Critical thinking is one of the key goals and expectations of academic learning. Scholars in a range of fields (but especially philosophy, psychology, and education) have attempted to define what qualities make up what we call critical thinking, but one key aspect is the expectation that that we will master existing knowledge so that we are as well-positioned as we can be to revise existing understandings and create new knowledge.1
This model of learning emphasizes that we need to come to grips with the existing state of knowledge in a field -- recalling facts and basic concepts -- in order to build up to higher order tasks like understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating knowledge ourselves.
In academic writing, we aim to become full participants in an ongoing scholarly discourse, the discussion about our topic that is already taking place among experts in our field. This requires us to understand, apply, analyze, and evaluate the existing scholarly discussion about our topic, and engage with the evidence to contribute our own findings (They Say, I Say).
Parfitt also explains how to keep a Reading Journal to keep track of your own thoughts, and offers a number of further strategies for analyzing and evaluating the author's arguments, mapping the text, and ensuring that we represent the author's ideas fairly and accurately when we cite and respond to them in our papers.