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Critical Thinking

Developing the right mindset and skills.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

We make hundreds of decisions every day and, whether we realize it or not, we're all critical thinkers.

We use critical thinking each time we weigh up our options, prioritize our responsibilities, or think about the likely effects of our actions. It's a crucial skill that helps us to cut out misinformation and make wise decisions. The trouble is, we're not always very good at it!

In this article, we'll explore the key skills that you need to develop your critical thinking skills, and how to adopt a critical thinking mindset, so that you can make well-informed decisions.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well.

Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly valued asset in the workplace. People who score highly in critical thinking assessments are also rated by their managers as having good problem-solving skills, creativity, strong decision-making skills, and good overall performance. [1]

Key Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinkers possess a set of key characteristics which help them to question information and their own thinking. Focus on the following areas to develop your critical thinking skills:

Being willing and able to explore alternative approaches and experimental ideas is crucial. Can you think through "what if" scenarios, create plausible options, and test out your theories? If not, you'll tend to write off ideas and options too soon, so you may miss the best answer to your situation.

To nurture your curiosity, stay up to date with facts and trends. You'll overlook important information if you allow yourself to become "blinkered," so always be open to new information.

But don't stop there! Look for opposing views or evidence to challenge your information, and seek clarification when things are unclear. This will help you to reassess your beliefs and make a well-informed decision later. Read our article, Opening Closed Minds , for more ways to stay receptive.

Logical Thinking

You must be skilled at reasoning and extending logic to come up with plausible options or outcomes.

It's also important to emphasize logic over emotion. Emotion can be motivating but it can also lead you to take hasty and unwise action, so control your emotions and be cautious in your judgments. Know when a conclusion is "fact" and when it is not. "Could-be-true" conclusions are based on assumptions and must be tested further. Read our article, Logical Fallacies , for help with this.

Use creative problem solving to balance cold logic. By thinking outside of the box you can identify new possible outcomes by using pieces of information that you already have.

Self-Awareness

Many of the decisions we make in life are subtly informed by our values and beliefs. These influences are called cognitive biases and it can be difficult to identify them in ourselves because they're often subconscious.

Practicing self-awareness will allow you to reflect on the beliefs you have and the choices you make. You'll then be better equipped to challenge your own thinking and make improved, unbiased decisions.

One particularly useful tool for critical thinking is the Ladder of Inference . It allows you to test and validate your thinking process, rather than jumping to poorly supported conclusions.

Developing a Critical Thinking Mindset

Combine the above skills with the right mindset so that you can make better decisions and adopt more effective courses of action. You can develop your critical thinking mindset by following this process:

Gather Information

First, collect data, opinions and facts on the issue that you need to solve. Draw on what you already know, and turn to new sources of information to help inform your understanding. Consider what gaps there are in your knowledge and seek to fill them. And look for information that challenges your assumptions and beliefs.

Be sure to verify the authority and authenticity of your sources. Not everything you read is true! Use this checklist to ensure that your information is valid:

  • Are your information sources trustworthy ? (For example, well-respected authors, trusted colleagues or peers, recognized industry publications, websites, blogs, etc.)
  • Is the information you have gathered up to date ?
  • Has the information received any direct criticism ?
  • Does the information have any errors or inaccuracies ?
  • Is there any evidence to support or corroborate the information you have gathered?
  • Is the information you have gathered subjective or biased in any way? (For example, is it based on opinion, rather than fact? Is any of the information you have gathered designed to promote a particular service or organization?)

If any information appears to be irrelevant or invalid, don't include it in your decision making. But don't omit information just because you disagree with it, or your final decision will be flawed and bias.

Now observe the information you have gathered, and interpret it. What are the key findings and main takeaways? What does the evidence point to? Start to build one or two possible arguments based on what you have found.

You'll need to look for the details within the mass of information, so use your powers of observation to identify any patterns or similarities. You can then analyze and extend these trends to make sensible predictions about the future.

To help you to sift through the multiple ideas and theories, it can be useful to group and order items according to their characteristics. From here, you can compare and contrast the different items. And once you've determined how similar or different things are from one another, Paired Comparison Analysis can help you to analyze them.

The final step involves challenging the information and rationalizing its arguments.

Apply the laws of reason (induction, deduction, analogy) to judge an argument and determine its merits. To do this, it's essential that you can determine the significance and validity of an argument to put it in the correct perspective. Take a look at our article, Rational Thinking , for more information about how to do this.

Once you have considered all of the arguments and options rationally, you can finally make an informed decision.

Afterward, take time to reflect on what you have learned and what you found challenging. Step back from the detail of your decision or problem, and look at the bigger picture. Record what you've learned from your observations and experience.

Critical thinking involves rigorously and skilfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions and beliefs. It's a useful skill in the workplace and in life.

You'll need to be curious and creative to explore alternative possibilities, but rational to apply logic, and self-aware to identify when your beliefs could affect your decisions or actions.

You can demonstrate a high level of critical thinking by validating your information, analyzing its meaning, and finally evaluating the argument.

Critical Thinking Infographic

See Critical Thinking represented in our infographic: An Elementary Guide to Critical Thinking .

critical thinking checklist

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How to build critical thinking skills for better decision-making

It’s simple in theory, but tougher in practice – here are five tips to get you started.

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Have you heard the riddle about two coins that equal thirty cents, but one of them is not a nickel? What about the one where a surgeon says they can’t operate on their own son?

Those brain teasers tap into your critical thinking skills. But your ability to think critically isn’t just helpful for solving those random puzzles – it plays a big role in your career. 

An impressive 81% of employers say critical thinking carries a lot of weight when they’re evaluating job candidates. It ranks as the top competency companies consider when hiring recent graduates (even ahead of communication ). Plus, once you’re hired, several studies show that critical thinking skills are highly correlated with better job performance.

So what exactly are critical thinking skills? And even more importantly, how do you build and improve them? 

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate facts and information, remain objective, and make a sound decision about how to move forward.

Does that sound like how you approach every decision or problem? Not so fast. Critical thinking seems simple in theory but is much tougher in practice, which helps explain why 65% of employers say their organization has a need for more critical thinking. 

In reality, critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. In order to do it well, you need to:

  • Remain open-minded and inquisitive, rather than relying on assumptions or jumping to conclusions
  • Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value
  • Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible
  • Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation

So, critical thinking isn’t just being intelligent or analytical. In many ways, it requires you to step outside of yourself, let go of your own preconceived notions, and approach a problem or situation with curiosity and fairness.

It’s a challenge, but it’s well worth it. Critical thinking skills will help you connect ideas, make reasonable decisions, and solve complex problems.

7 critical thinking skills to help you dig deeper

Critical thinking is often labeled as a skill itself (you’ll see it bulleted as a desired trait in a variety of job descriptions). But it’s better to think of critical thinking less as a distinct skill and more as a collection or category of skills. 

To think critically, you’ll need to tap into a bunch of your other soft skills. Here are seven of the most important. 

Open-mindedness

It’s important to kick off the critical thinking process with the idea that anything is possible. The more you’re able to set aside your own suspicions, beliefs, and agenda, the better prepared you are to approach the situation with the level of inquisitiveness you need. 

That means not closing yourself off to any possibilities and allowing yourself the space to pull on every thread – yes, even the ones that seem totally implausible.

As Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D. writes in a piece for Psychology Today , “Even if an idea appears foolish, sometimes its consideration can lead to an intelligent, critically considered conclusion.” He goes on to compare the critical thinking process to brainstorming . Sometimes the “bad” ideas are what lay the foundation for the good ones. 

Open-mindedness is challenging because it requires more effort and mental bandwidth than sticking with your own perceptions. Approaching problems or situations with true impartiality often means:

  • Practicing self-regulation : Giving yourself a pause between when you feel something and when you actually react or take action.
  • Challenging your own biases: Acknowledging your biases and seeking feedback are two powerful ways to get a broader understanding. 

Critical thinking example

In a team meeting, your boss mentioned that your company newsletter signups have been decreasing and she wants to figure out why.

At first, you feel offended and defensive – it feels like she’s blaming you for the dip in subscribers. You recognize and rationalize that emotion before thinking about potential causes. You have a hunch about what’s happening, but you will explore all possibilities and contributions from your team members.

Observation

Observation is, of course, your ability to notice and process the details all around you (even the subtle or seemingly inconsequential ones). Critical thinking demands that you’re flexible and willing to go beyond surface-level information, and solid observation skills help you do that.

Your observations help you pick up on clues from a variety of sources and experiences, all of which help you draw a final conclusion. After all, sometimes it’s the most minuscule realization that leads you to the strongest conclusion.

Over the next week or so, you keep a close eye on your company’s website and newsletter analytics to see if numbers are in fact declining or if your boss’s concerns were just a fluke. 

Critical thinking hinges on objectivity. And, to be objective, you need to base your judgments on the facts – which you collect through research. You’ll lean on your research skills to gather as much information as possible that’s relevant to your problem or situation. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about the quantity of information – quality matters too. You want to find data and details from a variety of trusted sources to drill past the surface and build a deeper understanding of what’s happening. 

You dig into your email and website analytics to identify trends in bounce rates, time on page, conversions, and more. You also review recent newsletters and email promotions to understand what customers have received, look through current customer feedback, and connect with your customer support team to learn what they’re hearing in their conversations with customers.

The critical thinking process is sort of like a treasure hunt – you’ll find some nuggets that are fundamental for your final conclusion and some that might be interesting but aren’t pertinent to the problem at hand.

That’s why you need analytical skills. They’re what help you separate the wheat from the chaff, prioritize information, identify trends or themes, and draw conclusions based on the most relevant and influential facts. 

It’s easy to confuse analytical thinking with critical thinking itself, and it’s true there is a lot of overlap between the two. But analytical thinking is just a piece of critical thinking. It focuses strictly on the facts and data, while critical thinking incorporates other factors like emotions, opinions, and experiences. 

As you analyze your research, you notice that one specific webpage has contributed to a significant decline in newsletter signups. While all of the other sources have stayed fairly steady with regard to conversions, that one has sharply decreased.

You decide to move on from your other hypotheses about newsletter quality and dig deeper into the analytics. 

One of the traps of critical thinking is that it’s easy to feel like you’re never done. There’s always more information you could collect and more rabbit holes you could fall down.

But at some point, you need to accept that you’ve done your due diligence and make a decision about how to move forward. That’s where inference comes in. It’s your ability to look at the evidence and facts available to you and draw an informed conclusion based on those. 

When you’re so focused on staying objective and pursuing all possibilities, inference can feel like the antithesis of critical thinking. But ultimately, it’s your inference skills that allow you to move out of the thinking process and onto the action steps. 

You dig deeper into the analytics for the page that hasn’t been converting and notice that the sharp drop-off happened around the same time you switched email providers.

After looking more into the backend, you realize that the signup form on that page isn’t correctly connected to your newsletter platform. It seems like anybody who has signed up on that page hasn’t been fed to your email list. 

Communication

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

If and when you identify a solution or answer, you can’t keep it close to the vest. You’ll need to use your communication skills to share your findings with the relevant stakeholders – like your boss, team members, or anybody who needs to be involved in the next steps.

Your analysis skills will come in handy here too, as they’ll help you determine what information other people need to know so you can avoid bogging them down with unnecessary details. 

In your next team meeting, you pull up the analytics and show your team the sharp drop-off as well as the missing connection between that page and your email platform. You ask the web team to reinstall and double-check that connection and you also ask a member of the marketing team to draft an apology email to the subscribers who were missed. 

