What is critical analysis, and why is it important?

Critical analysis involves thinking about the merits and drawbacks of what you're reading. It doesn't necessarily mean tearing apart what you've read-it could also involve highlighting what an author or researcher has done well, and thinking through the implications of a study on the broader research area.

Critical analysis is extremely important in evaluating published research: Psychology studies often build on the limitations of others, and it's important to assess the merits of a study before accepting its conclusions. Furthermore, as a student, your critical analysis of the literature is a way of showing your marker that you've engaged with the field.

What makes critical analysis in psychology different, and how do I critically analyse the literature?

In psychology, critical analysis typically involves evaluating both theory and empirical research (i.e., scientific studies). When critically analysing theory , relevant questions include:

  • Does the theory make sense (i.e., is it logical)?
  • Can the theory explain psychological phenomena (i.e., what we actually observe in terms of people's behaviour), or does it leave some things unexplained?
  • Have any studies been conducted to specifically test this theory, and if so, what did they find? Can we believe this study's conclusions?

In terms of evaluating empirical research , relevant questions include:

  • Does the study's research question come logically from the literature the authors have reviewed?
  • Are there any issues with the participant sample (e.g., not representative of the population being studied)?
  • Do the measures (e.g., questionnaires) actually assess the process of interest?
  • Have the appropriate statistical analyses been conducted?
  • Do the authors make appropriate conclusions based on their findings, or do they go beyond their findings (i.e., overstate their conclusions)?

Before you critically analyse research, it's important to make sure that you understand what is being argued. We have some resources that can help you get the most out of your reading ( R eading strategies ), as well as some note-taking strategies ( N ote-taking ). The Cornell method might be especially useful, since it involves jotting down your own thoughts/opinions as you're reading, rather than simply summarising information.

As you get more practise critically analysing the literature, you'll find that it starts to feel more natural, and becomes something that you engage in automatically. However, as you're starting out, deliberately thinking through some of the questions in the previous section can help add structure to this process.

What does critical analysis look like?

After you've had a think about the merits and drawbacks of a published piece of work, how do you actually show that you've engaged in critical analysis? Below are some examples of sentences where critical analysis has been demonstrated:

  • "Although Brown's (1995) theory can account for [abc], it cannot explain [xyz]."
  • "This study is a seminal one in the area, given that it was the first to investigate...".
  • "In order to clarify the role of [abc], the study could have controlled for...".
  • "This study was a significant improvement over earlier efforts to investigate this topic because...".

What these statements have in common is that they are evaluative : They show that you're making a judgment about the theory or empirical study you're discussing. In general, your marker will be able to tell whether you have engaged in critical analysis by seeing if you've made such statements throughout your work.

Critical analysis in psychology: Some common pitfalls

"The sample size of the study was too small."

Your critiques need to have evidence behind them. Making statements such as this is fine, as long as you follow them up with your reasoning (in this case, on what basis have you decided that the study didn't have enough participants?).

" The study didn't look at participants of [this age/this gender/this ethnic group]."

Traditionally, the area of psychology has tended to focus on WEIRD (white, educated, industrialised, rich, and democratic) individuals. This is certainly an issue for the generalisability of research findings. However, if you make this type of statement, you can further demonstrate your critical-thinking skills by talking about why you think this is an issue for the particular topic you're researching: For example, how might the results of a study differ if a non-WEIRD participant sample had been recruited instead?

Being too critical.

Chances are that if a study is a highly cited one in your area, it probably has some merits (even if it's just that it drew attention to an important topic). You should always be on the lookout for strengths as well as limitations, be they theoretical (i.e., a cohesive, well-elaborated theory) or experimental (i.e., a clever study design).

Other assessments

Annotated bibliography

Creative writing

Critical review

Policy brief

Writing in Law

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  • Published: 02 January 2024

May I come in? A probe into the contributions of self-esteem, teacher support, and critical thinking to anxiety and shyness in language classes

  • Lei Li 1 &
  • Tahereh Heydarnejad   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-0011-9442 2  

BMC Psychology volume  12 , Article number:  7 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

Metrics details

Many students feel uncomfortable when obliged to communicate in English. Students’ fear of speaking English is influenced by psychological reasons such as the fear of failing, being misunderstood, and making grammatical errors. Students’ active participation in English class discussions might be hindered by shyness, nervousness, lack of confidence, and motivation. Helping these reserved students gain self-assurance and perfect their spoken English is a top priority for all English language instructors. In the classroom, teachers may use some simple methods to encourage their reserved students to open up and speak English with more ease and confidence. The existing literature on students’ shyness shows that the gap in this realm is great and a critical look is needed. To this end, the current research intended to gauge the effects of self-esteem, teacher support, and critical thinking on anxiety and shyness in language classes. 385 language learners attending English language institutions took part in this research. They were at intermediate and upper intermediate levels. The findings of both confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and structural equation modeling (SEM) point to the fact that improving students’ self-esteem, teacher support, and critical thinking may have a moderating effect on students ‘anxiety and shyness in language learning. The implications of this inquiry may be advantageous for language learners, language instructors, as well as policymakers.

Peer Review reports

Throughout the process of their academic journey, multiple learners have encountered some adverse events that might potentially impede their progress in acquiring a foreign language. Language learners may find speaking and writing to be more demanding and tough since they need to use their skills to produce spoken or written communications. Over the years, there have been several improvements in the techniques and methods used to teach speaking and writing in order to make the learning process simpler. As a result, despite numerous obstacles, some students are able to overcome them and persevere in their attempts to learn and utilize a second language. However, some students may struggle to overcome hurdles, perhaps leading to the development of foreign language anxiety (FLA). FLA is a condition that is marked by the experiencing of negative emotions, such as unease, anxiety, and nervousness, when engaging in tasks such as listening, writing, reading, and speaking in a language that is not one’s native tongue.

According to the definition provided by [ 1 ], anxiety refers to a phenomenon that is peculiar to a particular setting, when a person has a negative evaluation of their own communication skills within the framework of language acquisition. The research conducted by [ 2 , 3 ] suggests that anxiety in language learning may be categorized into three different components. The aforementioned components include communication apprehension, exam anxiety, and the concern of receiving poor evaluations. The concept of “communication apprehension” pertains to the anxiety experienced by pupils while interacting with people or encountering challenges in comprehending auditory information. The subsequent element of anxiety in the context of language acquisition is often referred to as test anxiety, which manifests when students have apprehension around their anticipated performance on an examination.

An EFL student who suffers from a phobia of negative assessment is one who intentionally avoids circumstances that have the potential to result in the formation of unfavorable judgments in the perceptions of other people, and who is uncomfortable with the perspectives that are held by other people. Similar research by [ 3 ] found that students’ personality traits (introversion vs. extroversion) significantly impact the degree to which they worry about failing their foreign language classes. In accordance with [ 4 ], students’ anxiety affects their classroom performance in ways that contribute to their development and progression. The Attentional Control Theory (ACT) offers an explanation for anxiety and its negative consequences, as proposed by [ 5 ]. Anxious students, according to the ACT, report high levels of worry and low levels of self-confidence, both of which are associated with poor outcomes [ 6 , 7 ].

The consequences of skill-based anxiety in second/foreign language learning have also been studied in recent studies. The studies looked at many forms of communication anxiety, such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing [ 8 , 9 ]. Research results presented previously indicate that students’ lack of motivation and poor performance may be traced back to their fear of public speaking, writing, reading, and listening. Recent research by [ 10 , 11 ] found that students’ ability to feel academically buoyant and control their emotions helped them deal with their nervousness during language learning.

Shyness is considered to be one of the personality traits that might contribute to anxiety while speaking a foreign language. This is mostly due to the fact that shyness tends to be more evident in social situations that include communication, particularly when people are speaking a language that is not their native tongue. In the words of [ 12 ], a shy person is typically fearful, has a tendency to talk less, and experiences uncomfortable feelings when communicating with others or when in unfamiliar situations. [ 13 ] defined two forms of shyness: frightened shyness and self-conscious shyness. As described by [ 14 , 15 ], terrified shyness is a sort of shyness that emerges when a person interacts with other individuals. The person’s knowledge that he or she is an integral part of a community that has the ability to assess the individual is a cause of the second sort of shyness.

