How an academic journal can expand your knowledge on critical thinking

How an academic journal can expand your knowledge on critical thinking


Jennifer Moon (1999, p. 2) described a journal to be a vehicle for reflection as this process can represent deeply seated orientations of our lives. The aim is to expand my knowledge on critical thinking also to develop and critically analyze various research skills supporting my studies through out the course of my degree.

The journal will show a record of my personal reflections on each topic. In this journal I will be identifying concepts I find challenging, discovering new, exciting topics and will practical them using other modules. This is a compulsory module set by the university, which I believe is essential in my degree and career onwards in life because journals favors learning through the encouragement of conditions for learning, critical thinking is a skill that anyone would benefit from developing and using. I can certainly learn how to think critically and improve my problem solving skills with little extra effort. Keeping an academic journal will be quite interesting for a change as I do keep a personal diary; I am looking forward to acquiring new knowledge as a developing critical thinker by the end of this module.


The tutor explained who a critical thinker and the core questions that a critical thinker needs to ask. There are a vast range of areas a critical thinker has to cover in order to become a problem solver. It could either be more focused reading, knowledge on how to get your points across easily (Cottrell, 2005)

According to Cottrell (2005, p.1)‘’critical thinking is a cognitive activity, associated with using the mind’’. Critical thinkers should have characteristics such as good observers, good communication skills, and good judgment just to mention a few.

I found the first class to be very interesting because I realized that I am a natural critical thinker in anything I do, I exhibit most of the characteristics most times for example when asked about a topic I know nothing about, I try to answer using the surrounding facts to the topic.

We also looked at different sources of information. I picked particular interest in articles. I currently sourced for an article by Arons, Arnold B. “‘Critical Thinking’ and the Baccalaureate Curriculum.” That I will be using to understand this module better.

At the end of this week I learned how to use critical thinking in relation to my academics. For instance if I was given an essay to write on, I would know how to critically structure my answers in relation to the question asked for example critically discuss the fallacies of descriptive writing. Citing as an example.


We continued this week on the sources of information. During the lecture the tutor differentiated the various sources of information, which include Newspapers, books, Journals, and Monographs. Newspapers and Books are one of the oldest forms of information. Newspapers are the most common source of information, which are broken down into three kinds, which are – Tabloids, Middle market Tabloids and Broad sheets.

Before now I was not familiar with the different types of newspaper I found the topic a bit confusing at first, but I had noticed the difference between the Independent (broadsheet) and The Mirror (Tabloids).

The Tabloids includes papers like- The sun, The mirror- they are easy to read, simple grammar, they are also cheap. Or free in some cases.

The middle tabloids are a little more detailed but still convey the news in a simple way; an example is Daily Mail.

Broad sheets have a wider perspective and are more statistical; the use of English is more advanced. The observer, the guardian are some examples.

As an international student I put the knowledge to practice by categorizing my country’s newspaper into their various groups. I also looked at how various countries portray their news to the public, as this is one of the most accessible forms of media; For example BBC news focuses on news in the uk (this being a British channel) and breaking news in other countries where as World News covers news around the world.

In this week I learnt the importance of information via the newspaper. I liked the fact the tutor involved the class during the discussion. It was interactive. I found this topic very interesting and relevant to my course of study because Information is very important and using the right sources is very essential. It makes you aware of what is happening around you and also expands my views on different areas.


In week three the topic discussed was ‘The sources of materials’. Every good source of information must have authentic evidence, validity, facts and opinions.

According to Cottrell primary sources are the raw material for the subject, such as data and documents while secondary sources are materials such as books and articled based on, or written about. (Cottrell, 2005 p126,)

Primary sources include those materials that have investigated and have evidence of time, place. Some examples are: photographs, newspapers, books, autobiographies just to mention a few. Secondary sources are written materials that usually have fact. These include: biographies, interviews with people that were present at the occurrence of the event.

I identified the types of sources but my area of concern where I found confusing was the grey area. -Grey areas are those types of sources that include primary and secondary sources.

I think identifying the difference might be a bit confusing for me because for example in the case of a robbery, a news reporter may interview eyewitnesses but not the actual victim, the story could be changed when exchanged by word of mouth from one to another therefore altering the original story.

Primary sources may be difficult sometimes if you do not have the facts to back it up. For example a TV interview which may be not available if it was not saved or recorded. Its authenticity could become unclear due to lack of evidence.

Primary and secondary sources are necessary to achieve wider knowledge. The sources of information lay the foundation for writing .I will continuously build on my knowledge on collection of useful forms of materials. I have begun improving my writing skills to back-up my arguments. I will use a primary source to in my forth-coming essay in this module.


Donald Campbell said “All research ultimately has ?a qualitative grounding’’.

For qualitative research there’s no such thing as qualitative data. ?Everything is either 1 or 0?? according to Fred Kerlinger.