Problem-solving

Critical thinking and problem-solving are two more terms that are frequently confused. After all, when you think critically, you’re often doing so with the objective of solving a problem.

The best way to understand how problem-solving and critical thinking differ is to think of problem-solving as much more narrow. You’re focused on finding a solution.

In contrast, you can use critical thinking for a variety of use cases beyond solving a problem – like answering questions or identifying opportunities for improvement. Even so, within the critical thinking process, you’ll flex your problem-solving skills when it comes time to take action. 

Once the fix is implemented, you monitor the analytics to see if subscribers continue to increase. If not (or if they increase at a slower rate than you anticipated), you’ll roll out some other tests like changing the CTA language or the placement of the subscribe form on the page.

5 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

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Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Think critically about critical thinking and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not as instinctive as you’d like it to be. Fortunately, your critical thinking skills are learned competencies and not inherent gifts – and that means you can improve them. Here’s how:

  • Practice active listening: Active listening helps you process and understand what other people share. That’s crucial as you aim to be open-minded and inquisitive.
  • Ask open-ended questions: If your critical thinking process involves collecting feedback and opinions from others, ask open-ended questions (meaning, questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”). Doing so will give you more valuable information and also prevent your own biases from influencing people’s input.
  • Scrutinize your sources: Figuring out what to trust and prioritize is crucial for critical thinking. Boosting your media literacy and asking more questions will help you be more discerning about what to factor in. It’s hard to strike a balance between skepticism and open-mindedness, but approaching information with questions (rather than unquestioning trust) will help you draw better conclusions. 
  • Play a game: Remember those riddles we mentioned at the beginning? As trivial as they might seem, games and exercises like those can help you boost your critical thinking skills. There are plenty of critical thinking exercises you can do individually or as a team . 
  • Give yourself time: Research shows that rushed decisions are often regrettable ones. That’s likely because critical thinking takes time – you can’t do it under the wire. So, for big decisions or hairy problems, give yourself enough time and breathing room to work through the process. It’s hard enough to think critically without a countdown ticking in your brain. 

Critical thinking really is critical

The ability to think critically is important, but it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It’s just easier to stick with biases, assumptions, and surface-level information. 

But that route often leads you to rash judgments, shaky conclusions, and disappointing decisions. So here’s a conclusion we can draw without any more noodling: Even if it is more demanding on your mental resources, critical thinking is well worth the effort.

Advice, stories, and expertise about work life today.

University of Sussex

  • Starting at Sussex
  • Critical thinking
  • Note-making
  • Presentations, seminars and group work
  • Reading and research
  • Referencing and academic integrity
  • Revision and exams
  • Writing and assessments
  • Time management

Adam introduces this section on critical thinking

Adam: Welcome to this section on critical thinking. Critical thinking is a key university skill, but many students find themselves confused about what it actually is. In these pages, you'll find out what critical thinking means. You'll see some examples, and you'll have a chance to practise the skill. Over the academic year we also hold workshops on critical thinking, so keep an eye out for these. Remember, we're here to help you.

Critical thinking is a key skill for university and students can find the concept hard to grasp. However, it is something that you do already; when you choose how to spend your time, which news sources to listen to, and which products to buy. At university, you need to apply this analytical thinking to what you read, hear and write. Additionally, you must make sure to demonstrate that you have done so in your assessments and there is more guidance on how to do this in the Writing and assessments section of Skills Hub.

What do you want to learn about?

It will be beneficial for you to work through this page in its entirety. However, if you only need to focus on aspects of critical thinking consider the questions below:

  • Could you define critical thinking to other students? If not , go to the What is Critical Thinking section to find out exactly what it actually is!
  • Have you looked at different documents and decided which ones are suitable to use as reliable sources of data in your work? If not , have a look at Critically Evaluating Sources section below to make sure that the materials you are using are good enough for academic writing.
  • Are you able to pick out to the line of reasoning that is being made in a lecture or an academic text? If not , try reading through the section below on Identifying and Evaluating Arguments to practise finding a writer’s implicit and explicit arguments.
  • Do you question what information you read and hear to understand how far you can trust it and when it may not be useful? If not , visit the Identifying and Evaluating Arguments section below for lots of useful questions to think about whenever you come across new academic information.
  • Are you confident spotting mistakes in thinking that writers make, and understanding where they have gone wrong? If not , go to section on Logical and Faulty Thinking below for further details in this area.
  • Do you feel comfortable questioning the work of an expert in your subject? If not , visit the section below on Criticising Experts to understand why this is not something to be scared of!
  • Do you know how to write a critical essay for university? If not , go to our page on  Critical essay writing  for detailed information on writing academic essays

Carlee and Rodrigo talk about their understanding of critical thinking

Carlee: I think you hear critical thinking and it's a buzzword. It's something that everyone wants you to know how to do. And tells you it's so important to have to master that it can put a lot of pressure and you're like, what even is critical thinking? And I was exactly the same. I was like, 'Oh, well, you know, I'm being critical.' Like how I translated critical, I was just kind of being negative and like nit picking out like the flaws of things. And it wasn't until, you know, I got some marks back and some feedback and they're like that's not necessarily what critical thought is. It's kind of if you were to look at something and just say, 'How can I break this down into smaller pieces? What's helpful about this? What's not helpful about this? What's the advantages? What's the disadvantages?' And just kind of looking at something in both ways, not just your own perspective - that can kind of help you look at something and say, 'Oh, now I'm being critical about it.'

Rodrigo: Right now I'm writing my essays and when I receive some feedback, I can see completely the difference. It's interesting how at the beginning of my first year I got like two forties and a couple of fifties as well. And I was like, why? Why is this happening? And right now I'm getting like my sixties and my seventies, and I can see a difference. I can definitely see a difference. My essays are more structured. I have more critical thinking like it's supposed to, like my uni wants to and yes, definitely, I can look at something and I'm like, is this really like this, what's the other point? What are the other arguments? Is this person who's talking, is she or he or they biased? Are they biased? So yes, definitely 100%. It's helped me grow and think critically. Yeah, for sure.

For a free introductory critical thinking course, go to Future Learn .

What is critical thinking?

Imagine that someone tells you, “You’re going to need an umbrella.”

critical thinking checklist

Umbrellas Colourful Clipart image under Public Domain license.

You have two options. You could take this information at face value and grab an umbrella. Alternatively, before deciding to do anything, you could think about the statement and ask yourself some questions.

Who said this? Was it a friend, a weather forecaster, a young child?

What are they basing their information on? Are they looking at the clouds, at scientific data, at cows lying in a field?

What are the implications of taking an umbrella? Will you need it straight away? Will you be able to carry it? Could you use something else instead?

What are the assumptions they are making? That dark clouds always produce rain? That people don’t like getting wet? That you are going outside?

With such a simple statement, it is likely that these questions are so automatic and take such little effort that you barely notice yourself asking them.

You need to use the same process in your academic studies. When you come across information, you can take it at face value and accept it as true, or you can step back and ask some questions. The difference is that the information you meet at university is new, more complex and less concrete. Therefore, the process of asking these questions takes more time and needs to be done consciously and deliberately, rather than automatically. This is critical thinking .

The word ‘critical’ often confuses students. Critical thinking does not mean that you need to always find fault with everything. It means that you analyse and evaluate arguments before deciding if you agree with them. Each argument may have some strong points and some weaker ones. Identifying both is important, as is understanding why you think they are strong or weak.

Critically evaluating sources

You are expected to do a lot of research while at university. The books, journal articles and websites recommended on your reading lists have already been evaluated for their quality by your lecturers. When you are asked to find your own information, it’s important to take a critical approach. This starts with looking at the source itself, even before you read the text.

There is a significant difference between an article on "diets which may prevent cancer" published in a popular culture magazine, and one that is published in the Nutrition Research journal. For your work to meet assessment criteria at university level, you need to be able to base it on with acceptable sources which you have evaluated for credibility, reliability and impartiality.

Evaluating academic texts

The journals available through Library Search and your Subject Guides have gone through a rigorous vetting process, known as peer review. Peer review is a process whereby an article submitted to an academic journal is vetted by several experts in that field. The reviewer decides if the article should be published and may make suggestions for changes before publishing. Peer review is a rigorous vetting process. Consequently, peer-reviewed articles are held in higher regard than those which aren't. You can usually rely on these sources.

Open access publishing

If you are searching on Google Scholar or similar search engines and find a scholarly article you can freely access, this article is probably an open access article. The rise of open access publishing has changed the ways scholars share and use journal articles. You need to be extra vigilant when evaluating what appear initially to be scholarly journals.

The growth of open access publishing has resulted in an increase of predatory or vanity publishing. Opportunistic publishing houses publish content in exchange for publication fees, paid for by the authors. These predatory publishers don’t provide any of the editorial and publishing services associated with legitimate academic journals, such as a peer-review process. As a result, unreliable, unvetted publications are published and circulated online. Because of this lack of transparency, you need to be careful with texts from such sources and evaluate them yourselves.

If you have found an open access journal article and want to verify the authenticity as a reputable journal, you can check the name on the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) .

Evaluating web pages

Anyone can put anything on the internet. It contains a large number of resources that are inaccurate or incorrect. Although some sites do not intend to misinform their readers, others are designed to mislead and so it is important to critically evaluate what you are reading. 

Use the CRAAP method, in the table below, to evaluate a web page:

You can download this Method as a  Word document or  PDF to print out or to save for future use. (Important: The PDF will open in this window so remember to click on the browsers back button to return to the Skills Hub).

Activity: Academic Reliability

Using the table above critically evaluate the following FOUR external sources below to determine whether they are academically reliable. Then select your appropriate response, Yes or No, for each source.

1) Is this source academically reliable?  

Correct : The article has been peer reviewed and is written by a credible author who has written and contributed to other academic sources. The author works in a reputable college of medicine and is qualified to write on the topic.  A range of views have been consulted and there is a reference list.  The purpose of the article is to inform of recent changes in the classification of and criteria for primary psychotic disorders as well as evidence based methodologies. 

Incorrect : The article has been peer reviewed and is written by a credible author who has written and contributed to other academic sources. The author works in a reputable college of medicine and is qualified to write on the topic.  A range of views have been consulted and there is a reference list.  The purpose of the article is to inform of recent changes in the classification of and criteria for primary psychotic disorders as well as evidence based methodologies. 

2) Is this source academically reliable?  

Incorrect : Although Wikipedia is a useful tool for getting an introduction to an unfamiliar topic, it is not recommended as a source to support academic essay writing.  In academic writing you need to consult sources with authority, authors who are experts in their field, qualified to write about a topic.  Anyone can edit and add to wikipedia content.  A large part of the academic process is research and critical thinking, anyone can google wikipedia, you need to demonstrate your academic skills and critical thinking.  

Correct : Although Wikipedia is a useful tool for getting an introduction to an unfamiliar topic, it is not recommended as a source to support academic essay writing.  In academic writing you need to consult sources with authority, authors who are experts in their field, qualified to write about a topic.  Anyone can edit and add to wikipedia content.  A large part of the academic process is research and critical thinking, anyone can google wikipedia, you need to demonstrate your academic skills and critical thinking.  

3) Is this source academically reliable?

Incorrect : This is not a peer reviewed article and it is not from a reliable url, it is best to use .org / .edu / .gov / .ac.uk websites.  The article does not consult a variety of sources, it only reviews one source therefore, it cannot be relied upon for its accuracy, there could be an element of bias.   You should also consider the purpose of this article.  It has been written for mental health providers, for the purpose of identifying ways to differentiate between patients feigning mental illness and genuine mental illness.  In terms of this article supporting an academic essay, it would not be suitable.  

