Before putting material together in written form, there are essential early steps to take when preparing to write an essay. These include changing bad habits of mind such as banking, generalizing, and judging, and more importantly, learning how to observe and ask questions. Being an essay writer at domywriting, I can say that not only will these skills help students produce more analytical papers, but they will also improve critical thinking skills in all aspects of their lives.
High School Writing
The first bad habit to be aware of and break is called banking. In this style of essay writing, the information goes in, then information comes out much like a series of deposits and withdrawals. Students learn information which they then regurgitate on the page. This approach is common for high school students being tested on how much information they have learned but is inappropriate for college-level essays which require more critical analysis.
Banking prevents or stifles critical thinking because it requires nothing more than repeating what students have read or heard. The solution is to begin to adopt a more skeptical stance on a topic or issue and to ask questions before beginning to write. If asked to write a paper on whether the Internet is causing the decline of print newspapers, for example, a common approach is to read a few articles and summarize the arguments concluding with a statement of opinion. While the paper may be well researched and interesting, it is still an example of banking.
Critical Thinking Skills
Another bad habit of mind is generalizing or making vague statements or observations. “Everyone gets their news on the Internet now” is a generalization (obviously, not everyone has Internet access or chooses to read the news online). Approaching an essay with a general idea in mind dismisses alternate points of view. Vagueness and generality block learning and critical thinking because the observations are so broad, they say nothing.
Ideas that are common knowledge or clichés are also a form of generalizing and do not lead to analytical papers. “The Internet has changed our world”, for example, is not an argument; it is a statement of fact, common knowledge, and a well-worn cliché. Instead, a good essay topic will begin with a specific argument that others may disagree with.
Persuasive Essay Prompts
Similar to generalizing, judging means quickly evaluate something based on individual likes or dislikes. “What did you think of the movie?” often leads to instant judgment and an unwillingness to agree with an opposing point of view. If, after being given the assignment to write on the decline of the newspaper, a student decides that the Internet is better than reading a newspaper, the essay may ignore other points of view and end up being one-sided. Before writing, strive to move from a reflexive judgment to a more thoughtful, curious look at the topic.
To avoid banking, generalizing, and judging, another first step is to engage with information before concluding. Rather than simply summarizing the points of an article in a newspaper, try posing questions. Who wrote the article? Who does he/she work for? Is this significant? Why are newspapers in decline? What evidence is there? Is this evidence valid? Posing questions helps generate ideas for writing and highlights contradictions or tensions which ultimately leads to more analytical papers.
Reading Comprehension Strategies
Learning to observe means slowing down and taking the time to notice things; to avoid forming generalizations, instant judgments, or coming to conclusions before spending time thinking. Instead, gather information before deciding on a thesis or claim. Don’t spend time on “What do I think?” or “What do I like/dislike?” Instead, focus on “What do I notice about this argument or position?” “What are some opposing points of view?”
Students often avoid doing this because they are not sure what the argument is or find the material confusing. But confusion and not knowing is a good thing when it comes to essay writing. Not knowing or not understanding is often the first step in generating ideas and forming questions.
Taking the time to avoid banking, generalizing, and judging will help develop better critical thinking skills; and learning to observe and pose questions will lead to a more analytical essay before even writing the first word.
About the author: Diane H. Wong is a search engine optimization specialist and business coach. Besides, she is a research paper writer DoMyWriting so she prefers to spend her spare time working out marketing strategies. In this case, she has an opportunity to share her experience with others and keep up with advancing technologies.