The Looking Glass

The Looking Glass

The Department of Psychology


Renato G. Villacorte

The ability to think critically remains high on the list of scholarly virtues. Through this process, a student does not listen to and accept arguments put forth in the classroom. A critical student has the inclination to examine any statement of 'fact' until ultimately rejecting it or assimilating it with his or her current belief system. Critical thinking does not require expertise or knowledge in the area in question (although it helps). Critical thinking only requires that the student refuse to accept arguments passively and without a supporting structure in which he already believes. Teachers present history, scientific data, and sometimes experience in an effort to create a student's belief structure. However, today's instructors appear challenged by the task of getting the students to think critically.

Currently, educators examine new ways for cultivating critical thinking among students. One method requires the student to write in a language called E-prime. Simply put, E-prime does not contain any forms of the verb 'to be' or the related contractions. Therefore, the statement, 'I am a teacher,' would appear as 'I teach' in E-prime. This may look like a simple transformation. However, I challenge you to write a document in this form. You will find it rather difficult unless you take the time to closely examine every intended statement. In fact, the process of composing E-prime statements will more than triple the time it usually takes to write a similar document in standard English. Dr. Frederick Meeker at Cal Poly Pomona suggests that the process of writing in E-prime facilitates critical thinking (Meeker, 1996).

Unfortunately, this article does not serve as a discourse on the efficacy of E-prime or in critical thinking. E-prime facilitates my own critical thinking and improves my writing. I offer this article as well as the article, "Your Personal Statement," as formal examples of E-prime composition. Furthermore, I suggest that you obtain the reference below for a more adequate explanation of E-prime and its usage. I also suggest that you explore this technique and incorporate it into your own writing style.

Author's Note: Finding out how to obtain the reference adds to your training as a scholar. Hint: Meekers abound in psychology.

Meeker, F. (1996). Writing in E-prime to Facilitate Critical Thinking. Poster presented at the Third Annual American Psychological Society Institute on the Teaching of Psychology, San Francisco, CA


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