Correct : This is not a peer reviewed article and it is not from a reliable url, it is best to use .org / .edu / .gov / .ac.uk websites.  The article does not consult a variety of sources, it only reviews one source therefore, it cannot be relied upon for its accuracy, there could be an element of bias.   You should also consider the purpose of this article.  It has been written for mental health providers, for the purpose of identifying ways to differentiate between patients feigning mental illness and genuine mental illness.  In terms of this article supporting an academic essay, it would not be suitable.  

4) Is this source academically reliable?

Correct : This article is relatively current and it has been published by an academically reliable source.  The article is aimed at the right level and the author is qualified to write on the topic, their qualifications and profession reflect this.  A range of sources have been consulted, data, tables and diagrams are used and verified.  In terms of the CRAAP model this article is academically reliable. 

Incorrect : This article is relatively current and it has been published by an academically reliable source.  The article is aimed at the right level and the author is qualified to write on the topic, their qualifications and profession reflect this.  A range of sources have been consulted, data, tables and diagrams are used and verified.  In terms of the CRAAP model this article is academically reliable. 

Evaluating news sources

If a news article seems too good to be true, or too sensationalist to be correct, it usually is. If you are unsure whether a news source is genuine, refer to the list below. Alternatively, see the International Federation of Library Association's  How to Spot Fake News infographic.

Five factors to consider when evaluating a source:

  • Fact check. Use fact-checking websites such as factcheck.org to check the credibility of citations and quotes, and tinyeye.com for images 
  • Verify the URL.  Look carefully at the URL address. Fake sites often have urls that are extremely similar to well-known respected news outlets, but with a slight variation. For example, a fake news site modelled on abcnews.com was added to the internet with the URL abcnews.com.co
  • Vet the source.  Is the source who they say they are? Are they vetted and verified? For example, if the information is coming from Twitter, the account holder will be independently verified if their profile includes a blue checkmark
  • Loaded language.  Is the headline of the piece phrased in a way that is sensationalist or highly emotional? This is often a manipulative method referred to as loaded language and can be a form of clickbait, enticing the reader to click on the news story
  • Adverts. A high proportion of adverts on an article platform or news site can often be a sign of a platform primarily driven by pay-per-clicks, and not by journalistic integrity.

Five tools to help detect misinformation:

  • Wayback machine . Search for websites that have since been taken off the internet
  • Snopes . Hoax checker
  • Quote Investigator . Quote checker
  • TinEye  and Google Reverse Image Search. Verify images for authenticity; you can search by uploading image files
  • Politifact . Political facts checker.

Identifying and evaluating arguments

' Good critical thinking includes recognising good arguments even when we disagree with them, and poor arguments even when these support our own point of view.' Cottrell, S. (2017) Critical Thinking Skills , Third Edition, London, Palgrave, p33

This section is the key to critical thinking. If you are able to follow the argument in a source, and determine its strengths and weaknesses, then you are thinking critically.

Amelia and Georgia talk about developing their critical thinking

Amelia: The critical part I brought to it is like, okay, so this is what I know and this is the knowledge I have. And to first understand before I read something or watch something or see something, it's like, this is what they're trying to teach me. And then having to like get from this point, okay, this is what I know and this is what I'm trying to gain and choosing a path to that is interesting. And it's interesting the whole way through. And when I meet something I don't quite easily understand, it's not like, okay, I'm done. It's like, okay, what are the questions I can ask myself in order to move past this, in order to continue in my understanding.

Georgia: When it came to writing essays, critical thinking is something that I'm assessed quite a bit on and is a very crucial aspect, especially if you want to reach kind of the higher levels, higher grades. And I think at first, it was something that was very unnatural to me and was quite clunky and was sort of just I knew I had to do it. So I had a very basic critical evaluation and then it developed through writing more essays and through just thinking critically in my studies, and it became a lot more natural in how I put it into my essays and how it flowed. So I think it has definitely developed through all those different things.

Identifying arguments and reasons

Before you can evaluate an argument, you must be able to find it. This can be tricky, since lines of reasoning are usually spread throughout a whole text, as the writer slowly builds up their position, layering point after point backed up with evidence, and builds to a final conclusion. Reading abstracts and introductions is very useful to get an overview of an article or book and a summary of the argument that a writer is going to make. Always read them so that you know the general direction of a writer’s argument.

The conclusion is often indicated by signposting phrases such as so, therefore, thus, then, as a result, as a consequence, and for this reason . Generally, writers make their conclusions clear because they want their audience to see and understand them.

  • Sustainability is being embedded into the curriculum of several schools at the University of Sussex. As a consequence, more students are learning practical methods of living sustainably for the future.

In the above example, the section after as a consequence is the writer’s conclusion.

Once you have found the conclusion, you also need to find the reasons. Phrases that demonstrate these are more varied, but some common ones are because (of), since, as, the reason being, according to, and considering . Sometimes, such as in the above example, the reasons are not signposted, but simply put before the conclusion.

  • Since British students learn to communicate in English classes, and considering that coding is a language which contains many elements of English, then the fundamentals of computational language should be taught to British students in their English classes.

In this example, there are two reasons given for the conclusion. One after since , and one after considering that . The conclusion is signposted with then .

Activity: Identifing the Conclusion

Read the following passage and identify the conclusion and the reasons that the writer makes. The video below the passage gives the solution to this activity.

Some areas of the curriculum are well suited to particular activities. In language-linked and social studies courses, group writing projects offer more benefits to the student than simple improvements in writing skills. The negotiation required by group work encourages semantic webbing, gives practice in the evaluation and organization of gathered information, and offers reflection on the development of knowledge (Andrews, 1992). The group can serve as a respectfully critical audience for individual writing as well, honing the novice writer's presentation style with an immediacy and absence of threat that is less available in traditional assignments. The feedback of peers in the negotiation of the final product helps students gain a sense of authority over their own writing, in turn leading to a greater motivation to write (Chan 1988).

S. Marie A. Cooper. (2002). Classroom Choices for Enabling Peer Learning. Theory Into Practice, 41(1), 53–57. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1477538

Answer (video)

So in this passage it is the first sentence, which is the writer's conclusion or the writer's main position. They say that some areas of the curriculum are well suited to particular activities and the rest of the paragraph gives examples and information about the particular activities. In the second sentence, it focuses on language linked and social study courses and talks about group writing projects.

So this is a detail or an example of a particular activity. Then we have different reasons for this, here, all the way to the end of the sentence. There are different reasons for the particular well suitedness of the activities, and you can also see that no examples are given of poor suitedness to the particular activities. In the middle of the passage there is another sub conclusion, which is that the group can serve as respectively critical audience for individual writing as well. And the rest of this sentence explains this further and gives reason. The last sentence is quite interesting because there are two sub conclusions in it. The first sub conclusion is that students gain a sense of authority over their writing, and the beginning of the sentence gives a reason for this.

But then, students gaining a sense of authority over their writing becomes the reason for the final sub conclusion, which is a greater motivation to write. You can see the language here ‘in turn leading to’, highlighting that the previous language, the previous part of the sentence is now turning into a reason. So you have three sub conclusions here, but all of the sub conclusions serve the greater conclusion which is at the beginning of the paragraph, which is that some areas of the curriculum are well suited to particular activities.

Implicit assumptions

Writers may base their conclusions and reasons on assumptions. These can be basic, general, or cultural and they can be very hard to spot. Use your critical thinking to keep an eye out for these assumptions and decide if and how they affect the conclusion.

  • Employers need to ensure that their employees are kept safe so that the costs of paying damages to injured workers do not become unfeasible.

An implicit assumption in this example is that the fundemental goal of businesses is to make as much money as possible. This might be a very pervasive mindset in capitalist society, but is it always true? It may be that the writer has designed an argument based on an assumption that you don’t agree with.

From the first assumption come others, such as:

  • Employers always want to keep costs down
  • Keeping employees safe is only important to employers because they can save money
  • The costs of paying damages to injured workers can become unfeasible
  • Injured workers demand to be paid damages
  • It is the role of employers to keep their employees safe

Once you have identified the underlying assumptions made by a writer, you can then decide if you agree with them or not, and explore the evidence for them.

Sara and Reuben give advice on critical thinking

Sara: So I did A-levels and we didn't do a lot of critical thinking. It was mostly just rote learning and you would kind of read and paraphrase it and then write it back in the exams. So I think, my first few assignments, that's what I did. And the feedback that I got was, well, yes, you've said this, but you haven't evaluated it, you haven't applied any critical thinking. And then I reached out for more support because this was something that I knew was important, not only for that time, but then later on for my dissertation as well. And when I reached out, they directed me to Skills Hub. They gave me their own advice, and it really helped me to understand what critical thinking is so that I could implement it.

Reuben: I think it's a lot about critical thinking, and I feel like that's something that I'm really interested in, in developing, and I feel like I've got a really good strength in it on some level. But also I think I've learned a lot of how to really think about the other side. And within all your essays, you're going to have to include the other side and think critically about why this could, not just like your opinion is the only one. To make your opinions stronger, you really have to understand the whole picture. And that's something that really we had quite a few weeks on that with Sue. So yeah. And the Skill Hub does go through that. So just keep coming back to things because there's many angles to it and you just slowly build up more ways of doing it because it can be quite subtle. Yes, quite subtle ways to do it. And then quiet like obvious ways. But yeah, I think by the end of three years my critical thinking's just going to get better. Each time I realise a little bit more of how to like, approach something.

Evaluating arguments

The conclusions a writer has made, the reasons they have given for their conclusions and the assumptions that they have relied on all make up the writer’s argument , or line of reasoning . Once you can pinpoint this, it is time to start evaluating the argument’s effectiveness.

To do this, you need to reflect on the argument and ask questions of it. In the table below there are some examples of questions you could think about:

You can download this table as a  Word document or  PDF to print out or to save for future use. (Important: The PDF will open in this window so remember to click on the browsers back button to return to the Skills Hub).

Logical and faulty thinking

Thinking logically.

In logic, an argument can be valid or invalid. This is important for critical thinking because you can use it to determine whether an argument is one you should take seriously to or not.

A valid argument needs two conditions:

  • All the premises upon which the argument is based are true.
  • The conclusion can be shown to be the result of the premises.

For example:

  • John is a human. (premise - true)
  • All humans have brains. (premise - true)
  • Therefore, John has a brain. (conclusion - valid)

An invalid argument is one in which one or both of the conditions are missing:

  • The speed of sound is faster than the speed of light. (premise - not true)
  • The speed of sound is 343m/second.  (premise - true)
  • Therefore, light travels slower than 343m/second. (conclusion - invalid because of a false premise)
  • Courtney is a fast runner.  (premise - true)
  • Courtney is a University of Sussex student. (premise - true)
  • Therefore, all University of Sussex students are fast runners. (conclusion – invalid as not the result of the premises)

Sometimes, the conclusion does not follow from the premises but in isolation is still true. In this case though, the argument is still invalid:

  • All seagulls are birds. (premise - true)
  • Some birds fly. (premise - true)
  • Therefore, all seagulls fly. (conclusion – invalid as not the result of the premises)

Examples like the last one are much harder to spot! For practice with analysing logical reasoning, look at the LSAT and GMAT  practice papers.

