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Reasons for Critical Thinking Evaluations of Editorials

In this course it is expected that you will improve your ability to think critically about socio-political issues. To that end, you will be asked to do a critical thinking evaluation of editorials. Doing this evaluation should improve your ability to research, write and think critically about political issues.

I will provide you with a rubric that will tell you exactly how this evaluations will be graded, but I would like to tell you generally what I expect first.  

Try to practice the attributes of critical thinking that we have discussed previously.  Do not assume that the "facts" that others write are true and do not present them as such. In particular, if an author cites a number you should report that number as coming from the author, not as fact. State your opinions as opinions, not as facts. Try to be aware of your biases and those of others. Don�t be afraid of coming to conclusions that aren�t popular or that you think the teacher might not like. Finally, try to be aware of how you are coming to your conclusions�watch your thinking process.

In the academia we value evidence-based thinking. Most people have opinions on controversial topics. Educated people take special care to base their opinions on careful, extensive research that seeks out different viewpoints.

What follows below is a process that one can follow to critically evaluate any political position or editorial. If you follow this process you will be practicing critical thinking.

Steps to Follow

When you submit your evaluation please letter each part as indicated below.  

A.  Identify the major point(s) of the editorial.    

B. Summarize clearly the logic or reasons presented in support of the major point(s).    

C. Identify the major assumptions that underlie the logic or reasons supporting the major points.    

D. Analyze/evaluate (your opinion) the assumptions and the reasoning underlying the major points. 

E. Discuss questions that you think still need to be addressed for you to have a better understanding of the issues involved. 

 F. Works Cited:  List the sites that you accessed in your research and used in your evaluation (at least three).  You should use MLA form. 


Explanation of the Steps of the Critical Thinking Evaluation


A) Identifying the Major Point:  The first step in using critical thinking to evaluate an editorial is identifying the major point. Usually it can be stated in a sentence, although it might be necessary to have two if there are some crucial points that must be included with the major theme or point. In an editorial the major point is usually in the title and is usually expressed in the first and last paragraphs.  

B) Summarizing the Logic or Reasoning:  The second step involves summarizing the major arguments or evidence presented in support of the major point. This is a summary, not a complete explanation and not any kind of evaluation. In an editorial, the usual form is to mention the least important supporting arguments first and the most important ones last. Look very closely at the last paragraph; it usually contains the most important point. You should be able to state the basic reasoning behind the argument in a paragraph�two paragraphs would be the most you should need. In this part you should not quote anyone other than the author and you should not evaluate the argument--just state it clearly. 

C) Identifying the Major Assumptions:  In this part you should attempt to uncover the most important assumptions that have been made in the argument or position that is being analyzed. This is at the core of critical thinking. What assumptions underlie the major points? Ask yourself this question: in order for the author's argument to be true what else must be true? What things, if not true, would invalidate the author's major point?

Most beliefs or arguments have a few basic assumptions that support them. Many of these assumptions are neither clearly stated nor easily understood. Identifying these assumptions is of utmost importance.  

Many assumptions are hidden, even from the person who is presenting the argument. It is precisely because of this that critical thinking must be imaginative. Imagination, however, is greatly aided by knowledge. You will find that the more information you have about the topic, the more you will be able to uncover assumptions. This is one place where research comes in. If you don't have enough background information you often won't be able to understand the arguments or the assumptions.

In this part state only the author's assumptions. Do not give any analysis or opinions of your own or anyone else. Also, make sure the assumptions are stated as such. For example you can list or bullet the assumptions starting with this phrase: "The author assumes...". 

D) Analyzing/evaluating the Assumptions and the Reasoning Underlying the Major Points: The evaluation should concentrate on the author's reasoning and major assumptions. To what extent do they make sense to you? Use the word "I" in the analysis, as in "I think the author's major point makes sense in this regard."  Or "I don't believe the author has given enough evidence or support to this particular assumption." You should then state your opinions of the author's opinions.

 It should be understood that most stated assumptions are rarely completely correct or incorrect. Most assumptions make some sense; frequently the errors come in over-generalizing or ignoring the influence of factors not considered. This part should be the longest of the evaluation.

