Analysis of LIS research articles 1997-2007: critical thinking, gender, and education.

Author:Babalhavaeji, Fahimeh


Writing is a process. The beginning of the process will be with thinking, and what follows will not be obviously separated from thinking. An article must have components such as analysis, evaluation of the topic, examination of findings, and inference, conclusions, and discussion. A group of factors identified as the signs of critical thinking must also be strongly present in the writing process.

Bean (2001) reviewed writing as a process that intrinsically comes along with critical thinking. According to Kovalik & Kovalik (2007) academic writing cannot be separated from critical thinking. Fisher (2001) discusses how one must interpret or evaluate information resources. Nosich (2005) and Martinez (2006) interpret reflection, results, reasoning, and discussions as ways of evaluating resources.

Regarding critical thinking, some researches such as Ennis (1996-2006), Paul (1990), and Facione (2001) believe that critical thinking includes skills that can be developed in individuals (particularly students) by education to produce people of greater intellect. John Dewey, an educational science theoretician, suggests that critical thinking is a psychological issue existing intrinsically in human beings. He believed that "one can think reflectively only when one is willing to endure suspense and to undergo the trouble of uncertainty". He viewed this type of thinking as a set of interconnections and communications and believed that, "Only when relationships are held in view does learning become more than a miscellaneous bag" (Dixon, 2005). What is certain is that research (Ennis, 1979, Huff, 2000-Michita, 2001) indicates that teaching critical thinking skills can have a positive impact on improving the writing process, especially student compositions.

The role and importance of critical thinking in writing is clear. Researchers cannot rely on collecting and offering mere data and presenting a report based on findings. Being a critical thinker means looking for hypotheses, searching various perspectives, and analyzing without prejudice.

Context of Study

Writing as a process has been described by the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina (2003). First, writers starts planning to state what they desire to write. Then, they collect and prepare subjects related to the topic. Next, they record and correct information. Finally, they record and present the writing for readers.

A process of trial and error helps writers select issues, words, and expressions to state the problem. The next stage is reconsider the idea by a rational method and find sensible arguments. The final stage is the satisfaction that the writer feels when obstacles have been successfully overcome. A scientific text has to pass through all these parts of the process. A variety of critical thinking factors have been listed by experts Facione (2000) says that, "critical thinking, thinking with judgment, would be reflective and targeted. His suggested factors are: interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation.

Paul & Elder (2006) suggest eight points for critical thinking in a text :

  1. Clarify purposes

  2. Formulate clear questions

  3. Distinguish accurate and relevant information from inaccurate and irrelevant information

  4. Reach logical inferences or conclusions

  5. Identify significant and deep concepts

  6. Distinguish justifiable from unjustifiable assumptions

  7. Trace logical implications

  8. Identify and think within multiple viewpoints

    A text that complies with these points must be organized in a standard framework. The organization of scientific articles follows a framework called IMRAD: "Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion." The editors of scientific journals have accepted IMRAD and use it to validate their publications. This study will review the manifestation of critical thinking in research articles by Iranian researchers in library and information science (LIS) from 1997-2007.

    Literature Review

    The review of research indicates that the critical thinking level is low (Mckinnon & Renner, 1991-Pikkert & Foster, 1996-Zoller and et al. 2000) and teaching it can have a positive impact (Ennis, 1979-American National Academic Achievement Assessment Association, 1981; Huff, 2000; Michita, 2001). Huff (2000) shows that both general and distance education have the same impact on critical thinking. It can be concluded that one should have greater consideration for critical thinking in various educational levels and national/international integrated planning must be done.

    The studies on different critical thinking factors indicate that there is no correlation between learning methods and critical thinking, but there is correlation between age/gender and critical thinking, as well as between curriculum type and critical thinking. In some universities and schools where there are learners from different countries with English language background, using critical thinking for necessary subjects is effective (Ennis, 1979; Perkins, 1985; Carrithers, Ling, and Beam, 2008; Weiler, 2005; Chen, 1996; Whitmire, 1998). Whitmire (1998) also found that there could be a positive relationship between scores, educational year, focus on library operations, casual interactions between professors and students in universities, active learning, and critical thinking. Chen (1996) observes finds a relationship between gender and critical thinking and in this field males performed better than females. Students' critical thinking may vary because of individual differences and different cultural, social, and educational opportunities.

    Other important points in these studies are as follows:

    * A positive relationship between information-seeking behavior and critical thinking (Weiler, 2005)

    * Curriculum justification is more important than critical thinking/attitude to be chosen by students (Michita, 2001)

    * In finance majors, curriculum does not affect students' critical thinking development (Kayes, Ling, Beam, 2008)

    * Group critical thinking has direct impact on critical thinking development and learning is effective as well (Kayes, 2006)

    The studies reviewing the relationship between critical thinking and literature indicate that group learning affects critical thinking in literature and improves it (Finlay & Faulkner, 2005). Studies performed by Scanlan (2006) and Carroll (2004) show that teaching critical thinking to students has had a positive impact on the learning process and class compositions. Quitabamo & Kurtz's study (2007) suggests that group writing significantly improves students' critical thinking skill.

    Purpose, Research Questions, and Hypotheses

    The purposes of the study:

    * Realize authors' rate of critical thinking factors in research articles.

    * Specify personal data (gender, education) in studied resources.

    * Specify authors' use of "analysis" as a critical thinking factor in the studied articles.

    * Specify authors' use of "assessment" as a critical thinking factor in the studied articles.

    * Specify authors' use of "inference" as a critical thinking factor in the studied articles.

    * Specify authors' use of "explanation" as a critical thinking factor in the studied articles

    * Specify authors' use of "self-regulation" as a critical thinking factor in the studied articles

    By referring to the findings of this research, LIS authors may be able to...

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