Diverse constructs attributable to the learner can assist students in reducing potential shyness and anxiety in language classes and ensuring their well-being. The construct of self-esteem, which has been extensively investigated within the field of education, pertains to an individual’s subjective evaluation of their own worth or value [ 16 ]. Possessing elevated self-esteem is crucial for fostering healthy mental health and overall well-being. Having a high level of self-esteem is beneficial as it enables individuals to cultivate effective coping mechanisms, effectively navigate through challenging situations, and have a balanced viewpoint towards adverse experiences [ 17 ]. The classification of self-esteem is based on three levels: expanded, substantial, and inadequate self-esteem [ 18 ]. People with elevated self-esteem consistently see themselves as superior to others and engage in the practice of diminishing the capabilities of others. However, those who possess a high level of self-esteem tend to have a propensity for self-love and self-acceptance via placing faith in their own capabilities. On the contrary, those characterized by a diminished degree of se lack confidence in their own talents and exhibit doubt over their capacity to successfully complete a given activity.

The significance of self-esteem in EFL settings is highly emphasized owing to the distinctive characteristics of L2 education, as highlighted by [ 19 ]. According to [ 20 ], self-esteem refers to an individual’s belief in their own abilities and worth. [ 21 ] suggest that the construct being examined is derived from an individual’s subjective evaluations of their own talents, competencies, and social relationships. In the words of [ 22 ], self-esteem is closely connected to the process of self-evaluation, which encompasses cognitive evaluations that play a vital role in an individual’s perception of their own value and mental well-being. Following its establishment within the existing body of literature on the interplay between psycho-emotional factors and EFL settings, numerous studies have been undertaken to explore the relationship between self-esteem, optimistic feelings, academic drive, nervousness, accomplishment, retention, adaptability, and related variables [ 21 ].

In addition, EFL scholars have gone a step further over the past decade to investigate how students’ confidence affects their language skills and academic outcomes in areas like oral communication, written expression, reading comprehension, and listening [ 23 ]. In a similar line of inquiry, [ 24 ] reached the conclusion that structural elicitation plays a mediating role in the process of developing advanced and intermediate language learners’ speaking skills. The results of the research showed that students of another language who were able to demonstrate greater levels of self-esteem fared better on oral examinations when they were given in mixed groups. Evidence was discovered by [ 25 , 26 ] to support the hypothesis that teachers who demonstrate good social and emotional skills to their students play an essential role in the students’ personal growth in these areas.

Teacher support (TS) can also be critical in learners’ mental and psychological success. TS includes educators’ empathy, compassion, commitment, reliability, and warmth for their pupils [ 27 ]. On the basis of Tardy’s [ 28 ] social support paradigm, the wide viewpoint defines TS as the act of a teacher providing informational, instrumental, emotional, or appraisal assistance to a student, regardless of the setting in which the student is located. Supportive instructors respect and are passionate about in developing personal ties with their students, and they may provide aid, assistance, and guidance to pupils in need [ 29 ]. Effective assistance from the instructor is probably to make students feel comfortable and inspired, which will motivate them to put extra work into the course of study, become more involved in educational endeavors, and accomplish greater educational results [ 30 ]. TS is a complex concept that has been interpreted in a variety of ways. There are three components of TS that are central to the self-determination approach: encouragement of self-determination, commitment for engagement, and encouragement for regulation [ 31 ]. TS for their pupils may be broken down into four categories from an interpersonal standpoint: informative, essential, scrutiny, and emotional [ 32 ].

Research findings have indicated a significant positive relationship between TS and various dimensions of student engagement, including behavioral, cognitive, and emotional aspects. Furthermore, it should be noted that teacher support has the potential to indirectly impact students’ academic engagement by fostering good accomplishment emotions and mitigating negative success emotions [ 27 , 31 ]. Previous research has mostly focused on investigating teacher assistance in the context of general education [ 32 ], with minimal emphasis placed on its impact on students’ acquisition of a second language. Furthermore, it should be noted that teacher support has the potential to indirectly impact students’ academic engagement by fostering good accomplishment emotions and mitigating negative success emotions [ 33 ].

Previous research has mostly focused on investigating teacher assistance in the context of general education [ 32 ], with minimal emphasis placed on its impact on students’ acquisition of a second language. The significance of the teacher as a crucial source of positive reinforcement for learners in language courses has been recognized through the interpersonal character of language instruction and frequent communication between teachers and students [ 33 ]. Therefore, it is imperative to delve deeper into the exploration of teacher support as a fundamental factor associated with teachers [ 34 ].

As described by [ 35 ], CT is a process of continually assessing hypotheses in order to draw inferences about the world. [ 36 ] uses the phrase “reflective practices” to define critical thinking, which establishes a logical bridge between initial assumptions and well-grounded conclusions. The American Philosophical Association offers a definitive definition of CT by describing it as the process of making informed, self-controlled decisions by the use of evidence, reasoning, and logic [ 37 ]. Despite the fact that there is no universally accepted definition of CT, a large amount of research demonstrates the importance of CT in many walks of life, notably in accomplishing academic goals [ 38 , 39 ]. Students are in need to have an understanding of how to employ CT techniques in the classroom in order to learn, as [ 40 ] argued.

Moreover, [ 41 ] highlighted the central importance of CT in this debate by highlighting its ability to transform inactive participants into active questioners. Teachers, as the, are accountable for teaching and practicing deep understanding, yet CT is not a natural talent [ 42 ]. With these considerations in mind, the study of critical thinking and its beneficial impacts on academic success in EFL contexts (among many others) is a fruitful area in which to engage in educational inquiry. [ 43 ], for example, have examined the value of creating a model for instructing critical thinking in the EFL classroom. They came to the conclusion that students who are able to think critically are better equipped to develop their own methods of reflective learning. According to the findings of another research by [ 44 ], if EFL instructors acquire sufficient understanding about critical thinking, they will be able to use it in their own classes. Comparable reasons for the failure to properly deploy CT in EFL classrooms were cited by [ 39 , 44 ], who pointed to EFL instructors’ limited comprehension of CT and the discrepancy between teachers’ positive sentiments regarding CT and their actual classroom actions.

With these considerations in mind, the study of critical thinking and its beneficial impacts on academic success in EFL contexts (among many others) is a fruitful area in which to engage in educational inquiry. [ 45 ], for example, have examined the value of creating a model for instructing critical thinking in the EFL classroom. They came to the conclusion that students who are able to think critically are better equipped to develop their own methods of reflective learning. According to the findings of another research by [ 46 ], if EFL instructors acquire sufficient understanding about critical thinking, they will be able to use it in their own classes. Comparable reasons for the failure to properly deploy CT in EFL classrooms were cited by [ 47 ], who pointed to EFL instructors’ limited comprehension of CT and the discrepancy between teachers’ positive sentiments regarding CT and their actual classroom actions. Literature reviews reveal that students experience CT in various ways. CT also has a considerable impact on how students form their sense of self [ 48 ]. Moreover, [ 49 ] found that using CT enhanced both reading comprehension and language acquisition. EFL students with higher CT scores performed better in writing tasks, as shown by [ 50 ]. It was also concluded that CT boosted students’ ability to learn via exploration [ 51 , 52 , 53 ].

Given the substantial impact of the constructs mentioned above in facilitating the acquisition of a foreign language, as well as the limited amount of research investigating their interconnections, the main aim of this study was to investigate the influence of self-esteem, TS, and CT on reducing shyness and anxiety in the context of English as a Foreign Language in Iran. Drawing upon relevant academic literature and theoretical frameworks, a conceptual framework was developed to visually represent the dynamic interplay of the aforementioned elements. The proposed model (Fig.  1 ) was next subjected to CFA and SEM, which are both extensively used statistical methods for evaluating the construct validity of latent variables and the relationships among multiple variables, respectively. In order to accomplish the goals of the study, the researchers developed the following research inquiries:

To what extent does the development of self-esteem skills among EFL learners help to the reduction of shyness and anxiety?