Your analysis should be aided by research. You should either cite (as in I received this information or idea from this source) or directly quote from articles that you have read. You must have parenthetical references (explained below) for your Works cited in this section.

Generally speaking, the more research you do on these topics, the better you will understand the issues and the more likely you are to receive a better grade. In the academia we value evidence-based thinking. Most people have opinions on controversial topics. Educated people take special care to base their opinions on careful, unbiased (as much as possible) research.

The type of research you do is very important. Try to find experts on the topics rather than the opinions of journalists, politicians or people off the street. You should also look for evidence that supports different viewpoints. Do not only look for information that supports your viewpoint. If you do this you are simply reinforcing your prejudices, rather than doing critical thinking.

  E) Identifying Major Questions: Albert Einstein considered curiosity to be his most salient characteristic. In many ways, it is preferable to find the most important questions than it is to find answers. One must recognize questions that need to be answered or addressed in order to be able to form a better judgment of the arguments in the editorial. The probability is high that you will encounter questions that must be addressed before you can be sure of the argument or can verify the assumptions in the editorial. Think of things that you would want to know ideally about the subject at hand. You will not have the time or resources to answer all of these questions, but identifying them will often put you on a creative track. It should also help you to realize that you need to know more about this topic to be sure that your opinions are reasonable.

I recommend  Issues and Controversies. This site is excellent to get background information on most topics. When starting your research this is probably the best place to start.

The second site I recommend is Lexis-Nexis. Lexis-Nexis is arguably  the best database in the world for articles in newspapers and many magazines. It is very current and extensive. You will be able to find articles on most topics here.

The third data base is Academic Search Premier. It has in-depth articles from some of the best magazines in the world. This is the place to go when you already have a good understanding of terms and some of the issues.

The fourth database I recommend is called The Opposing Viewpoints Research Center. This database has collected many articles about specific issues in the Social Sciences. It has articles and editorials that express viewpoints that often oppose or contradict each other.

In order to create citations and parenthetical references I recommend the following Website: Son of Citation Machine. Make sure you use the MLA format.


Research: Valencia students can now access all the databases that the school has purchased through their Atlas accounts. After logging into Atlas go to the Library, which should be on the upper right hand corner of the opening page. After clicking on "search the library" you will see above the databases. I suggest you go to Databases A-Z. Some of the best are Lexis Nexis, Academic Search Complete and Newsbank.



Parenthetical References

In the text of the paper, parenthetical references for electronic sources are cited just like those for print sources. MLA Style states that "For any type of source, you must include information in your text that directs readers to the correct entry in the work-cited list. Web documents generally do not have fixed page numbers or any kind of section numbering. If your source lacks numbering, you have to omit numbers from your parenthetical references. If your source includes fixed page numbers or section numbering (such as numbering of paragraphs), cite the relevant numbers. Give the appropriate abbreviation before the numbers. Pars is the abbreviation for paragraphs." The examples given here do not include page numbers; if pagination were included it would be placed between the date of publication and the date of access. Use the following examples as a guide for referencing sources in the body of your paper.

Site with one author:

"LifeMap is a guide to help you figure out your career and educational goals" (Jones).

Site with two or three authors:

The LRC has many electronic resources (Smith, Adams and Williams).

Site with more than three authors:

"Online courses provide a way for students to use their time wisely" (Kilby et al.).

Site with no author; use first two words of title:

Valencia has a vital workforce development program ("More Companies").

Site with a corporate author:

"Valencia is a better place to start" (Valencia College).

Site which numbers paragraphs:

EBSCO Academic Search Premier is an extremely versatile database (Burns, pars. 5-6).

Site for an article from Current History or any other electronic resource which uses Adobe Acrobat Reader software and which includes page numbers:

"An understanding of international politics is essential in today's world" (Crawford 55). �


 Late policy: The late policy for  critical thinking evaluations is the same as that for exams. If the evaluation is not handed in during the class period it is due a late penalty of five points (one half grade) will be assessed. If the evaluation is turned in more than a week late a ten point penalty will be assessed.


For other links to research sites check out my Profs Pics.