Crop circle

Critical Thinking Project

Crop circle is a man-made Phenomenon or a super-natural Phenomenon?


What is it?


Your project has three main parts:


  1. Project Outline. A brief description of the main thesis you would like to defend in your critical thinking essay or report and how you will defend it. 200-300 words.
  2. Annotated Bibliography. This is 100-200 words of critical notes or commentary on each of five or six pieces of reading (= 500-1200 words total) from your discipline (e.g. journal articles or chapters from a textbook).
  3. Report or Essay. A 2500-word written academic report or essay (please speak with your class tutor if your discipline requires an alternative format, e.g. video, with accompanying 1500 word report; or design portfolio).


What are its aims?

  • For you to practise managing the different stages in a long project.
  • For you to be able to produce an extended piece of writing (or other project if appropriate) in English.
  • For you to be exposed to key literature in your subject area. ‘Literature’ in the academic sense of the word means academic journals and academic books.
  • For you to put into practice and further develop the academic skills you’ve learned in Academic Writing, like formality, paragraph structure, writing intros & conclusions, and referencing & citation.
  • For you to put into practice and further develop academic skills you’ve learned in Critical Thinking, like structuring a longer argument and analysing, evaluating & refuting arguments.


How is Critical Thinking assessed?

                                                                                                Proportion of grade          Deadline for this component

Participation in Class                                                          10%                                        —

Project Outline/Proposal                                                      —                           Friday Week 4, 19th April

Annotated Bibliography                                                      —                           Friday Week 6, 3rd May

Essay/Report (or other project, if appropriate)              60%                        Thursday Week 8, 16th May

Final Exam                                                                           30%                        Week 7, Day and date TBC


  • Your participation grade is based on how active you are in participating in class tasks (e.g. discussions, debates, group writing, group analysis, group evaluation & presentations).
  • Your project outline grade is based heavily on whether you have submitted a thesis that you can realistically defend and have given a good indication of how you will defend it. You get even higher grades if you include a short theoretical (not general) background and a list of peer-reviewed sources you intend to use. If your project is a research report, your grade will also be based on a brief description of your research design & methodology, and expected findings. We understand that later your project may evolve away from your outline, and you will not lose marks for this.
  • Your annotated bibliography consists of five or six short pieces of writing, each 100-200 words in length. Each short piece of writing identifies a peer-reviewed source (like a book chapter or journal article) that you expect will be one of the main references for your essay. In the 100-200 words for each source, you should summarise the main ideas of the text that you intend to use in your essay or report, and mention how it relates to your argument (i.e. how it will be used to defend your thesis). Your grade is based on how well you do this.
  • The essay/report grade is based on how well you organise your arguments at the paragraph level, how well your overall argument is organised (i.e. at the essay or report level) and how well you use citations and reference.


How to start?


Decide on a topic for your project. Here are some possible ways to do that:


  • Think generally about a subject that interests you (e.g. child welfare, bridge building, social networking or criminal psychology). Make a list of specific questions that you would like to answer within this subject, then put them in order from the most interesting question to the least. Next, go onto Google Scholar and EBSCO to see if it will be easy to find enough sources to answer your first question. If not, check the second, and so on until you find one you can answer.


  • Look at module descriptions on your future university course, and select a topic that you will study in the future. Then decide on a specific question within that topic using the procedure above.


  • Ask an expert. This could be a teacher of the subject in school, or an expert outside school, either in this country or from your country. Another possibility might be a professional in your field whom you’ve met or from your family. You could also try contacting a lecturer from the department of a university where you’d like to study.
    • You can contact the expert by phone or email – they are often very happy to help.
    • It is better to approach an expert with specific questions, rather than big, open questions – they will be able to give you help and advice more easily.


How to write your project outline

  • Write the essay/report task or question using the same key words a teacher would. Here are some examples:
    • I will compare two theories in my field: Smith’s (2008) theory and Jones’s (2009) theory.
    • I will evaluate the impact of French immigration policies on small businesses in France.
    • I will describe the relationship between two important concepts in my field (you would then have to specify the concepts).
  • The description will be stronger if you outline what things you’ll do in different sections of your project (e.g. ‘I will begin by describing the background to X, then discuss two main theories of X, and then evaluate future prospects for each theory’).
  • Give the thesis statement that you expect to defend in your essay or report (don’t worry–you can change this later if you need to).
  • Tell the teacher a little bit about how you expect to answer the question/task (i.e. how, exactly, you intend to defend your thesis statement), including what you think some of your main arguments will be.


How to write your annotated bibliography

  • While you are developing your outline (see above), you will need to find journal articles and book chapters for your project on EBSCO or Google Scholar.
  • You can also find appropriate books in libraries, or you may have the books yourself.
  • Skim the contents of all articles and book chapters that look like they will be useful. Look out for ideas/themes you may wish to write about. Keep doing this until you find five or six that you think will be very important for answering your question.
  • Ask others for advice if you can’t find relevant reading materials.
  • You may find that you have a great idea for a project, but cannot find the reading sources for it! If so, be prepared to change or adapt your project ideas.
  • Once you have five or six sources, make notes of what you read in each article or chapter and always record where you got the information from. In particular, keep notes of the main pieces of information that you can use to support your thesis/answer your question.
  • Make notes about how you can build the information you get from the sources into arguments to support your thesis statement.
  • For each of the five sources, you should write 100-200 words giving the full reference for the source in Harvard format, listing the main pieces of information from the source that you will use and very briefly stating how this will support your thesis statement.


How to write the essay or report

  • Start early! Your outline and your annotated bibliography give you everything you need to do your essay or report. Start as soon as you’ve finished those.
  • Use the essay-writing and report-writing skills that you learned in Academic Writing.
  • Use the Internet to find trustworthy (i.e. university) sites that give advice on how to write essays and reports.
  • Throughout the whole term, you will have the opportunity to get feedback from your tutor – tutorials will be scheduled to discuss your project, and you are, as always, invited to submit a draft.


Guidelines on plagiarism

  • Please remember the work you submit should be your own. Sources used should be properly referenced, and you should avoid over-use of large chunks of text from your readings.
  • Marks will be deducted if your project contains improperly-referenced sources.
  • If all/the majority of your work comes from one source, you will score zero (this includes the use of essay-writing websites).
  • Please note that if the organisation/structure of your work is the same/very similar to another text, this also counts as plagiarism, even if some words have been changed.

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