looking for information - references• Wise NOT to cite it in your project/dissertation without good cause• Most other popular sources of information eg, yahoonews etc – don’t use
  23. 23. Examples – Google search• Energy Resources : wind power<>• Energy Saving Trust<>
  24. 24. Critical thinking• Describe, analyse, evaluate• Asking questions – don’t accept at face value• What, where, who, when, how, why, what if, so what, what next...
  25. 25. Critical thinking checklistDifference between “belief” and “evidence”Identify whats important:• What are the key ideas, problems, arguments, observations, findings, conclusions?• What evidence is there?• Distinguish critical from other types of writing (eg descriptive); fact from opinion; bias from reason
  26. 26. Evaluate what you find:• Explore the evidence - does it convince?• What assumptions are being made and inferences drawn?• Is there engagement with relevant, up to date research?• How appropriate are the methods of investigation?• Is there a consistent and logical line of reasoning?• Do you agree with whats being said? Why?• How is language being used (emotive, biased etc.)?
  27. 27. Look beyond what youre reading/hearing:• What other viewpoints, interpretations and perspectives are there? Whats the evidence for these? How do they compare?• How does your prior knowledge and understanding relate to these ideas, findings, observations etc.?• What are the implications of what youre reading/hearing?
  28. 28. Clarifying your point of view:• Weigh up the relevant research in the area• Find effective reasons and evidence for your views• Reach conclusions on the basis of your reasoning• Illustrate your reasons with effective examples
  29. 29. Critical thinking exercise• Test your critical thinking skills
  30. 30. Citing and referencing websites• It is easy to copy information from the Internet• You need to acknowledge all sources of information•
  31. 31. Stella Cottrell Critical Thinking Skills Class No: 371.3 COTSupport materials (mp3 file):
  32. 32. Additional titles• Thinking critically about critical thinking /• Thinking critically about critical thinking / by Diane F. Halpern. Lawrence Erlbaum, 1996. 153.42 HAL• Writing science through critical thinking / by Marilyn F. Moriarty. Jones and Bartlett, 1997. 810.61 MOR• Critical thinking : a concise guide / by Tracy Bowell and Gary Kemp [eBook]. 3rd ed. London : Routledge, 2010.• Critical thinking and analysis / by Mary Deane and Erik Borg. Publisher:Pearson, 2011. Class. Number:371.3 DEA
  33. 33. For more information subject librarian:
  34. 34. Questions• Linda Kerr• Research Support Librarian•