Faulty thinking

There are many ways that premises may not be true, or that conclusions may not follow logically from the premises given. Look out for these errors when analysing academic texts and try to avoid these faults in your own arguments. Below are fourteen explanations and examples (flip card activity) of the more common ones (there is a text only version below the activity):

Activity: Faulty Thinking

(Thanks to Nigel Warburton for many of these examples)

1. Correlation vs causation Just because two things occur at the same time, does not necessarily mean that one causes the other. They may just often correlate together. - Most people with left feet also have right feet. Therefore, having a left foot causes a person to also have a right foot.

2. Reverse causation When two events occur at the same time, make sure the writer is accurately assigning the cause and effect. - The more people using umbrellas outside, the heavier the rain. Therefore, people using umbrellas causes heavy rainfall.

3. Third factor Two events that occur together may actually both be the effect of a third, unmentioned factor. - There is a strong link between people's shoe size and the size of their vocabulary. Therefore. having a large vocabulary causes your feet to grow.

4. Bi-directional causation Two events that occur together may actually be both the effect and the cause of each other. - The most successful students visit the Skills Hub website frequently. This is a just coincidence.

5. Ignoring alternative explanations Make sure that you are watching out for other possible reasons that would also lead to a writer’s conclusions - I always get bad tempered when I have a hangover. I must have a hangover right now, because I am bad tempered.

6. Making implicit assumptions Implicit assumptions are not always wrong, but they are hard to spot. If they are wrong, you must work harder to realise that they are present! - The meal contains nuts, so the patients should not eat it.

7. Generalising from anecdotal evidence

- My friend tried acupuncture and it worked. Therefore, acupuncture can cure anything.

8. Thinking in black and white

- His theory is either completely correct, or 100% wrong.

9. Being inconsistent

- Some people prefer an early start, but everyone likes a lie in.

10. Including irrelevant information

- Let's consider whether music should be taught in schools. My great-grandmother used to send me to sleep by playing lullabies on the trombone.

11. Using emotive language

It is easy to become swept away by words that provoke emotions in the audience, but that cannot be backed up objectively.

- This kind of stupidity is the main threat to the health of our precious young people.

12. Using persuasive language

Words that try to persuade the reader of a particular viewpoint need to be analysed carefully! - Obviously we should follow every instruction issued by a doctor.

13. Over-generalising

- From the two case studies, it is clear that this outcome is inevitable for measles patients.

14. Wishful thinking

- Clearly, sending all patients home at this stage will reduce the cost of care without significantly impairing their recovery.

Criticising experts

 A lot of students worry about whether they really can question an expert’s opinions and data. The academic may have been researching and studying the subject for many years whereas you might simply be writing a 1500-word essay on the topic. Is it really possible to critique someone who is so much further along in their knowledge? The answer is yes, for the following reasons:

  • Critically analysing theories, pointing out issues with ideas, and suggesting methods of improvement are how scientific and cultural progress occurs. If people didn’t do this, people would still be using astrology to make medical decisions and travelling in bullock carts!
  • The fact that there are competing ideas and theories surrounding so many concepts in the world proves that academics disagree with one another. You can disagree too.
  • Other students, journalists, academics and thinkers question expert opinion all the time. They are not more intelligent than you.
  • You are not looking for the ‘correct’ answer when you think critically. You are only looking at what another person has said and deciding if it is something you can trust or not.
  • Academics can be wrong. There are countless examples of mainstream theories that have later been proven false. For instance: Dr Spock’s advice to parents in the 1950’s which caused thousands of cot deaths; Einstein’s stationary universe theory; or the centuries-long idea that Australia was the most southerly landmass on Earth.
  • Evidence can be poor. An expert might have carried out a well-designed research project and written up a convincing argument. But perhaps the sample size was very small or the research goes against what 100 other experts are arguing. While they might have made a good start, is the evidence enough to convince you?

Warren Berger

A Crash Course in Critical Thinking

What you need to know—and read—about one of the essential skills needed today..

Posted April 8, 2024 | Reviewed by Michelle Quirk

  • In research for "A More Beautiful Question," I did a deep dive into the current crisis in critical thinking.
  • Many people may think of themselves as critical thinkers, but they actually are not.
  • Here is a series of questions you can ask yourself to try to ensure that you are thinking critically.

Conspiracy theories. Inability to distinguish facts from falsehoods. Widespread confusion about who and what to believe.

These are some of the hallmarks of the current crisis in critical thinking—which just might be the issue of our times. Because if people aren’t willing or able to think critically as they choose potential leaders, they’re apt to choose bad ones. And if they can’t judge whether the information they’re receiving is sound, they may follow faulty advice while ignoring recommendations that are science-based and solid (and perhaps life-saving).

Moreover, as a society, if we can’t think critically about the many serious challenges we face, it becomes more difficult to agree on what those challenges are—much less solve them.

On a personal level, critical thinking can enable you to make better everyday decisions. It can help you make sense of an increasingly complex and confusing world.

In the new expanded edition of my book A More Beautiful Question ( AMBQ ), I took a deep dive into critical thinking. Here are a few key things I learned.

First off, before you can get better at critical thinking, you should understand what it is. It’s not just about being a skeptic. When thinking critically, we are thoughtfully reasoning, evaluating, and making decisions based on evidence and logic. And—perhaps most important—while doing this, a critical thinker always strives to be open-minded and fair-minded . That’s not easy: It demands that you constantly question your assumptions and biases and that you always remain open to considering opposing views.

In today’s polarized environment, many people think of themselves as critical thinkers simply because they ask skeptical questions—often directed at, say, certain government policies or ideas espoused by those on the “other side” of the political divide. The problem is, they may not be asking these questions with an open mind or a willingness to fairly consider opposing views.

When people do this, they’re engaging in “weak-sense critical thinking”—a term popularized by the late Richard Paul, a co-founder of The Foundation for Critical Thinking . “Weak-sense critical thinking” means applying the tools and practices of critical thinking—questioning, investigating, evaluating—but with the sole purpose of confirming one’s own bias or serving an agenda.

In AMBQ , I lay out a series of questions you can ask yourself to try to ensure that you’re thinking critically. Here are some of the questions to consider:

  • Why do I believe what I believe?
  • Are my views based on evidence?
  • Have I fairly and thoughtfully considered differing viewpoints?
  • Am I truly open to changing my mind?

Of course, becoming a better critical thinker is not as simple as just asking yourself a few questions. Critical thinking is a habit of mind that must be developed and strengthened over time. In effect, you must train yourself to think in a manner that is more effortful, aware, grounded, and balanced.

For those interested in giving themselves a crash course in critical thinking—something I did myself, as I was working on my book—I thought it might be helpful to share a list of some of the books that have shaped my own thinking on this subject. As a self-interested author, I naturally would suggest that you start with the new 10th-anniversary edition of A More Beautiful Question , but beyond that, here are the top eight critical-thinking books I’d recommend.

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark , by Carl Sagan

This book simply must top the list, because the late scientist and author Carl Sagan continues to be such a bright shining light in the critical thinking universe. Chapter 12 includes the details on Sagan’s famous “baloney detection kit,” a collection of lessons and tips on how to deal with bogus arguments and logical fallacies.

critical thinking checklist

Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments Into Extraordinary Results , by Shane Parrish

The creator of the Farnham Street website and host of the “Knowledge Project” podcast explains how to contend with biases and unconscious reactions so you can make better everyday decisions. It contains insights from many of the brilliant thinkers Shane has studied.

Good Thinking: Why Flawed Logic Puts Us All at Risk and How Critical Thinking Can Save the World , by David Robert Grimes

A brilliant, comprehensive 2021 book on critical thinking that, to my mind, hasn’t received nearly enough attention . The scientist Grimes dissects bad thinking, shows why it persists, and offers the tools to defeat it.

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know , by Adam Grant

Intellectual humility—being willing to admit that you might be wrong—is what this book is primarily about. But Adam, the renowned Wharton psychology professor and bestselling author, takes the reader on a mind-opening journey with colorful stories and characters.

Think Like a Detective: A Kid's Guide to Critical Thinking , by David Pakman

The popular YouTuber and podcast host Pakman—normally known for talking politics —has written a terrific primer on critical thinking for children. The illustrated book presents critical thinking as a “superpower” that enables kids to unlock mysteries and dig for truth. (I also recommend Pakman’s second kids’ book called Think Like a Scientist .)

Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters , by Steven Pinker

The Harvard psychology professor Pinker tackles conspiracy theories head-on but also explores concepts involving risk/reward, probability and randomness, and correlation/causation. And if that strikes you as daunting, be assured that Pinker makes it lively and accessible.

How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion and Persuasion , by David McRaney

David is a science writer who hosts the popular podcast “You Are Not So Smart” (and his ideas are featured in A More Beautiful Question ). His well-written book looks at ways you can actually get through to people who see the world very differently than you (hint: bludgeoning them with facts definitely won’t work).

A Healthy Democracy's Best Hope: Building the Critical Thinking Habit , by M Neil Browne and Chelsea Kulhanek

Neil Browne, author of the seminal Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking, has been a pioneer in presenting critical thinking as a question-based approach to making sense of the world around us. His newest book, co-authored with Chelsea Kulhanek, breaks down critical thinking into “11 explosive questions”—including the “priors question” (which challenges us to question assumptions), the “evidence question” (focusing on how to evaluate and weigh evidence), and the “humility question” (which reminds us that a critical thinker must be humble enough to consider the possibility of being wrong).

Warren Berger

Warren Berger is a longtime journalist and author of A More Beautiful Question .

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"It starts with the best of intentions: trusty highlighter in hand or (for the tech-savvy crowd) highlighting tool hovering on-screen, you work your way through an assigned reading, marking only the most important information—or so you think."

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Critical Reading for Analysis and Comparison

"Critical reading generally refers to reading in a scholarly context, with an eye toward identifying a text or author’s viewpoints, arguments, evidence, potential biases, and conclusions."

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Triple entry notebook, critical thinking.

Use this checklist to practice critical thinking while reading an article, watching an advertisement, or making an important purchase or voting decision.

Critical Reading Checklist (Word) Critical Reading Checklist (PDF) Critical Thinking Bookmark (PDF)

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  • How to build your critical thinking ski ...

How to build your critical thinking skills in 7 steps (with examples)

Julia Martins contributor headshot

Critical thinking is, well, critical. By building these skills, you improve your ability to analyze information and come to the best decision possible. In this article, we cover the basics of critical thinking, as well as the seven steps you can use to implement the full critical thinking process. 

Critical thinking comes from asking the right questions to come to the best conclusion possible. Strong critical thinkers analyze information from a variety of viewpoints in order to identify the best course of action.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have strong critical thinking abilities. In this article, we’ll help you build a foundation for critical thinking so you can absorb, analyze, and make informed decisions. 

What is critical thinking? 

Critical thinking is the ability to collect and analyze information to come to a conclusion. Being able to think critically is important in virtually every industry and applicable across a wide range of positions. That’s because critical thinking isn’t subject-specific—rather, it’s your ability to parse through information, data, statistics, and other details in order to identify a satisfactory solution. 

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Top 8 critical thinking skills

Like most soft skills, critical thinking isn’t something you can take a class to learn. Rather, this skill consists of a variety of interpersonal and analytical skills. Developing critical thinking is more about learning to embrace open-mindedness and bringing analytical thinking to your problem framing process. 

In no particular order, the eight most important critical thinking skills are:

Analytical thinking: Part of critical thinking is evaluating data from multiple sources in order to come to the best conclusions. Analytical thinking allows people to reject bias and strive to gather and consume information to come to the best conclusion. 