To what extent does the development of teacher support among EFL learners help to the reduction of shyness and anxiety?

To what extent does the development of critical thinking skills among EFL learners help to the reduction of shyness and anxiety?

In light of the aforementioned research inquiries, the subsequent null hypotheses were put forth:

The development of self-esteem skills among EFL learners does not help to the reduction of shyness and anxiety.

The development of teacher support among EFL learners does not help to the reduction of shyness and anxiety.

The development of critical thinking among EFL learners does not help to the reduction of shyness and anxiety.

figure 1

The suggested model

Methodology

Context and participants.

There was a total of 385 students who took part in the study, with men making up 33% of the group and women the other 68.47%. All respondents were Iranian pursuing English learning in private language institutions (Mashhad, northeast of Iran); their ages varied from 16 to 19 with a median of 17. The survey was conducted in English since respondents were proficient enough in the language (upper and intermediate levels) to answer questions in the intended language. Those who were interested in taking part completed an electronic permission form and sent it to the study’s organizers. The researchers made it very apparent that taking part in the study was entirely optional and that individuals might stop participating at any moment. Researchers also promised participants that their comments would be kept secret and that they would be updated on the study’s findings. It is worth mentioning that the studies involving human participants were reviewed and approved by the Research Ethics Review Committee at Private Language Institutions in Mashhad (Approval No. 29/213,087/2 M).

Instruments

The Foreign Language Learning Self-esteem Scale (FLLSE) was used in order to investigate the levels of self-esteem held by university students studying EFL. Using a Likert scale with five points, this tool was designed by [ 18 ]. The scale ranges from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The FLLSE is comprised of a total of 25 questions, which are broken down into four categories: (1) language competence (e.g., “I possess a high level of comprehension in the English language.”), (2) actual in-class language use (e.g., “I am available to participate in any English classroom activities as a volunteer.”), (3) in-class correlations (e.g., “I participate in English classroom activities with reluctance.”), and (4) attitude toward behavior (e.g., “I am not well-liked by my English classmates.”). In this particular investigation, the dependability of this instrument was evaluated, and the result of the Cronbach alpha coefficient was found to be satisfactory (α = 0.851).

In order to conduct an evaluation of teacher support, [ 26 ], Teacher Support Measure (TSM) with two subsections was used. These subsections included four items each for teacher academic support and teacher personal support. On a Likert scale of five points, each item was given a score ranging from 1 (always) to 5 (never). For the purpose of evaluating subject-specific teacher assistance, these questions have been revised with the addition of the word “English.” Cronbach’s alpha indicated that the reliability of this scale was satisfactory (with scores ranging from 0.811 to 0.892.

CT was evaluated using the Watson–Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal Form A (WGCTAF) by [ 54 ], who were studying university students’ CT. This measure is broken up into five categories: inference, identifying assumptions, making deductions, interpretation, and assessment. Each category has a total of 32 questions. Cronbach’s alpha was determined to be adequate in this investigation (α = 0.865), as reported.

To determine the degree of shyness among the participants the McCroskey Shyness Scale (MSS) [ 55 ] was applied. The participants were asked to rate how much they agreed or disagreed with each of 14 statements (e.g., I keep thinking that the other students are better at languages than I am.) on a 5-point scale, with 1 being a strong disagreement and 5 representing a strong agreement. The study’s results were corroborated by Cronbach’s alpha, which suggested that the reliability of this scale was good (α = 0.876).

The Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS), which was developed and validated by [ 2 ], was used in an investigation of the degree to which university students suffer anxiety when studying a foreign language. The 33 questions on this scale, which uses a Likert scale with five points (range from strongly agree to strongly disagree), were chosen to evaluate communication anxiety, fear of unfavorable evaluation, exam anxiety, and anxiety associated with learning a foreign language. Cronbach’s alpha indicated that the reliability of the FLCAS was satisfactory (with scores ranging from 0.833 to 0.862), and this was supported by the findings of the study.

Data collection and analysis

In 2023, researchers conducted the data collection procedure. Online forms (specifically Google Forms) were used to collect the data. This online survey has five sections: the FLLSE, TSM, WGCTAF, MSS, and FLCAS. As a result of the fact that the participants had the requisite qualifications to respond to the text in English, the scales were written in the target language, and translation was not required. Due to the rigorous preparation of the computerized survey, there would have been little likelihood of any data being lost. The Kolmogorov-Smirnov test was first used to look at the data distribution. Data screening confirmed the normality of the data, demonstrating the reliability of parametric methods. Given the assumption of normal distribution in the data, CFA and SEM were conducted using LISREL 8.80. CFA is a statistical method used to validate the component structure of a given collection of observed data. Additionally, CFA enables researchers to examine if there is a connection between observable variables and the latent constructs that underlie them [ 56 , 57 ].

This part provides an exposition of the findings derived from the data analysis, with comprehensive elucidations for each constituent element. The first phase (Table  1 ) entails the analysis of descriptive data about the different elements of each instrument.

Upon considering self-esteem, the prevailing course of action was seeking out Attitude toward Behavior in the Class of Foreign Language, with a mean score of 23.600 and a standard deviation of 6.062. Upon deconstructing the major factors of the TS scale, it was shown that Teacher Personal Support had the highest average value (M = 14.395, SD = 3.684) compared to the other core variables within the scale. The variable of Recognizing Assumptions had the highest level of significance in relation to CT. The average score on the fourth instrument, Shyness, was 35.584, with a standard deviation of 11.406. Moreover, Fear of Negative Evaluation exhibited a mean score of 30.161, accompanied by a standard deviation of 9.603.

The data was then subjected to the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test in order to identify any anomalous patterns. The results are shown in Table  2 .

Based on the data shown in Table  2 , the values of all instruments and their respective components are above the threshold of 0.05. As a result of this observation, it may be inferred that parametric approaches are appropriate for the analysis of the data.

In this study, the link between self-esteem, TS, CT, shyness, and anxiety are examined using a Pearson product-moment correlation analysis.

Referring to Table  3 , the association between self-esteem, shyness, and anxiety subcomponents were negative. The variables of shyness (r = -0.834), communication anxiety (r = -0.794), fear of negative evaluation (r = -0.782), test anxiety (r = -0.713), and anxiety of foreign language class (r = -0.743) demonstrated a significant correlation. Furthermore, it was shown that there were statistically significant negative relationships between TS, shyness, and anxiety subcomponents. The variables examined in this study were shyness (r = -0.940), communication anxiety (r = -0.883), fear of negative evaluation (r = -0.877), test anxiety (r = -0.846), and anxiety of foreign language class (r = -0.908). Moreover, there was a significant negative correlation observed between the subcomponents of anxiety, shyness, and CT. Specifically, the correlations were as follows: shyness (r = -0.563), communication anxiety (r = -0.645), fear of negative evaluation (r = -0.679), test anxiety (r = -0.609), and anxiety of foreign language class (r = -0.655).

The results are shown in Table  4 , which demonstrates that all of the fitness levels for Model 1 fall within the permissible thresholds. The aforementioned values consist of the chi-square/df ratio (2.958), the root-mean-squared error of approximation (RMSEA) (0.071), the goodness-of-fit (GFI) (0.947), the goodness-of-fit (NFI) (0.938), and the comparative fit index (CFI) (0.962).

In addition, Table  4 provides further evidence that the chi-square/df ratio (2.994), the RMSEA (0.072), the GFI (0.956), the NFI (0.961), and the CFI (0.978) all meet the criteria for a satisfactory fit with respect to Model 2.

figure 2

The symbolic representation of the values of the path coefficients (Model 1)

figure 3

T values for path coefficient significance (Model 1)

The visual representation of the relationship among the components is shown in Figs.  2 and 3 , as well as in Table  5 . The standardized estimates and t-values indicate a significant correlation between self-esteem and shyness (β = -0.80, t = -22.76), as well as between TS and shyness (β = -0.93, t = -31.12). Furthermore, the relationship between CT and shyness (β = -0.54, t = -8.23) was found to be negative. Similarly, negative relationships were seen between self-esteem and anxiety (β = -0.74, t = -17.65), TS and anxiety (β = -0.86, t = -25.12), as well as CT and anxiety (β = -0.62, t = -12.23).

figure 4

The symbolic representation of the values of the path coefficients (Model 2)

figure 5

T values for path coefficient significance (Model 2)

The detailed relationships among the subscales are illustrated in Figs.  4 and 5 as well as Table  6 .