Qualitative involves uses data like words (interviews, questionnaires) and quantitative research involves actual numbers. The tutor highlighted the various features and characteristics of both methods. The different methods are used in different a case for example Census counting, which is quantitative, and promoting a new product, which is qualitative.

Quantitative as the word implies involves a lot of numbers tables, graphs are some of the methods used. This method is quite easy for me to use. Some features of quantitative research include; prediction, explanation, measurement and it claims objectivity. In qualitative; data is in form of words, objects and pictures, it is time consuming to create design as the study unfolds.

For qualitative research, this source is more informal, opinions and emotions are is not as strict and straightforward as the quantitative method.

At the end of this topic I have a clearer understanding to the strengths and weakness of each method. According to Miles & Huberman (1994, p.40). The strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative research are a perennial, hot debate, especially in the social sciences. This phrase simply states the long existence of the research methods, not withstanding the differences between both of them; they are still widely used as research approaches.

I have gained a deeper insight of the two types of methodologies. If I am told to do a research with either method I believe I will utilize both methods if asked.

For me I think the qualitative approach is what I will prefer because it allows for beliefs and emotions to be expressed. I like to express opinions and myself where possible. I used the qualitative method in my information age module using a questionnaire on the importance of the Internet. I did a little reading on a book called Introduction to social research by Punch, Keith F.I noticed that the qualitative approach is mostly used in the social sciences and quantitative approach is more science based, but either way if am told to do a research with any method I will be able to do it and achieve the purpose of the research.


Week six was about Electronic Resources the session was presented by Maria Introwicz in the J.B library. She outlined the different types of information, such as books, journal articles and websites, and also how we can use library tools to find this information. She also outlined the various sources of finding information; website, e-books, Google scholar, journal books. The preferred referencing style in most United Kingdom universities is the Harvard system, which I have a little problem with. I asked her detailed questions to the areas I was facing problems with for example citing Newspapers.

The session was helpful because I learnt how to use the Harvard system better .I had issues with referencing in my previous course now I am correcting my errors and still learning different ways to improve my referencing in my academics and here after. I personally do not utilize journals, E-books because I was not aware of how to use them. But now I do I will use more it, it shows different sources of information other than the regular books and websites. I think when this is used it shows more in-depth to the level of research that has been put into one’s research.

http:// is a website that has books and journals which I use to source for information.


In this week the area of focus was on journals. The oxford dictionary (2000) defined journals to be a newspaper or magazine that deals with a particular subject or professional activity. She outlined the various methods of sourcing for academic journals online, and from this university as well. We practiced searching for journals in our specific areas of study. I found it quiet difficult and confusing because finding the exact journal could be time-consuming. I will have to learn how to use this more no matter the shows a more comprehensive and extensive research if used in the case of academic work. This session has helped me improve my confidence in finding and making references. I found a journal using my Athens log-in called.


Argument and Analysis and Analytical Essay were the topic of the week the topic entailed the types of reasoning for writing essays, the structures and fallacies of reasoning.

In writing essays, My arguments always needs to be properly explained to show my reflections and reasons to validate my work, particularly in academic writing.

What I summarized off this week’s lecture is the conclusion is the total summary of a whole essay. Conclusions are meant to draw clear pictures and always keep the readers mind and should never loose sight of the topic (Cottrell, 2005). It should always be logical and fact based. Including more evidence is a very wrong thing to do. I have learnt to correct my mistakes in this area. Relating to my other modules I have not put this to practice yet.


The use of language and how it conveys it’s meaning has an impact on the choice of words. Over the years just as the world as evolved the use of English has also done the same.

In various disciplines there are specific terminologies used. For example in academics students in some cases used to be referred to as learners or customers but that has changed. Language is meant to convey meaning but express not only communication but also affects the way we deal with issues.


The topic of the week was about written, verbal and visual communication. Communication is an unending process with people, customers, companies, news and others. The way the information is conveyed is as important as the information itself. We as human have different levels of understanding so the way we interpret Visual communication will vary as well. In written communication a considerable part of the skill comes from both the reader’s and writer ‘s ability to imagine the other point of view, verbal communication requires patience and imagination as well (martin 1987 p12).


At the end of this module I can say that I have identified myself as a critical thinker because I have improved my attention and observation skills, improved my skills of analysis and applying them to different situations. I have learnt to ask the core questions of a critical thinker, source for right materials, analysis my conclusions in conclusion I have learnt how to apply my critical knowledge to my other modules. Keeping this journal though was time consuming but it created a deeper level of reflection for me not just for my academics but in my reasoning as well.


Cottrell, S. (2005) critical thinking skills: developing effective analysis and arguments.

Fred Kerlinger

Jennifer Moon (1999) Learning Journals: A handbook for academics, students and professional development

Oxford dictionary

Martin, Bygate.(1987) : language teaching . A scheme for teacher education.

Great Clarendon street, oxford.

Miles & Huberman