Open-mindedness: This critical thinking skill helps you analyze and process information to come to an unbiased conclusion. Part of the critical thinking process is letting your personal biases go and coming to a conclusion based on all of the information. 

Problem solving : Because critical thinking emphasizes coming to the best conclusion based on all of the available information, it’s a key part of problem solving. When used correctly, critical thinking helps you solve any problem—from a workplace challenge to difficulties in everyday life. 

Self-regulation: Self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate your thoughts and set aside any personal biases to come to the best conclusion. In order to be an effective critical thinker, you need to question the information you have and the decisions you favor—only then can you come to the best conclusion. 

Observation: Observation skills help critical thinkers look for things beyond face value. To be a critical thinker you need to embrace multiple points of view, and you can use observation skills to identify potential problems.

Interpretation: Not all data is made equal—and critical thinkers know this. In addition to gathering information, it’s important to evaluate which information is important and relevant to your situation. That way, you can draw the best conclusions from the data you’ve collected. 

Evaluation: When you attempt to answer a hard question, there is rarely an obvious answer. Even though critical thinking emphasizes putting your biases aside, you need to be able to confidently make a decision based on the data you have available. 

Communication: Once a decision has been made, you also need to share this decision with other stakeholders. Effective workplace communication includes presenting evidence and supporting your conclusion—especially if there are a variety of different possible solutions. 

7 steps to critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that you can build by following these seven steps. The seven steps to critical thinking help you ensure you’re approaching a problem from the right angle, considering every alternative, and coming to an unbiased conclusion.

 First things first: When to use the 7 step critical thinking process

There’s a lot that goes into the full critical thinking process, and not every decision needs to be this thought out. Sometimes, it’s enough to put aside bias and approach a process logically. In other, more complex cases, the best way to identify the ideal outcome is to go through the entire critical thinking process. 

The seven-step critical thinking process is useful for complex decisions in areas you are less familiar with. Alternatively, the seven critical thinking steps can help you look at a problem you’re familiar with from a different angle, without any bias. 

If you need to make a less complex decision, consider another problem solving strategy instead. Decision matrices are a great way to identify the best option between different choices. Check out our article on 7 steps to creating a decision matrix .

1. Identify the problem

Before you put those critical thinking skills to work, you first need to identify the problem you’re solving. This step includes taking a look at the problem from a few different perspectives and asking questions like: 

What’s happening? 

Why is this happening? 

What assumptions am I making? 

At first glance, how do I think we can solve this problem? 

A big part of developing your critical thinking skills is learning how to come to unbiased conclusions. In order to do that, you first need to acknowledge the biases that you currently have. Does someone on your team think they know the answer? Are you making assumptions that aren’t necessarily true? Identifying these details helps you later on in the process. 

2. Research

At this point, you likely have a general idea of the problem—but in order to come up with the best solution, you need to dig deeper. 

During the research process, collect information relating to the problem, including data, statistics, historical project information, team input, and more. Make sure you gather information from a variety of sources, especially if those sources go against your personal ideas about what the problem is or how to solve it.

Gathering varied information is essential for your ability to apply the critical thinking process. If you don’t get enough information, your ability to make a final decision will be skewed. Remember that critical thinking is about helping you identify the objective best conclusion. You aren’t going with your gut—you’re doing research to find the best option

3. Determine data relevance

Just as it’s important to gather a variety of information, it is also important to determine how relevant the different information sources are. After all, just because there is data doesn’t mean it’s relevant. 

Once you’ve gathered all of the information, sift through the noise and identify what information is relevant and what information isn’t. Synthesizing all of this information and establishing significance helps you weigh different data sources and come to the best conclusion later on in the critical thinking process. 

To determine data relevance, ask yourself:

How reliable is this information? 

How significant is this information? 

Is this information outdated? Is it specialized in a specific field? 

4. Ask questions

One of the most useful parts of the critical thinking process is coming to a decision without bias. In order to do so, you need to take a step back from the process and challenge the assumptions you’re making. 

We all have bias—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unconscious biases (also known as cognitive biases) often serve as mental shortcuts to simplify problem solving and aid decision making. But even when biases aren’t inherently bad, you must be aware of your biases in order to put them aside when necessary. 

Before coming to a solution, ask yourself:

Am I making any assumptions about this information? 

Are there additional variables I haven’t considered? 

Have I evaluated the information from every perspective? 

Are there any viewpoints I missed? 

5. Identify the best solution

Finally, you’re ready to come to a conclusion. To identify the best solution, draw connections between causes and effects. Use the facts you’ve gathered to evaluate the most objective conclusion. 

Keep in mind that there may be more than one solution. Often, the problems you’re facing are complex and intricate. The critical thinking process doesn’t necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 

6. Present your solution

Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers. It isn’t enough to think for yourself—you also need to share your conclusion with other project stakeholders. If there are multiple solutions, present them all. There may be a case where you implement one solution, then test to see if it works before implementing another solution. 

7. Analyze your decision

The seven-step critical thinking process yields a result—and you then need to put that solution into place. After you’ve implemented your decision, evaluate whether or not it was effective. Did it solve the initial problem? What lessons—whether positive or negative—can you learn from this experience to improve your critical thinking for next time? 

Depending on how your team shares information, consider documenting lessons learned in a central source of truth. That way, team members that are making similar or related decisions in the future can understand why you made the decision you made and what the outcome was. 

Example of critical thinking in the workplace

Imagine you work in user experience design (UX). Your team is focused on pricing and packaging and ensuring customers have a clear understanding of the different services your company offers. Here’s how to apply the critical thinking process in the workplace in seven steps: 

Start by identifying the problem

Your current pricing page isn’t performing as well as you want. You’ve heard from customers that your services aren’t clear, and that the page doesn’t answer the questions they have. This page is really important for your company, since it’s where your customers sign up for your service. You and your team have a few theories about why your current page isn’t performing well, but you decide to apply the critical thinking process to ensure you come to the best decision for the page. 

Gather information about how the problem started

Part of identifying the problem includes understanding how the problem started. The pricing and packaging page is important—so when your team initially designed the page, they certainly put a lot of thought into it. Before you begin researching how to improve the page, ask yourself: 

Why did you design the pricing page the way you did? 

Which stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making process? 

Where are users getting stuck on the page?

Are any features currently working?

Then, you research

In addition to understanding the history of the pricing and packaging page, it’s important to understand what works well. Part of this research means taking a look at what your competitor’s pricing pages look like. 

Ask yourself: 

How have our competitors set up their pricing pages?

Are there any pricing page best practices? 

How does color, positioning, and animation impact navigation? 

Are there any standard page layouts customers expect to see? 

Organize and analyze information

You’ve gathered all of the information you need—now you need to organize and analyze it. What trends, if any, are you noticing? Is there any particularly relevant or important information that you have to consider? 

Ask open-ended questions to reduce bias

In the case of critical thinking, it’s important to address and set bias aside as much as possible. Ask yourself: 

Is there anything I’m missing? 

Have I connected with the right stakeholders? 

Are there any other viewpoints I should consider? 

Determine the best solution for your team

You now have all of the information you need to design the best pricing page. Depending on the complexity of the design, you may want to design a few options to present to a small group of customers or A/B test on the live website.

Present your solution to stakeholders

Critical thinking can help you in every element of your life, but in the workplace, you must also involve key project stakeholders . Stakeholders help you determine next steps, like whether you’ll A/B test the page first. Depending on the complexity of the issue, consider hosting a meeting or sharing a status report to get everyone on the same page. 

Analyze the results

No process is complete without evaluating the results. Once the new page has been live for some time, evaluate whether it did better than the previous page. What worked? What didn’t? This also helps you make better critical decisions later on.

Critically successful 

Critical thinking takes time to build, but with effort and patience you can apply an unbiased, analytical mind to any situation. Critical thinking makes up one of many soft skills that makes you an effective team member, manager, and worker. If you’re looking to hone your skills further, read our article on the 25 project management skills you need to succeed . 

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How Asana uses work management to drive product development

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Critical Thinking and Reasoning

  • Misinformation
  • Lateral Reading

It can be a challenge to recognize credible and reliable information, not only in doing research but in everyday life. Numerous frameworks have been developed for evaluating information sources. Each takes its own approach and has different names for its elements, and each offers valuable criteria to use when filtering through sources.  Some academic disciplines prefer or recommend one technique over the others. In classes, use the framework recommended or required by your instructor for best results. But all checklists are asking the same questions--  who is responsible for the information, what is the purpose of the information, how credible is the information and is it relevant to my information need?

CRAAP is an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. Use the CRAAP Test to evaluate your sources.

Currency : the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?   

Relevance : the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority : the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government)
  • .org (nonprofit organization), or
  • .net (network)

Accuracy : the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose : the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?
  • Does the information relate to your topic?
  • Is the information in this source correct?
  • Can you verify the information?
  • Use critical thinking to evaluate the ideas and claims
  • Does it consider more than one viewpoint?
  • Does the information in the source support a particular agenda? 
  • Can you determine the author's aim, agenda, or affiliations?
  • Is the author an expert in this field?
  • Can you verify the author's credentials?
  • Is the information up to date?

Evaluating Sources Using the 5 Ws

T here are many different methods for evaluating sources of information. One way to evaluate an information source is based on the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

Who wrote it?

  • Author’s name
  • Contact information
  • Qualifications and/or credentials
  • Affiliations
  • Publisher or sponsoring organization

What kind of information does it have?

  • Does the information relate to your topic or help answer your question? (Note: this doesn’t mean that the information agrees with your argument.)
  • Is the information at the appropriate level for your research?
  • Intended audience

When was it written or last updated?

  • Date of publication
  • Date of revisions or updates
  • Does your topic require only the most current information, or are older sources acceptable?
  • Websites : Are the links functional?

Where did the content come from?

  • Are there references or citations? Is there a bibliography?
  • Was the information reviewed or refereed? By whom?

Why was the source created?

  • Point of view being presented
  • What is the information meant to do to the reader? (Inform, teach, sell, entertain, persuade?)
  • Is the intention or purpose clearly stated?
  • Websites : What does the domain tell you? (Examples:  .com  – commercial;  .gov  – government;  .org  – organization (but what kind of organization are they?)

Adapted from a source evaluation test by  Jessica Olin

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  • URL: https://libguides.lr.edu/critical_thinking

Module 1: Success Skills

Critical thinking, introduction, learning objectives.

  • define critical thinking
  • identify the role that logic plays in critical thinking
  • apply critical thinking skills to problem-solving scenarios
  • apply critical thinking skills to evaluation of information

Woman lying on her back outdoors, in a reflective posture

Consider these thoughts about the critical thinking process, and how it applies not just to our school lives but also our personal and professional lives.

“Thinking Critically and Creatively”

Critical thinking skills are perhaps the most fundamental skills involved in making judgments and solving problems. You use them every day, and you can continue improving them.

The ability to think critically about a matter—to analyze a question, situation, or problem down to its most basic parts—is what helps us evaluate the accuracy and truthfulness of statements, claims, and information we read and hear. It is the sharp knife that, when honed, separates fact from fiction, honesty from lies, and the accurate from the misleading. We all use this skill to one degree or another almost every day. For example, we use critical thinking every day as we consider the latest consumer products and why one particular product is the best among its peers. Is it a quality product because a celebrity endorses it? Because a lot of other people may have used it? Because it is made by one company versus another? Or perhaps because it is made in one country or another? These are questions representative of critical thinking.