The results indicate a significant and unfavorable correlation between the subsequent factors: Self-esteem and shyness (β= -0.80, t= -22.43), TS and shyness (β= -0.93, t= -30.74), as well as CT and shyness (β= -0.54, t= -7.76). In a similar vein, a statistically significant association was observed between the subscales, namely self-esteem and communication anxiety (β= -0.78, t= -20.81), TS and communication anxiety (β=-0.87, t= -25.33), CT and communication anxiety (β =-0.61, t= -11.59), self-esteem and fear of negative evaluation (β= -0.76, t= -18.84), TS and fear of negative evaluation (β=-0.85, t= -24.76), as well as CT and fear of negative evaluation (β=-0.66, t= -13.27). The results indicate that there were negative and statistically significant relationships between self-esteem and test anxiety (β=--0.69, t= -14.32), TS and test anxiety (β=-0.82, t= -22.95), CT and test anxiety (β=-0.58, t= -9.64), self-esteem and anxiety of foreign language class (β=-0.72, t= -16.55), TS and anxiety of foreign language class (β=-0.90, t= -28.68), and TS and anxiety of foreign language class (β=-0.64, t= -12.88).

The primary objective of this research was to examine the correlation between self-esteem, TS, and CT with shyness and anxiety in language courses within an EFL environment. Consequently, a model was constructed and assessed using SEM to illustrate the interrelationships among these components in this study. The results indicate that self-esteem, TS, and CT strongly influenced the levels of shyness and anxiety experienced by students in language lessons. The mediating effects of self-esteem, TS, and CT are emphasized and discussed below in relation to the connections shown in Models 1 and 2.

The first inquiry was to ascertain the degree to which the elevated levels of self-esteem among EFL students influenced the reduction of shyness and anxiety in language lessons. The findings revealed that pupils with higher self-esteem levels felt lesser shyness and anxiety. The theoretical implications of this discovery might be debated. The idea of self-esteem is supported theoretically by both self-determination theory and self-identity theory [ 16 , 18 ]. EFL leaners may benefit from self-esteem both directly and indirectly since it helps them develop a good sense of self, which in turn fosters positive attitudes about schoolwork and evaluations. The favorable effect of self-esteem on shyness and anxiety, which are fundamental ideas in the field of EFL, is consistent with the results of [ 58 ], who came to a similar conclusion.

A positive self-concept, which is a result of self-esteem, assists language learners in cultivating robust cognitive, metacognitive, and problem-solving abilities. This conclusion aligns with the fundamental principles of social-cognitive theory [ 55 ], which emphasize the need of students actively monitoring and assessing their own performance and making necessary modifications to optimize their efficacy. The self-determination theory proposed by [ 59 ] states that an increase in an individual’s level of self-awareness results in improvements in that person’s levels of motivation, satisfaction, and social participation.

With regard to the second research question, it was found that EFL students who perceived high levels of TS felt more confident and less shy. The acquisition of a foreign language is often facilitated inside a classroom setting, when learners are supported by teachers and their peers. This particular circumstance might elicit feelings of worry, particularly among those who possess introverted tendencies, since they harbor apprehensions of potential unfavorable challenges. Through the process of identifying these learners, educators may get an understanding of the specific sort of motivation that drives their engagement with EFL learning. Additionally, educators can assess the extent to which these learners are inclined to engage in communicative activities, and subsequently, tailor instructional techniques that align with their individual learning requirements [ 60 ].

Based on an analysis of students’ personality traits, such as shyness, and their level of readiness to speak, an educator may assess their engagement in classroom activities and then adapt the curriculum as needed. For instance, in the event that a greater number of introverted students exhibit hesitancy in participating actively during classroom discussions, it may be beneficial to allocate a greater proportion of the curriculum to pair work or solo tasks. This approach aims to provide a learning environment that minimizes the perceived risks associated with public speaking. This finding is supported by the outcomes of [ 61 , 62 ]. They discovered a positive correlation between the level of shyness and the level of fear of language class anxiety, such that an increase in shyness is accompanied by an increase in class anxiety, and conversely, a decrease in shyness is accompanied by a decrease in class anxiety.

The third purpose of this research was to determine whether introverted and anxious feelings diminished in EFL students who used CT. According to the results, students may better safeguard and increase their chances of success by strengthening their conceptual and metacognitive abilities. The results of the second model show that CT significantly declined shyness and anxiety components. To restate, CT directs EFL students in their assessments of the value of the university and their sense of belonging there, as well as in their convictions regarding the efficacy of their language classes. Students are highly encouraged to actively participate in class debates and other speaking exercises, since they are an essential component of any language education [ 15 , 57 ].

This conclusion is logical when one takes into account the fact that students perceptions broaden as they acquire proficiency in language abilities. The CT of EFL students has a significant role in shaping their feeling of identity and academic success. As students actively participate in CT techniques, they increasingly undergo beneficial transformations in their attitudes and beliefs. The researchers [ 40 , 44 , 49 ] reached identical findings. They have shown that there is a correlation between the ability to participate in advanced cognitive processes, self-control, interpersonal skills, and belief in one’s own abilities.

Conclusion and pedagogical implications

In brief, this study set out to examine the potential relationships that exist among self-esteem, TS, and CT to shyness and anxiety at tertiary institutions. In this study, a model hypothesis is generated and tested using structural equation modeling and factor analysis. The findings show that self-esteem, TS, and CT have substantial effects on EFL students’ positive attitudes and academic success. The acquired results supported the suggested model, validating the predictive abilities of self-esteem, TS, and CT to shyness and anxiety. The extent to which EFL students engaged in self-esteem and CT as well as teacher support influenced not only their willingness to communicate but also their academic achievement.

In order to ensure that self-esteem, TS, and CT are successfully implemented, it is imperative that professors and other instructors at schools, universities, and private institutions take an active role in the development and upkeep of an atmosphere that is receptive to such an endeavor. They are required to learn the information essential to cultivate self-esteem, TS, and CT inside their respective courses. EFL teachers can get these strategies from courses taken both during training and prior to employment. Moreover, it is crucial to include actionable techniques for cultivating and implementing self-esteem, TS, and CT within the context of EFL instruction. In order to give sufficient opportunities for learners to gain the necessary skills and to grantee the whole education and society, appropriate activities and materials should be designed. An effective method of providing support to EFL students is by promoting the development of a growth mindset. This will aid learners in discovering a clear and meaningful objective, while also strengthening their feeling of inclusion and connection. The individuals will have both immediate and enduring objectives to strive for, and each accomplishment will be seen as a significant triumph.

Students are expected to advance toward a condition in which the application of appropriate procedures will become natural, and the capabilities of learning will grow into an intuitive form, via the completion of a range of tasks in the classroom. It was highly suggested that those charged with building educational curriculum, developing educational policy, and generating new materials take into consideration the important impacts of self-esteem and CT when they are creating new materials and tasks. EFL students at schools, institutions, and universities may, in addition to other types of academic work, participate in activities that put practical ways for increasing the impacts of self-esteem and CT into practice. These activities may include things like simulations, role-playing games, discovery learning activities, and oral presentations. The provision of additional open conversation channels with the subject matter of self-esteem, TS, and CT, as well as the management of shyness and anxiety at the upper intermediate level, may be an additional beneficial chance to strengthen these abilities and practice their language.

Based on the findings of this study, EFL educators are urged to redesign their curricula and create assessments with the students’ needs in mind. Encouraging students to take an active part in their own education, as well as directing and improving the development of self-help structures, may improve the quality of teaching and assessment in any educational setting. Increasing their proficiency in digital media is a priority for both students and teachers. With this knowledge in hand, both students and teachers may feel secure throughout language instruction and assessment.

