University Studies Advisory Committee

Critical Reasoning


This document provides a description of the Critical Reasoning Course component of University Studies. In so doing, it differentiates between common component-level student learning outcomes and discipline-specific course-level learning outcomes, offering examples of both types. The goal is to encourage the development of challenging and varied University Studies courses that share common assessable student learning outcomes, and to outline a clear procedure by which these course may be proposed and approved.


This component of the University Studies program is designed to help students to develop their Critical Reasoning abilities. At its most advanced levels, Critical Reasoning involves grasping all relevant perspectives, arguments or quantitative data on a question or issue; analyzing, questioning, and synthesizing this information; interrogating all positions and methods, including one's own; identifying and pursuing the implications of creative or unexpected ways to address issues or interpret information; and, importantly, conducting critical post-mortems to understand what one has learned from one's entire approach to a question or topic. Critical reasoning should encourage students to use discipline-appropriate analysis and data to make connections and draw conclusions. Critical Reasoning abilities are essential for students and college graduates. Participation in the courses in this component will help students refine all dimensions of Critical Reasoning, with a particular emphasis on the higher order skills of analysis, synthesis, and critical reflection on evidence and data appropriate to the course's discipline.


The following are the Common Student Learning Outcomes for Critical Reasoning courses. These are aligned with the UNCW Learning Goals. Each course in this category must address the Common Student Learning Outcome for the category, and list this Common SLO along with course-specific SLOs in the course syllabus. Proposals for inclusion in the category will describe the opportunities which will be provided for students to demonstrate this outcome (readings, class/discussions/activities, applied projects, data gathering and analysis) and list the specific sources of evidence (specific writing tasks, papers, projects, data tables, equations and graphs, etc.) that will be used to determine the level of student understanding.

The student will:

  • CR 1. Portray and evaluate researched or derived information or mathematical data accurately and appropriately, and to convert or translate information or data into different, but appropriate forms. [Inquiry, Information Literacy]
  • CR 2. Synthesize viewpoints, quantitative data, or interpretations of experts and stakeholders. [Foundational Knowledge, Inquiry, Information Literacy]
  • CR 3. Analyze systematically the relevance and limitations of their own methods, perspectives, or quantitative data. [Inquiry, Critical Thinking]
  • CR 4. Articulate complex, logical, and informed (by researched or derived information and/or quantitative analysis) inferences and/or conclusions. [Critical Thinking, Thoughtful Expression]


Students are required to take three hours from this component.