As we said in chapter 2, the writing process is messy. Experienced writers do not follow a neat set of procedures to achieve their writing goals. They use writing to discover and explore. Asking questions and writing go together; writing is about thinking. Only after the writer thoroughly examines the subject through writing and is satisfied with the ideas discovered, does he or she polish the writing for the reader. Here is where the writer decides on the organization and style. Here is where he or she also decides which critical strategies to use for writing the final draft.
Critical thinking yields several strategies you are likely to use in your college writing. Your writing assignments may primarily reflect just one of the strategies or a combination of them. We have arranged these strategies in the order of complexity of the critical thinking they require. Keep in mind that these strategies often overlap. You may use comparison and contrast when you are synthesizing information; you may synthesize the results of a causal analysis. But you will use several of these analytical strategies when you write an evaluation. You should look at the discussion here as a way to explore and discover your ideas about your subject so that you can write your assignment.
The strategies discussed here are those most commonly used in college writing. The first three— (1) analyzing, (2) comparing and contrasting, and (3) explaining causes and effects—are among the most practiced forms of analysis. The next two strategies—(1) stating your opinion and supporting it and (2) proposing a solution—are the forms of synthesis most commonly found in college writing. Evaluation is the most complex of the thinking strategies and usually employs other reasoning strategies. The last strategy, persuasion, is used with the other strategies to lend credibility to your stated position and to bolster acceptance of your thinking. Refer to table 3.1 for more details on the critical thinking and writing assignments.