The present research, similar to earlier investigations, has numerous limitations: (1) This investigation was carried out using quantitative analytic methods. Using mixed-method approaches provides for a more in-depth look, and they are avenues that may be pursued for future study. (2) As previously stated, it is critical for EFL teachers to play a role in the development of self-esteem, CT, and other self-aid constructs in their pupils. This element was not taken into consideration throughout our study. Further research may be able to investigate how teachers’ own levels of self-esteem and CT impact students’ self-esteem and CT. (3) The learners’ diverse backgrounds, as well as their demographic data, were not taken into consideration in this study. These difficulties may be addressed in future study, and it may be studied to what extent differences in sociocultural environment and demographic information may have an influence on the nature of the link between self-esteem, TS, CT, shyness, and anxiety. (4) Inclusion of students from other faculties and institutions would aid in gaining an overview of the outcomes. This inquiry may be carried out in diverse educational situations, including as schools and private language institutions, in the course of future research. (5) In future research, possible investigators may choose to focus on the relationship between self-esteem, TS, CT, shyness, anxiety and other learner-ascribed traits including buoyancy, grit tendencies, readiness to speak, and identity construction/reconstruction.

Data availability

The dataset of the present study is available upon request from the corresponding author.

Abbreviations

English as a Foreign Language

Confirmatory Factor Analysis

Structural Equation Modeling

Foreign Language Anxiety

Attentional Control Theory

Teacher Support

Critical Thinking

The Foreign Language Learning Self-esteem Scale

Teacher Support Measure

The Watson–Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal Form A

The McCroskey Shyness Scale

The Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale

The Root-Mean-Squared Error of Approximation

The Goodness-of-fit

The Comparative Fit Index

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Li, L., Heydarnejad, T. May I come in? A probe into the contributions of self-esteem, teacher support, and critical thinking to anxiety and shyness in language classes. BMC Psychol 12 , 7 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-023-01501-y

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critical thinking and writing in psychology

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  • Teaching Tips

On Critical Thinking

Several years ago some teaching colleagues were talking about the real value of teaching psychology students to think critically. After some heated discussion, the last word was had by a colleague from North Carolina. “The real value of being a good critical thinker in psychology is so you won’t be a jerk,” he said with a smile. That observation remains one of my favorites in justifying why teaching critical thinking skills should be an important goal in psychology. However, I believe it captures only a fraction of the real value of teaching students to think critically about behavior.

What I s Critical Thinking?

Although there is little agreement about what it means to think critically in psychology, I like the following broad definition: The propensity and skills to engage in activity with reflec tive skepticism focused on deciding what to believe or do

Students often arrive at their first introductory course with what they believe is a thorough grasp of how life works. After all, they have been alive for at least 18 years, have witnessed their fair shares of crisis, joy, and tragedy, and have successfully navigated their way in to your classroom.

These students have had a lot of time to develop their own personal theories about how the world works and most are quite satisfied with the results. They often pride themselves on how good they are with people as well as how astute they are in understanding and explaining the motives of others. And they think they know what psychology is. Many are surprised- and sometimes disappointed- to discover that psychology is a science, and the rigor of psychological research is a shock. The breadth and depth of psychology feel daunting. Regardless of their sophistication in the discipline, students often are armed with a single strategy to survive the experience: Memorize the book and hope it works out on the exam. In many cases, this strategy will serve them well. Unfortunately, student exposure to critical thinking skill development may be more accidental than planful on the part of most teachers. Collaboration in my department and with other colleagues over the years has persuaded me that we need to approach critical thinking skills in a purposeful, systematic, and developmental manner from the introductory course through the capstone experience, propose that we need to teach critical thinking skills in three domains of psychology: practical (the “jerk avoidance” function), theoretical (developing scientific explanations for behavior), and methodological (testing scientific ideas). I will explore each of these areas and then offer some general suggestions about how psychology teachers can improve their purposeful pursuit of critical thinking objectives.

Practical Domain

Practical critical thinking is often expressed as a long-term, implicit goal of teachers of psychology, even though they may not spend much academic time teaching how to transfer critical thinking skills to make students wise consumers, more careful judges of character, or more cautious interpreters of behavior. Accurate appraisal of behavior is essential, yet few teachers invest time in helping students understand how vulnerable their own interpretations are to error.

Encourage practice in accurate description and interpretation of behavior by presenting students with ambiguous behavior samples. Ask them to distinguish what they observe (What is the behavior?) from the inferences they draw from the behavior (What is the meaning of the behavior?). I have found that cartoons, such as Simon Bond’s Uns p eakable Acts, can be a good resource for refining observation skills. Students quickly recognize that crisp behavioral descriptions are typically consistent from observer to observer, but inferences vary wildly. They recognize that their interpretations are highly personal and sometimes biased by their own values and preferences. As a result of experiencing such strong individual differences in interpretation, students may learn to be appropriately less confident of their immediate conclusions, more tolerant of ambiguity, and more likely to propose alternative explanations. As they acquire a good understanding of scientific procedures, effective control techniques, and legitimate forms of evidence, they may be less likely to fall victim to the multitude of off-base claims about behavior that confront us all. (How many Elvis sightings can be valid in one year?)

Theoretical Domain

Theoretical critical thinking involves helping the student develop an appreciation for scientific explanations of behavior. This means learning not just the content of psychology but how and why psychology is organized into concepts, principles, laws, and theories. Developing theoretical skills begins in the introductory course where the primary critical thinking objective is understanding and applying concepts appropriately. For example, when you introduce students to the principles of reinforcement, you can ask them to find examples of the principles in the news or to make up stories that illustrate the principles.

Mid-level courses in the major require more sophistication, moving students beyond application of concepts and principles to learning and applying theories. For instance, you can provide a rich case study in abnormal psychology and ask students to make sense of the case from different perspectives, emphasizing theoretical flexibility or accurate use of existing and accepted frameworks in psychology to explain patterns of behavior. In advanced courses we can justifiably ask students to evaluate theory, selecting the most useful or rejecting the least helpful. For example, students can contrast different models to explain drug addiction in physiological psychology. By examining the strengths and weaknesses of existing frameworks, they can select which theories serve best as they learn to justify their criticisms based on evidence and reason.

Capstone, honors, and graduate courses go beyond theory evaluation to encourage students to create theory. Students select a complex question about behavior (for example, identifying mechanisms that underlie autism or language acquisition) and develop their own theory-based explanations for the behavior. This challenge requires them to synthesize and integrate existing theory as well as devise new insights into the behavior.

Methodological Domain

Most departments offer many opportunities for students to develop their methodological critical thinking abilities by applying different research methods in psychology. Beginning students must first learn what the scientific method entails. The next step is to apply their understanding of scientific method by identifying design elements in existing research. For example, any detailed description of an experimental design can help students practice distinguishing the independent from the dependent variable and identifying how researchers controlled for alternative explanations. The next methodological critical thinking goals include evaluating the quality of existing research design and challenging the conclusions of research findings. Students may need to feel empowered by the teacher to overcome the reverence they sometimes demonstrate for anything in print, including their textbooks. Asking students to do a critical analysis on a fairly sophisticated design may simply be too big a leap for them to make. They are likely to fare better if given examples of bad design so they can build their critical abilities and confidence in order to tackle more sophisticated designs. (Examples of bad design can be found in The Critical Thinking Companion for Introductory Psychology or they can be easily constructed with a little time and imagination). Students will develop and execute their own research designs in their capstone methodology courses. Asking students to conduct their own independent research, whether a comprehensive survey on parental attitudes, a naturalistic study of museum patrons’ behavior, or a well-designed experiment on paired associate learning, prompts students to integrate their critical thinking skills and gives them practice with conventional writing forms in psychology. In evaluating their work I have found it helpful to ask students to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their own work- as an additional opportunity to think critically-before giving them my feedback.

Additional Suggestions

Adopting explicit critical thinking objectives, regardless of the domain of critical thinking, may entail some strategy changes on the part of the teacher.

