Why Is Context Important?

Context provides us with the knowledge and understanding needed to meet organizational and societal goals. Context also enters the arena of professional ethics by providing organizations and practitioners with the knowledge and understanding needed to make appropriate decisions.

Understanding Context

Most of us first encountered the notion of context as children when we were taught how to read. When we didn’t know the meaning of a particular word in a sentence, we could use the words coming before and after it–the context–as clues to figure out what the unfamiliar word meant. As our reading skills advanced, we learned that context also plays an important role in the study of literature. Without an understanding of trench warfare in World War I, for example, Ernest Hemingway’s short story, “Big Two-Hearted River,” is just a guy who goes fishing and eats a sandwich. Knowing the historical context of shell shock informs our understanding of the story.

In our everyday lives, we’ve seen what can happen when a conversation, an event, a statistic, or a quotation is taken out of context. In a recent example, Andover high school in Massachusetts may need to pay “as much as $5,000” to remove a Nazi quotation from its 2018 yearbook because the editors didn’t take the historical context for the following quotation into account: “Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it” (Bode, 2018). In fact, the quotation originated with Joseph Goebbles, Adolph Hitler’s minister of propaganda. It articulated his strategy for manipulating the German people into turning a blind eye to the persecution and extermination of 6 million Jews.

In the upcoming research assignments, you will be exploring several contexts that are related to your field of study and its associated professions. This exploration will reveal the dynamic nature of your field and current influences that could shape its future direction. Your challenge will be to sort through this complex set of external factors to identify the ones that are most relevant to the role you aspire to play in your field. You will also need to take into account where you are in your degree and career progression. Are you:

  • Preparing to launch your career?
  • Looking to make a change to a new career?
  • Needing to find out what professions are associated with your field of study?
  • A seasoned professional seeking advancement but lacking the bachelor’s degree required?
  • Preparing for scholarship in a graduate program?
  • Pursuing a bachelor’s degree for your own personal enrichment?

Once you take into account where you are in your degree and career progression (or context), you can think critically and strategically about relevant inquiry questions about your field of study and career plans.

“Without context, a piece of information is just a dot. It floats in your brain with a lot of other dots. . . . Knowledge is information-in-context–connecting the dots.” –Michael Ventura

Connecting the Dots: CRIT602 Final Essay and Course Goals

After you have explored the contexts of professional organizations, employment data, social media, and information resources, you will write an exploratory essay to compile the relevant information you found. When you have all  information in one place, you will be able to determine: 1) how the individual pieces are related to each other and 2) what the implications are for someone at your stage of academic and professional development. In other words, the exploratory essay will connect the dots to form a clear picture of the larger context for your field of study and its associated professions. You will then use the conclusions and implications you identified in the exploratory essay to develop a personal learning mission with specific strategies to achieve your academic and professional goals.

The goal of this course is to explore different external contexts in which to assess your career and academic plans.  You will assess your own skills, develop inquiry questions, gather information about current trends in your field, and assess the usefulness and validity of the sources you find.  By the end of the course, you will gather the information you’ve acquired and use it to create a Personal Learning Mission which will be posted to your GPS account.  This will help guide you through the rest of your time at Granite State and encourage you to think strategically about your courses, transfer credits, career goals, and final integrative (capstone) project.


Bode, K. (2018, June 13). Andover high pulls yearbook with Nazi quote: Fixing error could cost school $5K. Retrieved September 10, 2018, from The Eagle-Tribune website: http://www.eagletribune.com/news/andover-high-pulls-yearbook-with-nazi-quote/article_1588a352-6f40-11e8-979d-d351b9d31840.html


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CRIT 602 Readings and Resources by Granite State College (USNH) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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