The academic setting demands more of us in terms of critical thinking than everyday life. It demands that we evaluate information and analyze myriad issues. It is the environment where our critical thinking skills can be the difference between success and failure. In this environment we must consider information in an analytical, critical manner. We must ask questions—What is the source of this information? Is this source an expert one and what makes it so? Are there multiple perspectives to consider on an issue? Do multiple sources agree or disagree on an issue? Does quality research substantiate information or opinion? Do I have any personal biases that may affect my consideration of this information?

It is only through purposeful, frequent, intentional questioning such as this that we can sharpen our critical thinking skills and improve as students, learners and researchers.

—Dr. Andrew Robert Baker,  Foundations of Academic Success: Words of Wisdom

Defining Critical Thinking

Thinking comes naturally. You don’t have to make it happen—it just does. But you can make it happen in different ways. For example, you can think positively or negatively. You can think with “heart” and you can think with rational judgment. You can also think strategically and analytically, and mathematically and scientifically. These are a few of multiple ways in which the mind can process thought.

What are some forms of thinking you use? When do you use them, and why?

As a college student, you are tasked with engaging and expanding your thinking skills. One of the most important of these skills is critical thinking. Critical thinking is important because it relates to nearly all tasks, situations, topics, careers, environments, challenges, and opportunities. It’s not restricted to a particular subject area.

Handwritten poster. Guidelines for Critical Thinking when…talking/ reading/ blogging/ writing/ living. 4: justify your answers with text evidence (…because…) and examples from your life/world; agree and disagree with others and authors; ask questions of others and authors; complete sentences, correct punctuation/ capitols. 3: agree and disagree with others and authors; justify your opinions, tell why you agree and disagree; speak and write in complete sentences. 2: answers questions but not justify them; agree and disagree but you can’t tell why; incomplete sentences, incorrect punctuation. 1: does not contribute to the conversation; does not share your thinking; does not agree or disagree with others. Justify: to defend your thinking by showing and telling with examples and evidence.

Critical thinking is clear, reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do. It means asking probing questions like, “How do we know?” or “Is this true in every case or just in this instance?” It involves being skeptical and challenging assumptions, rather than simply memorizing facts or blindly accepting what you hear or read.

Imagine, for example, that you’re reading a history textbook. You wonder who wrote it and why, because you detect certain assumptions in the writing. You find that the author has a limited scope of research focused only on a particular group within a population. In this case, your critical thinking reveals that there are “other sides to the story.”

Who are critical thinkers, and what characteristics do they have in common? Critical thinkers are usually curious and reflective people. They like to explore and probe new areas and seek knowledge, clarification, and new solutions. They ask pertinent questions, evaluate statements and arguments, and they distinguish between facts and opinion. They are also willing to examine their own beliefs, possessing a manner of humility that allows them to admit lack of knowledge or understanding when needed. They are open to changing their mind. Perhaps most of all, they actively enjoy learning, and seeking new knowledge is a lifelong pursuit.

This may well be you!

No matter where you are on the road to being a critical thinker, you can always more fully develop your skills. Doing so will help you develop more balanced arguments, express yourself clearly, read critically, and absorb important information efficiently. Critical thinking skills will help you in any profession or any circumstance of life, from science to art to business to teaching.

Critical Thinking in Action

The following video, from Lawrence Bland, presents the major concepts and benefits of critical thinking.

Critical Thinking and Logic

Critical thinking is fundamentally a process of questioning information and data. You may question the information you read in a textbook, or you may question what a politician or a professor or a classmate says. You can also question a commonly-held belief or a new idea. With critical thinking, anything and everything is subject to question and examination.

Logic’s Relationship to Critical Thinking

The word logic comes from the Ancient Greek logike , referring to the science or art of reasoning. Using logic, a person evaluates arguments and strives to distinguish between good and bad reasoning, or between truth and falsehood. Using logic, you can evaluate ideas or claims people make, make good decisions, and form sound beliefs about the world. [1]

Questions of Logic in Critical Thinking

Let’s use a simple example of applying logic to a critical-thinking situation. In this hypothetical scenario, a man has a PhD in political science, and he works as a professor at a local college. His wife works at the college, too. They have three young children in the local school system, and their family is well known in the community.

The man is now running for political office. Are his credentials and experience sufficient for entering public office? Will he be effective in the political office? Some voters might believe that his personal life and current job, on the surface, suggest he will do well in the position, and they will vote for him.

In truth, the characteristics described don’t guarantee that the man will do a good job. The information is somewhat irrelevant. What else might you want to know? How about whether the man had already held a political office and done a good job? In this case, we want to ask, How much information is adequate in order to make a decision based on logic instead of assumptions?

The following questions, presented in Figure 1, below, are ones you may apply to formulating a logical, reasoned perspective in the above scenario or any other situation:

  • What’s happening? Gather the basic information and begin to think of questions.
  • Why is it important? Ask yourself why it’s significant and whether or not you agree.
  • What don’t I see? Is there anything important missing?
  • How do I know? Ask yourself where the information came from and how it was constructed.
  • Who is saying it? What’s the position of the speaker and what is influencing them?
  • What else? What if? What other ideas exist and are there other possibilities?

Infographic titled "Questions a Critical Thinker Asks." From the top, text reads: What's Happening? Gather the basic information and begin to think of questions (image of two stick figures talking to each other). Why is it Important? Ask yourself why it's significant and whether or not you agree. (Image of bearded stick figure sitting on a rock.) What Don't I See? Is there anything important missing? (Image of stick figure wearing a blindfold, whistling, walking away from a sign labeled Answers.) How Do I Know? Ask yourself where the information came from and how it was constructed. (Image of stick figure in a lab coat, glasses, holding a beaker.) Who is Saying It? What's the position of the speaker and what is influencing them? (Image of stick figure reading a newspaper.) What Else? What If? What other ideas exist and are there other possibilities? (Stick figure version of Albert Einstein with a thought bubble saying "If only time were relative...".

Problem-Solving With Critical Thinking

For most people, a typical day is filled with critical thinking and problem-solving challenges. In fact, critical thinking and problem-solving go hand-in-hand. They both refer to using knowledge, facts, and data to solve problems effectively. But with problem-solving, you are specifically identifying, selecting, and defending your solution. Below are some examples of using critical thinking to problem-solve:

  • Your roommate was upset and said some unkind words to you, which put a crimp in your relationship. You try to see through the angry behaviors to determine how you might best support your roommate and help bring your relationship back to a comfortable spot.

Young man in black jacket looking deep in thought, in foreground of busy street scene

  • Your final art class project challenges you to conceptualize form in new ways. On the last day of class when students present their projects, you describe the techniques you used to fulfill the assignment. You explain why and how you selected that approach.
  • Your math teacher sees that the class is not quite grasping a concept. She uses clever questioning to dispel anxiety and guide you to new understanding of the concept.
  • You have a job interview for a position that you feel you are only partially qualified for, although you really want the job and you are excited about the prospects. You analyze how you will explain your skills and experiences in a way to show that you are a good match for the prospective employer.
  • You are doing well in college, and most of your college and living expenses are covered. But there are some gaps between what you want and what you feel you can afford. You analyze your income, savings, and budget to better calculate what you will need to stay in college and maintain your desired level of spending.

Problem-Solving Action Checklist

Problem-solving can be an efficient and rewarding process, especially if you are organized and mindful of critical steps and strategies. Remember, too, to assume the attributes of a good critical thinker. If you are curious, reflective, knowledge-seeking, open to change, probing, organized, and ethical, your challenge or problem will be less of a hurdle, and you’ll be in a good position to find intelligent solutions.

Evaluating Information With Critical Thinking

Evaluating information can be one of the most complex tasks you will be faced with in college. But if you utilize the following four strategies, you will be well on your way to success:

  • Read for understanding by using text coding
  • Examine arguments
  • Clarify thinking

Photo of a group of students standing around a poster on the wall, where they're adding post-it notes with handwriting on them

1. Read for Understanding Using Text Coding

When you read and take notes, use the text coding strategy . Text coding is a way of tracking your thinking while reading. It entails marking the text and recording what you are thinking either in the margins or perhaps on Post-it notes. As you make connections and ask questions in response to what you read,  you monitor your comprehension and enhance your long-term understanding of the material.

With text coding, mark important arguments and key facts. Indicate where you agree and disagree or have further questions. You don’t necessarily need to read every word, but make sure you understand the concepts or the intentions behind what is written. Feel free to develop your own shorthand style when reading or taking notes. The following are a few options to consider using while coding text.

See more text coding from PBWorks and Collaborative for Teaching and Learning .

2. Examine Arguments

When you examine arguments or claims that an author, speaker, or other source is making, your goal is to identify and examine the hard facts. You can use the spectrum of authority strategy for this purpose. The spectrum of authority strategy assists you in identifying the “hot” end of an argument—feelings, beliefs, cultural influences, and societal influences—and the “cold” end of an argument—scientific influences. The following video explains this strategy.

3. Clarify Thinking

When you use critical thinking to evaluate information, you need to clarify your thinking to yourself and likely to others. Doing this well is mainly a process of asking and answering probing questions, such as the logic questions discussed earlier. Design your questions to fit your needs, but be sure to cover adequate ground. What is the purpose? What question are we trying to answer? What point of view is being expressed? What assumptions are we or others making? What are the facts and data we know, and how do we know them? What are the concepts we’re working with? What are the conclusions, and do they make sense? What are the implications?

4. Cultivate “Habits of Mind”

“Habits of mind” are the personal commitments, values, and standards you have about the principle of good thinking. Consider your intellectual commitments, values, and standards. Do you approach problems with an open mind, a respect for truth, and an inquiring attitude? Some good habits to have when thinking critically are being receptive to having your opinions changed, having respect for others, being independent and not accepting something is true until you’ve had the time to examine the available evidence, being fair-minded, having respect for a reason, having an inquiring mind, not making assumptions, and always, especially, questioning your own conclusions—in other words, developing an intellectual work ethic. Try to work these qualities into your daily life.

  • "logic." Wordnik . n.d. Web. 16 Feb 2016 . ↵
  • "Student Success-Thinking Critically In Class and Online."  Critical Thinking Gateway . St Petersburg College, n.d. Web. 16 Feb 2016. ↵
  • Outcome: Critical Thinking. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Self Check: Critical Thinking. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Foundations of Academic Success. Authored by : Thomas C. Priester, editor. Provided by : Open SUNY Textbooks. Located at : http://textbooks.opensuny.org/foundations-of-academic-success/ . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
  • Image of woman thinking. Authored by : Moyan Brenn. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/8YV4K5 . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Critical Thinking. Provided by : Critical and Creative Thinking Program. Located at : http://cct.wikispaces.umb.edu/Critical+Thinking . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Critical Thinking Skills. Authored by : Linda Bruce. Provided by : Lumen Learning. Project : https://courses.lumenlearning.com/lumencollegesuccess/chapter/critical-thinking-skills/. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Image of critical thinking poster. Authored by : Melissa Robison. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/bwAzyD . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Thinking Critically. Authored by : UBC Learning Commons. Provided by : The University of British Columbia, Vancouver Campus. Located at : http://www.oercommons.org/courses/learning-toolkit-critical-thinking/view . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Critical Thinking 101: Spectrum of Authority. Authored by : UBC Leap. Located at : https://youtu.be/9G5xooMN2_c . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Image of students putting post-its on wall. Authored by : Hector Alejandro. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/7b2Ax2 . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Image of man thinking. Authored by : Chad Santos. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/phLKY . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Critical Thinking.wmv. Authored by : Lawrence Bland. Located at : https://youtu.be/WiSklIGUblo . License : All Rights Reserved . License Terms : Standard YouTube License

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A Short Guide to Building Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills

  • Matt Plummer

critical thinking checklist

Critical thinking isn’t an innate skill. It can be learned.

Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess critical thinking skills and most managers don’t know how to provide specific instruction to team members in need of becoming better thinkers. Instead, most managers employ a sink-or-swim approach, ultimately creating work-arounds to keep those who can’t figure out how to “swim” from making important decisions. But it doesn’t have to be this way. To demystify what critical thinking is and how it is developed, the author’s team turned to three research-backed models: The Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment, Pearson’s RED Critical Thinking Model, and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Using these models, they developed the Critical Thinking Roadmap, a framework that breaks critical thinking down into four measurable phases: the ability to execute, synthesize, recommend, and generate.

With critical thinking ranking among the most in-demand skills for job candidates , you would think that educational institutions would prepare candidates well to be exceptional thinkers, and employers would be adept at developing such skills in existing employees. Unfortunately, both are largely untrue.

critical thinking checklist

  • Matt Plummer (@mtplummer) is the founder of Zarvana, which offers online programs and coaching services to help working professionals become more productive by developing time-saving habits. Before starting Zarvana, Matt spent six years at Bain & Company spin-out, The Bridgespan Group, a strategy and management consulting firm for nonprofits, foundations, and philanthropists.  

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Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms for thinking carefully, and the thinking components on which they focus. Its adoption as an educational goal has been recommended on the basis of respect for students’ autonomy and preparing students for success in life and for democratic citizenship. “Critical thinkers” have the dispositions and abilities that lead them to think critically when appropriate. The abilities can be identified directly; the dispositions indirectly, by considering what factors contribute to or impede exercise of the abilities. Standardized tests have been developed to assess the degree to which a person possesses such dispositions and abilities. Educational intervention has been shown experimentally to improve them, particularly when it includes dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring. Controversies have arisen over the generalizability of critical thinking across domains, over alleged bias in critical thinking theories and instruction, and over the relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking.

2.1 Dewey’s Three Main Examples

2.2 dewey’s other examples, 2.3 further examples, 2.4 non-examples, 3. the definition of critical thinking, 4. its value, 5. the process of thinking critically, 6. components of the process, 7. contributory dispositions and abilities, 8.1 initiating dispositions, 8.2 internal dispositions, 9. critical thinking abilities, 10. required knowledge, 11. educational methods, 12.1 the generalizability of critical thinking, 12.2 bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, 12.3 relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking, other internet resources, related entries.

Use of the term ‘critical thinking’ to describe an educational goal goes back to the American philosopher John Dewey (1910), who more commonly called it ‘reflective thinking’. He defined it as

active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Dewey 1910: 6; 1933: 9)

and identified a habit of such consideration with a scientific attitude of mind. His lengthy quotations of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill indicate that he was not the first person to propose development of a scientific attitude of mind as an educational goal.

In the 1930s, many of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study of the Progressive Education Association (Aikin 1942) adopted critical thinking as an educational goal, for whose achievement the study’s Evaluation Staff developed tests (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942). Glaser (1941) showed experimentally that it was possible to improve the critical thinking of high school students. Bloom’s influential taxonomy of cognitive educational objectives (Bloom et al. 1956) incorporated critical thinking abilities. Ennis (1962) proposed 12 aspects of critical thinking as a basis for research on the teaching and evaluation of critical thinking ability.

Since 1980, an annual international conference in California on critical thinking and educational reform has attracted tens of thousands of educators from all levels of education and from many parts of the world. Also since 1980, the state university system in California has required all undergraduate students to take a critical thinking course. Since 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions in conjunction with the divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association (APA). In 1987, the APA’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy commissioned a consensus statement on critical thinking for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (Facione 1990a). Researchers have developed standardized tests of critical thinking abilities and dispositions; for details, see the Supplement on Assessment . Educational jurisdictions around the world now include critical thinking in guidelines for curriculum and assessment.

For details on this history, see the Supplement on History .

2. Examples and Non-Examples

Before considering the definition of critical thinking, it will be helpful to have in mind some examples of critical thinking, as well as some examples of kinds of thinking that would apparently not count as critical thinking.

Dewey (1910: 68–71; 1933: 91–94) takes as paradigms of reflective thinking three class papers of students in which they describe their thinking. The examples range from the everyday to the scientific.

Transit : “The other day, when I was down town on 16th Street, a clock caught my eye. I saw that the hands pointed to 12:20. This suggested that I had an engagement at 124th Street, at one o’clock. I reasoned that as it had taken me an hour to come down on a surface car, I should probably be twenty minutes late if I returned the same way. I might save twenty minutes by a subway express. But was there a station near? If not, I might lose more than twenty minutes in looking for one. Then I thought of the elevated, and I saw there was such a line within two blocks. But where was the station? If it were several blocks above or below the street I was on, I should lose time instead of gaining it. My mind went back to the subway express as quicker than the elevated; furthermore, I remembered that it went nearer than the elevated to the part of 124th Street I wished to reach, so that time would be saved at the end of the journey. I concluded in favor of the subway, and reached my destination by one o’clock.” (Dewey 1910: 68–69; 1933: 91–92)

Ferryboat : “Projecting nearly horizontally from the upper deck of the ferryboat on which I daily cross the river is a long white pole, having a gilded ball at its tip. It suggested a flagpole when I first saw it; its color, shape, and gilded ball agreed with this idea, and these reasons seemed to justify me in this belief. But soon difficulties presented themselves. The pole was nearly horizontal, an unusual position for a flagpole; in the next place, there was no pulley, ring, or cord by which to attach a flag; finally, there were elsewhere on the boat two vertical staffs from which flags were occasionally flown. It seemed probable that the pole was not there for flag-flying.

“I then tried to imagine all possible purposes of the pole, and to consider for which of these it was best suited: (a) Possibly it was an ornament. But as all the ferryboats and even the tugboats carried poles, this hypothesis was rejected. (b) Possibly it was the terminal of a wireless telegraph. But the same considerations made this improbable. Besides, the more natural place for such a terminal would be the highest part of the boat, on top of the pilot house. (c) Its purpose might be to point out the direction in which the boat is moving.

“In support of this conclusion, I discovered that the pole was lower than the pilot house, so that the steersman could easily see it. Moreover, the tip was enough higher than the base, so that, from the pilot’s position, it must appear to project far out in front of the boat. Moreover, the pilot being near the front of the boat, he would need some such guide as to its direction. Tugboats would also need poles for such a purpose. This hypothesis was so much more probable than the others that I accepted it. I formed the conclusion that the pole was set up for the purpose of showing the pilot the direction in which the boat pointed, to enable him to steer correctly.” (Dewey 1910: 69–70; 1933: 92–93)

Bubbles : “In washing tumblers in hot soapsuds and placing them mouth downward on a plate, bubbles appeared on the outside of the mouth of the tumblers and then went inside. Why? The presence of bubbles suggests air, which I note must come from inside the tumbler. I see that the soapy water on the plate prevents escape of the air save as it may be caught in bubbles. But why should air leave the tumbler? There was no substance entering to force it out. It must have expanded. It expands by increase of heat, or by decrease of pressure, or both. Could the air have become heated after the tumbler was taken from the hot suds? Clearly not the air that was already entangled in the water. If heated air was the cause, cold air must have entered in transferring the tumblers from the suds to the plate. I test to see if this supposition is true by taking several more tumblers out. Some I shake so as to make sure of entrapping cold air in them. Some I take out holding mouth downward in order to prevent cold air from entering. Bubbles appear on the outside of every one of the former and on none of the latter. I must be right in my inference. Air from the outside must have been expanded by the heat of the tumbler, which explains the appearance of the bubbles on the outside. But why do they then go inside? Cold contracts. The tumbler cooled and also the air inside it. Tension was removed, and hence bubbles appeared inside. To be sure of this, I test by placing a cup of ice on the tumbler while the bubbles are still forming outside. They soon reverse” (Dewey 1910: 70–71; 1933: 93–94).

Dewey (1910, 1933) sprinkles his book with other examples of critical thinking. We will refer to the following.

Weather : A man on a walk notices that it has suddenly become cool, thinks that it is probably going to rain, looks up and sees a dark cloud obscuring the sun, and quickens his steps (1910: 6–10; 1933: 9–13).

Disorder : A man finds his rooms on his return to them in disorder with his belongings thrown about, thinks at first of burglary as an explanation, then thinks of mischievous children as being an alternative explanation, then looks to see whether valuables are missing, and discovers that they are (1910: 82–83; 1933: 166–168).

Typhoid : A physician diagnosing a patient whose conspicuous symptoms suggest typhoid avoids drawing a conclusion until more data are gathered by questioning the patient and by making tests (1910: 85–86; 1933: 170).

Blur : A moving blur catches our eye in the distance, we ask ourselves whether it is a cloud of whirling dust or a tree moving its branches or a man signaling to us, we think of other traits that should be found on each of those possibilities, and we look and see if those traits are found (1910: 102, 108; 1933: 121, 133).

Suction pump : In thinking about the suction pump, the scientist first notes that it will draw water only to a maximum height of 33 feet at sea level and to a lesser maximum height at higher elevations, selects for attention the differing atmospheric pressure at these elevations, sets up experiments in which the air is removed from a vessel containing water (when suction no longer works) and in which the weight of air at various levels is calculated, compares the results of reasoning about the height to which a given weight of air will allow a suction pump to raise water with the observed maximum height at different elevations, and finally assimilates the suction pump to such apparently different phenomena as the siphon and the rising of a balloon (1910: 150–153; 1933: 195–198).

Diamond : A passenger in a car driving in a diamond lane reserved for vehicles with at least one passenger notices that the diamond marks on the pavement are far apart in some places and close together in others. Why? The driver suggests that the reason may be that the diamond marks are not needed where there is a solid double line separating the diamond lane from the adjoining lane, but are needed when there is a dotted single line permitting crossing into the diamond lane. Further observation confirms that the diamonds are close together when a dotted line separates the diamond lane from its neighbour, but otherwise far apart.

Rash : A woman suddenly develops a very itchy red rash on her throat and upper chest. She recently noticed a mark on the back of her right hand, but was not sure whether the mark was a rash or a scrape. She lies down in bed and thinks about what might be causing the rash and what to do about it. About two weeks before, she began taking blood pressure medication that contained a sulfa drug, and the pharmacist had warned her, in view of a previous allergic reaction to a medication containing a sulfa drug, to be on the alert for an allergic reaction; however, she had been taking the medication for two weeks with no such effect. The day before, she began using a new cream on her neck and upper chest; against the new cream as the cause was mark on the back of her hand, which had not been exposed to the cream. She began taking probiotics about a month before. She also recently started new eye drops, but she supposed that manufacturers of eye drops would be careful not to include allergy-causing components in the medication. The rash might be a heat rash, since she recently was sweating profusely from her upper body. Since she is about to go away on a short vacation, where she would not have access to her usual physician, she decides to keep taking the probiotics and using the new eye drops but to discontinue the blood pressure medication and to switch back to the old cream for her neck and upper chest. She forms a plan to consult her regular physician on her return about the blood pressure medication.