• Introduce psychology as an ope n-end ed, growing enterprise . Students often think that their entry into the discipline represents an end-point where everything good and true has already been discovered. That conclusion encourages passivity rather than criticality. Point out that research is psychology’ s way of growing and developing. Each new discovery in psychology represents a potentially elegant act of critical thinking. A lot of room for discovery remains. New ideas will be developed and old conceptions discarded.

• Require student performance that goes beyond memorization . Group work, essays, debates, themes, letters to famous psychologists, journals, current event examples- all of these and more can be used as a means of developing the higher skills involved in critical thinking in psychology. Find faulty cause-effect conclusions in the tabloids (e.g., “Eating broccoli increases your IQ!”) and have students design studies to confirm or discredit the headline’s claims. Ask students to identify what kinds of evidence would warrant belief in commercial claims. Although it is difficult, even well designed objective test items can capture critical thinking skills so that students are challenged beyond mere repetition and recall.

• Clarify your expectations about performance with explicit, public criteria. Devising clear performance criteria for psychology projects will enhance student success. Students often complain that they don’t understand “what you want” when you assign work. Performance criteria specify the standards that you will use to evaluate their work. For example, perfonnance criteria for the observation exercise described earlier might include the following: The student describes behavior accurately; offers i nference that is reasonable for the context; and identifies personal factors that might influence infer ence. Perfonnance criteria facilitate giving detailed feedback easily and can also promote student self-assessment.

• Label good examples of critical thinking when these occur spontaneously. Students may not recognize when they are thinking critically. When you identify examples of good thinking or exploit examples that could be improved, it enhances students’ ability to understand. One of my students made this vivid for me when she commented on the good connection she had made between a course concept and an insight from her literature class, “That is what you mean by critical thinking?” There after I have been careful to label a good critical thinking insight.

• Endorse a questioning attitude. Students often assume that if they have questions about their reading, then they are somehow being dishonorable, rude, or stupid. Having  discussions early in the course about the role of good questions in enhancing the quality of the subject and expanding the sharpness of the mind may set a more critical stage on which students can play. Model critical thinking from some insights you have had about behavior or from some research you have conducted in the past. Congratulate students who offer good examples of the principles under study. Thank students who ask concept-related questions and describe why you think their questions are good. Leave time and space for more. Your own excitement about critical thinking can be a great incentive for students to seek that excitement.

• Brace yourself . When you include more opportunity for student critical thinking in class, there is much more opportunity for the class to go astray. Stepping away from the podium and engaging the students to perform what they know necessitates some loss of control, or at least some enhanced risk. However, the advantage is that no class will ever feel completely predictable, and this can be a source of stimulation for students and the professor as well.

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As far back as I can remember over 50 yrs. ago. I have been talking psychology to friends, or helping them to solve problems. I never thought about psy. back then, but now I realize I really love helping people. How can I become a critical thinker without condemning people?

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using a case study explain use of critical thinking in counseling process.

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About the Author

Jane Halonen received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1980. She is Professor of Psychology at Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she has served as Chair of Psychology and Dean of the Behavior Sciences Department. Halonen is past president of the Council for Teachers of Undergraduate Psychology. A fellow of APA's Division 2 (Teaching), she has been active on the Committee of Undergraduate Education, helped design the 1991 APA Conference on Undergraduate Educational Quality, and currently serves as a committee member to develop standards for the teaching of high school psychology.

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Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology

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critical thinking and writing in psychology

Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology Paperback – August 31, 2020

  • Print length 266 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Kendall Hunt Publishing
  • Publication date August 31, 2020
  • Dimensions 7.52 x 0.56 x 9.25 inches
  • ISBN-10 1792406606
  • ISBN-13 978-1792406607
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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Kendall Hunt Publishing; 1st edition (August 31, 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 266 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1792406606
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1792406607
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.01 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 7.52 x 0.56 x 9.25 inches
  • #30,909 in Medical General Psychology
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  • What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

Published on May 30, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment .

To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources .

Critical thinking skills help you to:

  • Identify credible sources
  • Evaluate and respond to arguments
  • Assess alternative viewpoints
  • Test hypotheses against relevant criteria

Table of contents

Why is critical thinking important, critical thinking examples, how to think critically, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about critical thinking.

Critical thinking is important for making judgments about sources of information and forming your own arguments. It emphasizes a rational, objective, and self-aware approach that can help you to identify credible sources and strengthen your conclusions.

Critical thinking is important in all disciplines and throughout all stages of the research process . The types of evidence used in the sciences and in the humanities may differ, but critical thinking skills are relevant to both.

In academic writing , critical thinking can help you to determine whether a source:

  • Is free from research bias
  • Provides evidence to support its research findings
  • Considers alternative viewpoints

Outside of academia, critical thinking goes hand in hand with information literacy to help you form opinions rationally and engage independently and critically with popular media.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Critical thinking can help you to identify reliable sources of information that you can cite in your research paper . It can also guide your own research methods and inform your own arguments.

Outside of academia, critical thinking can help you to be aware of both your own and others’ biases and assumptions.

Academic examples

However, when you compare the findings of the study with other current research, you determine that the results seem improbable. You analyze the paper again, consulting the sources it cites.

You notice that the research was funded by the pharmaceutical company that created the treatment. Because of this, you view its results skeptically and determine that more independent research is necessary to confirm or refute them. Example: Poor critical thinking in an academic context You’re researching a paper on the impact wireless technology has had on developing countries that previously did not have large-scale communications infrastructure. You read an article that seems to confirm your hypothesis: the impact is mainly positive. Rather than evaluating the research methodology, you accept the findings uncritically.

Nonacademic examples

However, you decide to compare this review article with consumer reviews on a different site. You find that these reviews are not as positive. Some customers have had problems installing the alarm, and some have noted that it activates for no apparent reason.

You revisit the original review article. You notice that the words “sponsored content” appear in small print under the article title. Based on this, you conclude that the review is advertising and is therefore not an unbiased source. Example: Poor critical thinking in a nonacademic context You support a candidate in an upcoming election. You visit an online news site affiliated with their political party and read an article that criticizes their opponent. The article claims that the opponent is inexperienced in politics. You accept this without evidence, because it fits your preconceptions about the opponent.

There is no single way to think critically. How you engage with information will depend on the type of source you’re using and the information you need.

However, you can engage with sources in a systematic and critical way by asking certain questions when you encounter information. Like the CRAAP test , these questions focus on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

When encountering information, ask:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert in their field?
  • What do they say? Is their argument clear? Can you summarize it?
  • When did they say this? Is the source current?
  • Where is the information published? Is it an academic article? Is it peer-reviewed ?
  • Why did the author publish it? What is their motivation?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence? Does it rely on opinion, speculation, or appeals to emotion ? Do they address alternative arguments?

Critical thinking also involves being aware of your own biases, not only those of others. When you make an argument or draw your own conclusions, you can ask similar questions about your own writing:

  • Am I only considering evidence that supports my preconceptions?
  • Is my argument expressed clearly and backed up with credible sources?
  • Would I be convinced by this argument coming from someone else?

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
  • ChatGPT citations
  • Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
  • Using ChatGPT for your studies
  • What is ChatGPT?
  • Chicago style
  • Paraphrasing

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  • Academic integrity
  • Consequences of plagiarism
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critical thinking and writing in psychology

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

Critical thinking skills include the ability to:

You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test , focusing on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

Ask questions such as:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence?

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.

Being information literate means that you:

  • Know how to find credible sources
  • Use relevant sources to inform your research
  • Understand what constitutes plagiarism
  • Know how to cite your sources correctly

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search, interpret, and recall information in a way that aligns with our pre-existing values, opinions, or beliefs. It refers to the ability to recollect information best when it amplifies what we already believe. Relatedly, we tend to forget information that contradicts our opinions.

Although selective recall is a component of confirmation bias, it should not be confused with recall bias.

On the other hand, recall bias refers to the differences in the ability between study participants to recall past events when self-reporting is used. This difference in accuracy or completeness of recollection is not related to beliefs or opinions. Rather, recall bias relates to other factors, such as the length of the recall period, age, and the characteristics of the disease under investigation.

