Phase 1 - Critical Thinking and Research
Critical reflection is careful and rigorous analytical thinking on a topic. It is a learned art, requiring prayer, patience, and practice.
While the critical thinker is not forever suspicious of trusting a source, agreeing with an argument, or arriving at old conclusions, he cultivates a spirit of inquisitiveness and healthy suspicion when dealing with ideas. True ideas are able to stand up to the probing of critical thought; false ideas stand only as long as they remain unchallenged by critical analysis.
You are interacting critically when you do one or more of the following:
Avoid the following mistakes when interacting critically with others’ work:
By asking and answering critical questions and avoiding mistakes in critical thinking, you can begin to hone your own viewpoint on the material. The process of critical interaction is one way to develop a thesis.
For assignments that are already highly structured by the professor, or for papers that interact with a source assigned by the professor, critical interaction is the most important tool for developing your viewpoint.
However, for other types of theological assignments that are less structured (for example, “write a 20-page paper on a topic of your choice that relates to themes discussed in class”) you will have to find out more information before you can interact critically or write a good thesis. For this type of paper, follow the additional steps in the research process outlined below and on the following pages.
The Research Process
Research generally proceeds by defining a general topic, asking a probing question of that topic, and evaluating potential answers. The goal is to arrive at a thesis that articulates the best answer to the research question, or a purpose statement that expresses the aim and scope of your response to the research question. Each of the points in this process represents a progression toward greater specificity and will be considered in sequence.
Other "Moving from Topic to Thesis" topics:
Phase 2 - Choosing and Narrowing a Topic
Phase 3 - Formulating a Question and Thesis