Muneeba Tahira, Ghulam Haider


It is generally considered that evidence of critical thinking, as expressed through argumentation, is central to successful academic writing at Western universities. However, the concept of critical thinking is complex: its nature is difficult to define and students, especially those coming from ‘non-Western’ backgrounds, are perceived to have difficulty in implementing a critical dimension in their writing. The present study, based on the use of in-depth interviews with three postgraduate students, presents findings on the students’ interpretations of critical thinking, the factors which they perceive to affect the implementation of critical thinking, and the perceptions of their development as critical thinkers. The findings show that the students, despite coming from different traditions of discourse, have a fairly comprehensive understanding of critical thinking and willingly engage with it. The findings also reveal that although cultural background plays a role in influencing their writing styles, the students have the capacity to learn and master a new discourse. The problems they encountered were due to uncertainty in demonstrating an argument, insufficient subject knowledge, and problematic issues surrounding the essay genre, such as authorial voice and assessment demands. Implications for university departments and tutors are that they should review their writing instruction and guidelines so as to make the requirements of argument more explicit and easily understandable, and in the long term, to reevaluate the norms of the traditional essay form to accommodate a wider spectrum of expression.

Keywords: Critical Thinking, Academic Writing, EFL Students


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