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Ryan, E. (2023, May 31). What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved January 2, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/working-with-sources/critical-thinking/

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Other students also liked, student guide: information literacy | meaning & examples, what are credible sources & how to spot them | examples, applying the craap test & evaluating sources.

Christopher Dwyer Ph.D.

7 Tips for Integrating Critical Thinking into your Writing

"shouldn't you be writing".

Posted June 21, 2019

The stress and tedium that can be associated with writing is a common subject of social media posting by academics, albeit often in a humorous manner. But, think about non-academics, whose main outcome measure of success isn’t based on writing. I wonder how they feel about writing. Though such social media posts may be shared for the purpose of light-hearted humour, there may well be some truth to them. I think it’s fair to suggest that many do not find academic or technical writing to be an easy or enjoyable task. What often increases the workload of this kind of writing is the need for an integration of critical thinking. Of course, some individuals are better at this integration than others and so, it’s useful to discuss how it can be improved. Thus, below are seven tips for helping you integrate critical thinking into your writing.

1. Know the nature of an argument.

Any piece of text that contains words like because , but , however , therefore , thus , yet , etc., is an argument. An argument isn’t just a heated debate, it’s an activity of reason aimed at increasing (or decreasing) the acceptability of some claim or point of view, through presenting reasons and/or objections that either support or refute the claim. You will have to address both, if not multiple, sides of the story—think of it as playing devil’s advocate . Treating your writing in this regard will ease the process and facilitate the application of the rest of these tips.

2. Do your research...properly.

You weren’t born knowledgeable; so, what you know must have been learned from somewhere else. Sometimes, knowledge can be gained from family, friends or life experiences; but, they have no place in academic or technical writing. As a result, you must search for credible information pertinent to the topic. Of course, everyone is biased; so you will already have a point of a view on a topic before you even start researching it. This is natural; however, don’t feed into this confirmation bias by corrupting your research strategy. That is, search for sources that both justify what you believe about the topic as well as sources that refute your perspective. Consider both (or, if more than two, multiple) sides of the story and be honest with yourself about which pieces of information: come from the most credible sources; are most relevant to the specificity of not only the topic, but the central claim itself; are the most logical; and are the most successful at avoiding bias . The sources you should be using are peer-reviewed academic journals—many of which are freely available through Google Scholar . Furthermore, give credit where credit is due—reference the research appropriately in your writing. I often explain to students new to academic referencing that it’s a great opportunity to show off the fact that they did their research and applied critical evaluation. The more references you have, the more evidence you have for having done your research!

3. Develop an organised structure.

Not a single word should be written before you have an organised structure for the piece outlined (I highly recommend argument mapping , which is a means of visually representing the structure of an argument and is supported by research as having positive effects on critical thinking [Butchart et al., 2009; Dwyer, 2011; Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2012; van Gelder, Bisset & Cumming, 2004]). Organisation is an important disposition towards critical thinking and being this way inclined will allow you to adapt and cope with the potential ‘surprises’ that may be encountered during the writing process. Introduction , Body and Conclusion— the old stalwarts of any well-organised manuscript are obvious fixtures (see my next post for what goes into each); but, make sure that all of your reasons and objections are also appropriately organised, discussed and laid out within these sections (see Tip 7 for more on structuring reasons and objections).

4. "Quality, not quantity."

Don’t get me wrong, quantity is important. If you don’t present enough information, your argument won’t be convincing and may affect its impact…and if you’re a student, your grade as well. However, the quality of what you present is as much, if not more, important. To address this in your writing, consider the amount of information that is required to be discussed.

Outside of the Introduction and the Conclusion , good arguments generally contain 3 to 5 core reasons to support a claim. Each of those 3 to 5 core reasons requires justification as well; and, so, each needs another 3 to 5 reasons for support. That is, 3 to 5 reasons for 3 to 5 core reasons (don’t forget to include potential objections as well); thus, generally between 12 and 20 points require discussion. Consider this range as your anchor. With that, however, this anchor might require adaptation, depending on word count. For example, in a dissertation or thesis, this range may not be enough and thus, could be applied to each chapter. In cases of very limited word counts, perhaps only 9 points might be more feasible? Furthermore, ask yourself whether you have 12 to 20 points? If not, do more research. If you still haven't achieved the anchor, that’s fine—just make a greater effort to critically evaluate the points you do have (i.e. fewer points will afford you more than enough space for quality evaluation). Personally, I would much rather see 10 points discussed and evaluated well than 25 points merely presented.

5. "Avoid glorious bullsh*t."

I recall a story one of my high school English teachers relayed to my class about her first college assignment. She had come out of high school having aced her Advanced Placement English exam and expected her college marks to reflect her glowing track record. A big red "F" stained the front page of her first English paper, next to the feedback that I now relay to you—a void glorious bullsh*t. It’s a memorable line that reflects the need to omit "waffle" from one's writing. Every paragraph, every sentence, every word has a purpose—if what you write doesn’t have a purpose (other than adding words to your piece), remove it.

The message is similar to concepts like " Keep It Simple, Stupid" (KISS) or Occam’s Razor (a philosophical principle consistent with the fundaments of critical thinking), which roughly translates from Latin as ‘More things should not be used than are necessary’ . Simply, all of these recommendations suggest that less is more , which it truly is in many cases. So, in practice, remove unnecessary and ambiguous words. For example, unless you’re writing a literary piece, adverbs are often a good place to start cutting .

6. Write as if your granny was reading.

If you’re writing about a specialist topic, it’s likely that the language used to convey meaning will be somewhat complex, particularly to someone who's not an expert in that topic area. Similar to the case of the last tip, just because it’s wordy or reads complex doesn’t make it good writing. Being able to simplify a complex concept so that others can understand it is a much better example of good writing. This is of particular importance to students as well. For example, educators wouldn't have set a particular assignment if they didn't know the topic well—they don't want their students to teach them the material, they want them to explain it in their own words for the purpose of assessing their understanding of it. The student’s ability to paraphrase complex information into something accessible to novices is a primary indicator of learning, not repeating something complex, word-for-word from a few different texts. Write as if your granny was reading because if she can understand it, that means you understand it—as will others.

critical thinking and writing in psychology

7. Ensure that you have analysed , evaluated and inferred .

Critical thinking refers to purposeful, self-regulatory, reflective judgment, consisting of a number of sub-skills (i.e. analysis, evaluation and inference), that increase the chances of producing a logical solution to a problem or a valid conclusion to an argument (Dwyer, 2017; Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2014). In order to integrate critical thinking into your writing, its core skills need to be applied. Thus, perhaps the most important tip for integrating critical thinking into your writing is ensuring that you have appropriately analysed , evaluated and inferred .

Analysis is used to detect, examine and identify the propositions within an argument, their sources (e.g. research, common beliefs, personal experience) and the role they play (e.g. the main conclusion, the premises and reasons provided to support the conclusion, objections to the conclusion), as well as the inferential relationships among propositions. When it comes to analysing the basis for a person’s belief, we can extract the structure of their argument for analysis (from dialogue and text) by looking for arguments that support or refute the belief; and by looking for arguments that support or object to the previous level of arguments and so on. As a result, what we see is a hierarchical structure (see Tip 3), in which we can analyse each individual proposition by identifying what types of arguments others are using when trying to persuade us to share their point of view.

Evaluation is used to assess previously analysed propositions and claims with respect to their credibility (i.e. of a proposition’s source), relevance (i.e. of a proposition to the claim and other propositions), logical strength (i.e. in terms of the relationships among propositions) and the potential for omissions, bias and imbalance in the argument. Evaluation helps us establish the truth of a claim and when we do this, we can arrive at some conclusions about the overall strengths and weaknesses of arguments. So, if it’s not credible, relevant, logical and unbiased, you should consider excluding it or discussing its weaknesses as an objection.

