Dissertation Writing: The Art of Critical and Refractive Thinking

Good morning colleagues

Many students seem to struggle with the use of critical thinking and refractive thinking as part of their writing analysis, particularly for their Literature Review. The goal of this article is to explain why.  If thinking is inside the box, critical thinking is outside the box, refractive thinking is beyond the box.  Our goal as researchers and writers is to integrate our research within the circle of the greater body of knowledge.  Questions to ask is what has come before us regarding the history and context of our field of study, what gaps remain, AND of those gaps, what questions remain to which our study may contribute.

Our focus needs to be on what comes next. What is it that we don’t yet know, what may lie ahead? Think of our contributions as simply moving the academic football forward to the next yard line.  Instead of just asking why, ask why not? Dig deeper with your analysis.  Think with your problem solving hat on as if you were sitting across from the CEO or business owner to ask: what questions require answers to move their companies forward.  Think solution.  Think  results.  Think, what questions have we not yet asked?  Remember, when we ask the right questions the answers will come.

Finally, perhaps use an outcome based approach—start at the end–what do we need/where do we need to be? THEN work backwards.  Perhaps use a marketing approach–there are only two purposes for marketing–to create a need or fulfill a need (solve a problem)?  What problems are you striving to find answers in your research?  What is on the minds of consumers or businesses regarding the problems they have? What questions can you ask in your research regarding these problems? When we look at research as a problem to be solved, critical thinking and refractive thinking will help to move the conversation forward and (a) ask questions that remain (critical thinking) and (b) ask questions that may not have been thought about yet (refractive thinking: think Einstein, think Davinci).

Connect the dots regarding your Literature Review in particular.  Remember the goal is to identify the gaps and connect our research regarding the impacts on our study and the questions that remain.  Dig deeper.  Find out what answers scholars and business owners and consumers need to solve remaining problems.  Close the loop in research.

Happy thinking.

My best,

Dr. Cheryl Lentz
The Academic Entrepreneur

August 11th, 2016 by admin