During your college career, you will write a variety of assignments. Some will be based on your beliefs and opinions; others will require you to report on and evaluate existing research. You may be asked to write any number of business documents, such as proposals, reports, feasibility studies, strategic planning documents, and even lab reports and other scientific research. You may design and conduct surveys or perform other data-gathering tasks that must be summarized. You may write speeches, advertising and marketing copy, and white papers as assignments. You may even write fiction, such as short stories and poetry. Most certainly during your college career, you will write research papers and be expected to take essay examinations.

Whatever you write, you will need strategies to help you apply your critical thinking skills to the writing process. There is no neat crossover between assignments and thinking strategies. In some cases, these strategies will be clear to you—for example, when you are asked to analyze a problem and propose a solution. In other cases, the assignment will be expressed more abstractly and call for a variety of critical thinking and writing strategies.

This chapter looks at some strategies and how they apply to your academic assignments, from research papers to essay exams. Although we cannot provide models for every kind of writing assignment you will receive, we can explore how thinking about your writing can lead to stronger, more effective writing.

  • How can understanding cognitive objectives make you a better writer?

  • How can understanding critical thinking strategies help you develop your paper in an assignment-appropriate manner?

  • What are some of the approaches or idea patterns you might use to meet the cognitive objectives?

  • What are some specific ways of presenting information other than ordinary prose paragraphs?

  • How can these techniques help you write better answers to essay exams?

  • How can abstract ideas like tone, diction, style, voice, and vocabulary affect the final written paper?

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