Inference refers to the gathering of credible, relevant and logical evidence based on the previous analysis and evaluation of available information, for the purpose of drawing a reasonable conclusion. This may imply accepting a conclusion pointed to by an author in light of the evidence they present or proposing an alternative, equally logical, conclusion based on the available evidence. The ability to infer, or generate a conclusion, can be completed by both formal and informal logic strategies in order to derive intermediate conclusions as well as central claims. After inferring a conclusion, we must re-evaluate our resulting argument. When applying the skill of inference, we progress in a somewhat cyclical manner—from inference back to evaluation and again to inference until we are confident in our overall conclusion. An important by-product of this cycle is that our thinking becomes more complex, more organized and more logical.

Butchart, S., Bigelow, J., Oppy, G., Korb, K., & Gold, I. (2009). Improving critical thinking using web-based argument mapping exercises with automated feedback. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25, 2, 268-291.

Dwyer, C.P. (2011). The evaluation of argument mapping as a learning tool. Doctoral Thesis. National University of Ireland, Galway.

Dwyer, C.P. (2017). Critical thinking: Conceptual perspectives and practical guidelines.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Dwyer, C.P., Hogan, M.J., & Stewart, I. (2012). An evaluation of argument mapping as a method of enhancing critical thinking performance in e-learning environments. Metacognition and Learning, 7, 219-244.

Dwyer, C.P., Hogan, M.J. & Stewart, I. (2014). An integrated critical thinking framework for the 21st century. Thinking Skills & Creativity, 12, 43-52.

van Gelder, T.J., Bissett, M., & Cumming, G. (2004). Enhancing expertise in informal reasoning. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology 58, 142-52.

Christopher Dwyer Ph.D.

Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the Technological University of the Shannon in Athlone, Ireland.

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COMMENTS

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    These critical thinking/writ- ing skills, as well as the ability to form and support an argument, create a foundation on which you will build the more specialized skills required for psychological writing.

  2. Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology

    Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology: Janett May Naylor-Tincknell, Carol Patrick: 9781524970413: Amazon.com: Books Books › Medical Books › Psychology Enjoy fast, FREE delivery, exclusive deals and award-winning movies & TV shows with Prime Try Prime and start saving today with Fast, FREE Delivery Buy new: $66.85 FREE Returns FREE delivery

  3. Writing as critical thinking.

    Writing as critical thinking. Citation Dunn, D. S., & Smith, R. A. (2008). Writing as critical thinking. In D. S. Dunn, J. S. Halonen, & R. A. Smith (Eds.), Teaching critical thinking in psychology: A handbook of best practices (pp. 164-173). Wiley Blackwell. https:// https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444305173.ch14 Abstract

  4. PDF PSY 240/Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology

    1. Observe the world accurately and objectively; 2. Think critically about the world - both the psychological literature and everyday experience; 3. Read research articles accurately, being able to abstract their essential ideas and understand their implications; 4.

  5. A Brief Guide for Teaching and Assessing Critical Thinking in Psychology

    Instructional interventions affecting critical thinking skills and dispositions: A stage 1 meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 4, 1102-1134. Angelo, T. A. (1995). Classroom assessment for critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 6-7. Bensley, D.A. (1998). Critical thinking in psychology: A unified skills approach.

  6. Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology

    The long term goal of Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology is to help the student become more competent and confident in writing, in all future settings. This is a guidebook for building psychologists specifically tailored to the types of writing they will utilize on the job.

  7. Bridging critical thinking and transformative learning: The role of

    In Part 1, I focus on critical thinking. I claim that theories of critical thinking ought to be augmented to account for the ability to bring about a position of doubt. I first consider two traditional critical thinking dispositions - reflection and open-mindedness - and argue that they are generally unsuccessful in this regard.

  8. Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology

    The long term goal of Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology is to help the student become more competent and confident in writing, in all future settings. This is a guidebook for building psychologists specifically tailored to the types of writing they will utilize on the job.

  9. Critical thinking in psychology, 2nd ed.

    This book presents essays by some of the foremost experts on critical thinking in the field of psychology. It is oriented toward students of psychology who hope to learn how to improve their critical thinking skills, and also to instructors who seek to teach and assess for critical thinking. Good scientific research depends on critical thinking at least as much as factual knowledge; psychology ...

  10. Critical Thinking in Psychology

    Written by leading experts in critical thinking in psychology, each chapter contains useful pedagogical features, such as critical-thinking questions, brief summaries, and definitions of key terms. It also supplies descriptions of each chapter author's critical-thinking experience, which evidences how critical thinking has made a difference to ...

  11. Critical Thinking For Psychology: A Student Guide

    Critical thinking is taught at all universities, often put forward by lecturers as the key skill that can most dramatically improve a students understanding of a course and transform their writing. It pervades research methods teaching, critical psychology, and a range of other core curriculum elements, in exactly the same way that critical thinking pervades any discipline, and indeed, life ...

  12. 7 Tips for Integrating Critical Thinking into your Writing

    Thus, below are seven tips for helping you integrate critical thinking into your writing. 1. Know the nature of an argument. Any piece of text that contains words like , etc., is an argument. An ...

  13. Writing in Psychology

    Writing in Psychology For most (if not all) your psychology assignments, you'll be required to critically analyse relevant psychological theory and research. If you're just starting out in psychology, you might not know what this involves.

  14. PDF Critical Thinking in Psychology

    Critical Thinking in Psychology Good scientific research depends on critical thinking at least as much as on factual knowledge; psychology is no exception to this rule. And yet, despite the importance of critical thinking, psychology students are rarely taught how to think critically about the theories, methods, and concepts they must use.

  15. May I come in? A probe into the contributions of self-esteem, teacher

    With these considerations in mind, the study of critical thinking and its beneficial impacts on academic success in EFL contexts (among many others) is a fruitful area in which to engage in educational inquiry. , for example, have examined the value of creating a model for instructing critical thinking in the EFL classroom. They came to the ...

  16. On Critical Thinking

    Practical critical thinking is often expressed as a long-term, implicit goal of teachers of psychology, even though they may not spend much academic time teaching how to transfer critical thinking skills to make students wise consumers, more careful judges of character, or more cautious interpreters of behavior.

  17. Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology: Janett May Naylor

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  18. Why is critical thinking important for Psychology students?

    Why is critical thinking important for Psychology students? Amy Burrell, Daniel Waldeck, and Rachael Leggett - authors of 'How to make the most of your psychology degree' - explain what critical thinking is and why it is an essential skill for all Psychology students. 16 September 2022 So, you're off to university to study Psychology?

  19. Writing as Critical Thinking

    Teaching Critical Thinking in Psychology: A Handbook of Best Practices The full text of this article hosted at iucr.org is unavailable due to technical difficulties.

  20. Promoting Critical Thinking by Teaching, or Taking, Psychology Courses

    The chapter concludes by describing a more radical approach to critical thinking in the introductory-psychology course that would, in fact, alter its content in the service of dispelling strongly held misconceptions about human behavior and mental processes. Keywords critical thinking interactive learning Type Chapter Information

  21. 5 Laws of Great Thinkers

    The Janusian process proceeds through four primary phases: 1. the motivation to create; 2. a deviation or separation from usual, accepted notions or procedures; 3. simultaneous opposition or ...

  22. Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology / Edition 1

    The long term goal of Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology is to help the student become more competent and confident in writing, in all future settings. This is a guidebook for building psychologists specifically tailored to the types of writing they will utilize on the job. This text provides students with a practical look at what is ...

  23. What Is Critical Thinking?

    Revised on May 31, 2023. Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment. To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources. Critical thinking skills help you to: Identify credible sources

  24. Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology

    Critical Thinking and Writing in Psychology - by Janett May Naylor-Tincknell & Carol Patrick (Hardcover) $66.99 When purchased online. Out of Stock. About this item. ... A Primer on Critical Thinking and Business Ethics - by Oswald Mascarenhas & Munish Thakur (Hardcover) $39.99. The Critical Thinking Toolkit - by Marlene Caroselli (Paperback)

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  26. 7 Tips for Integrating Critical Thinking into your Writing

    Critical thinking refers to purposeful, self-regulatory, reflective judgment, consisting of a number of sub-skills (i.e. analysis, evaluation and inference), that increase the chances of producing ...