Candidate : Although Dewey included no examples of thinking directed at appraising the arguments of others, such thinking has come to be considered a kind of critical thinking. We find an example of such thinking in the performance task on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+), which its sponsoring organization describes as

a performance-based assessment that provides a measure of an institution’s contribution to the development of critical-thinking and written communication skills of its students. (Council for Aid to Education 2017)

A sample task posted on its website requires the test-taker to write a report for public distribution evaluating a fictional candidate’s policy proposals and their supporting arguments, using supplied background documents, with a recommendation on whether to endorse the candidate.

Immediate acceptance of an idea that suggests itself as a solution to a problem (e.g., a possible explanation of an event or phenomenon, an action that seems likely to produce a desired result) is “uncritical thinking, the minimum of reflection” (Dewey 1910: 13). On-going suspension of judgment in the light of doubt about a possible solution is not critical thinking (Dewey 1910: 108). Critique driven by a dogmatically held political or religious ideology is not critical thinking; thus Paulo Freire (1968 [1970]) is using the term (e.g., at 1970: 71, 81, 100, 146) in a more politically freighted sense that includes not only reflection but also revolutionary action against oppression. Derivation of a conclusion from given data using an algorithm is not critical thinking.

What is critical thinking? There are many definitions. Ennis (2016) lists 14 philosophically oriented scholarly definitions and three dictionary definitions. Following Rawls (1971), who distinguished his conception of justice from a utilitarian conception but regarded them as rival conceptions of the same concept, Ennis maintains that the 17 definitions are different conceptions of the same concept. Rawls articulated the shared concept of justice as

a characteristic set of principles for assigning basic rights and duties and for determining… the proper distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation. (Rawls 1971: 5)

Bailin et al. (1999b) claim that, if one considers what sorts of thinking an educator would take not to be critical thinking and what sorts to be critical thinking, one can conclude that educators typically understand critical thinking to have at least three features.

  • It is done for the purpose of making up one’s mind about what to believe or do.
  • The person engaging in the thinking is trying to fulfill standards of adequacy and accuracy appropriate to the thinking.
  • The thinking fulfills the relevant standards to some threshold level.

One could sum up the core concept that involves these three features by saying that critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking. This core concept seems to apply to all the examples of critical thinking described in the previous section. As for the non-examples, their exclusion depends on construing careful thinking as excluding jumping immediately to conclusions, suspending judgment no matter how strong the evidence, reasoning from an unquestioned ideological or religious perspective, and routinely using an algorithm to answer a question.

If the core of critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking, conceptions of it can vary according to its presumed scope, its presumed goal, one’s criteria and threshold for being careful, and the thinking component on which one focuses. As to its scope, some conceptions (e.g., Dewey 1910, 1933) restrict it to constructive thinking on the basis of one’s own observations and experiments, others (e.g., Ennis 1962; Fisher & Scriven 1997; Johnson 1992) to appraisal of the products of such thinking. Ennis (1991) and Bailin et al. (1999b) take it to cover both construction and appraisal. As to its goal, some conceptions restrict it to forming a judgment (Dewey 1910, 1933; Lipman 1987; Facione 1990a). Others allow for actions as well as beliefs as the end point of a process of critical thinking (Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b). As to the criteria and threshold for being careful, definitions vary in the term used to indicate that critical thinking satisfies certain norms: “intellectually disciplined” (Scriven & Paul 1987), “reasonable” (Ennis 1991), “skillful” (Lipman 1987), “skilled” (Fisher & Scriven 1997), “careful” (Bailin & Battersby 2009). Some definitions specify these norms, referring variously to “consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends” (Dewey 1910, 1933); “the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning” (Glaser 1941); “conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication” (Scriven & Paul 1987); the requirement that “it is sensitive to context, relies on criteria, and is self-correcting” (Lipman 1987); “evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations” (Facione 1990a); and “plus-minus considerations of the product in terms of appropriate standards (or criteria)” (Johnson 1992). Stanovich and Stanovich (2010) propose to ground the concept of critical thinking in the concept of rationality, which they understand as combining epistemic rationality (fitting one’s beliefs to the world) and instrumental rationality (optimizing goal fulfillment); a critical thinker, in their view, is someone with “a propensity to override suboptimal responses from the autonomous mind” (2010: 227). These variant specifications of norms for critical thinking are not necessarily incompatible with one another, and in any case presuppose the core notion of thinking carefully. As to the thinking component singled out, some definitions focus on suspension of judgment during the thinking (Dewey 1910; McPeck 1981), others on inquiry while judgment is suspended (Bailin & Battersby 2009, 2021), others on the resulting judgment (Facione 1990a), and still others on responsiveness to reasons (Siegel 1988). Kuhn (2019) takes critical thinking to be more a dialogic practice of advancing and responding to arguments than an individual ability.

In educational contexts, a definition of critical thinking is a “programmatic definition” (Scheffler 1960: 19). It expresses a practical program for achieving an educational goal. For this purpose, a one-sentence formulaic definition is much less useful than articulation of a critical thinking process, with criteria and standards for the kinds of thinking that the process may involve. The real educational goal is recognition, adoption and implementation by students of those criteria and standards. That adoption and implementation in turn consists in acquiring the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker.

Conceptions of critical thinking generally do not include moral integrity as part of the concept. Dewey, for example, took critical thinking to be the ultimate intellectual goal of education, but distinguished it from the development of social cooperation among school children, which he took to be the central moral goal. Ennis (1996, 2011) added to his previous list of critical thinking dispositions a group of dispositions to care about the dignity and worth of every person, which he described as a “correlative” (1996) disposition without which critical thinking would be less valuable and perhaps harmful. An educational program that aimed at developing critical thinking but not the correlative disposition to care about the dignity and worth of every person, he asserted, “would be deficient and perhaps dangerous” (Ennis 1996: 172).

Dewey thought that education for reflective thinking would be of value to both the individual and society; recognition in educational practice of the kinship to the scientific attitude of children’s native curiosity, fertile imagination and love of experimental inquiry “would make for individual happiness and the reduction of social waste” (Dewey 1910: iii). Schools participating in the Eight-Year Study took development of the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems as a means to leading young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States (Aikin 1942: 17–18, 81). Harvey Siegel (1988: 55–61) has offered four considerations in support of adopting critical thinking as an educational ideal. (1) Respect for persons requires that schools and teachers honour students’ demands for reasons and explanations, deal with students honestly, and recognize the need to confront students’ independent judgment; these requirements concern the manner in which teachers treat students. (2) Education has the task of preparing children to be successful adults, a task that requires development of their self-sufficiency. (3) Education should initiate children into the rational traditions in such fields as history, science and mathematics. (4) Education should prepare children to become democratic citizens, which requires reasoned procedures and critical talents and attitudes. To supplement these considerations, Siegel (1988: 62–90) responds to two objections: the ideology objection that adoption of any educational ideal requires a prior ideological commitment and the indoctrination objection that cultivation of critical thinking cannot escape being a form of indoctrination.

Despite the diversity of our 11 examples, one can recognize a common pattern. Dewey analyzed it as consisting of five phases:

  • suggestions , in which the mind leaps forward to a possible solution;
  • an intellectualization of the difficulty or perplexity into a problem to be solved, a question for which the answer must be sought;
  • the use of one suggestion after another as a leading idea, or hypothesis , to initiate and guide observation and other operations in collection of factual material;
  • the mental elaboration of the idea or supposition as an idea or supposition ( reasoning , in the sense on which reasoning is a part, not the whole, of inference); and
  • testing the hypothesis by overt or imaginative action. (Dewey 1933: 106–107; italics in original)

The process of reflective thinking consisting of these phases would be preceded by a perplexed, troubled or confused situation and followed by a cleared-up, unified, resolved situation (Dewey 1933: 106). The term ‘phases’ replaced the term ‘steps’ (Dewey 1910: 72), thus removing the earlier suggestion of an invariant sequence. Variants of the above analysis appeared in (Dewey 1916: 177) and (Dewey 1938: 101–119).

The variant formulations indicate the difficulty of giving a single logical analysis of such a varied process. The process of critical thinking may have a spiral pattern, with the problem being redefined in the light of obstacles to solving it as originally formulated. For example, the person in Transit might have concluded that getting to the appointment at the scheduled time was impossible and have reformulated the problem as that of rescheduling the appointment for a mutually convenient time. Further, defining a problem does not always follow after or lead immediately to an idea of a suggested solution. Nor should it do so, as Dewey himself recognized in describing the physician in Typhoid as avoiding any strong preference for this or that conclusion before getting further information (Dewey 1910: 85; 1933: 170). People with a hypothesis in mind, even one to which they have a very weak commitment, have a so-called “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998): they are likely to pay attention to evidence that confirms the hypothesis and to ignore evidence that counts against it or for some competing hypothesis. Detectives, intelligence agencies, and investigators of airplane accidents are well advised to gather relevant evidence systematically and to postpone even tentative adoption of an explanatory hypothesis until the collected evidence rules out with the appropriate degree of certainty all but one explanation. Dewey’s analysis of the critical thinking process can be faulted as well for requiring acceptance or rejection of a possible solution to a defined problem, with no allowance for deciding in the light of the available evidence to suspend judgment. Further, given the great variety of kinds of problems for which reflection is appropriate, there is likely to be variation in its component events. Perhaps the best way to conceptualize the critical thinking process is as a checklist whose component events can occur in a variety of orders, selectively, and more than once. These component events might include (1) noticing a difficulty, (2) defining the problem, (3) dividing the problem into manageable sub-problems, (4) formulating a variety of possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (5) determining what evidence is relevant to deciding among possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (6) devising a plan of systematic observation or experiment that will uncover the relevant evidence, (7) carrying out the plan of systematic observation or experimentation, (8) noting the results of the systematic observation or experiment, (9) gathering relevant testimony and information from others, (10) judging the credibility of testimony and information gathered from others, (11) drawing conclusions from gathered evidence and accepted testimony, and (12) accepting a solution that the evidence adequately supports (cf. Hitchcock 2017: 485).

Checklist conceptions of the process of critical thinking are open to the objection that they are too mechanical and procedural to fit the multi-dimensional and emotionally charged issues for which critical thinking is urgently needed (Paul 1984). For such issues, a more dialectical process is advocated, in which competing relevant world views are identified, their implications explored, and some sort of creative synthesis attempted.

If one considers the critical thinking process illustrated by the 11 examples, one can identify distinct kinds of mental acts and mental states that form part of it. To distinguish, label and briefly characterize these components is a useful preliminary to identifying abilities, skills, dispositions, attitudes, habits and the like that contribute causally to thinking critically. Identifying such abilities and habits is in turn a useful preliminary to setting educational goals. Setting the goals is in its turn a useful preliminary to designing strategies for helping learners to achieve the goals and to designing ways of measuring the extent to which learners have done so. Such measures provide both feedback to learners on their achievement and a basis for experimental research on the effectiveness of various strategies for educating people to think critically. Let us begin, then, by distinguishing the kinds of mental acts and mental events that can occur in a critical thinking process.

  • Observing : One notices something in one’s immediate environment (sudden cooling of temperature in Weather , bubbles forming outside a glass and then going inside in Bubbles , a moving blur in the distance in Blur , a rash in Rash ). Or one notes the results of an experiment or systematic observation (valuables missing in Disorder , no suction without air pressure in Suction pump )
  • Feeling : One feels puzzled or uncertain about something (how to get to an appointment on time in Transit , why the diamonds vary in spacing in Diamond ). One wants to resolve this perplexity. One feels satisfaction once one has worked out an answer (to take the subway express in Transit , diamonds closer when needed as a warning in Diamond ).
  • Wondering : One formulates a question to be addressed (why bubbles form outside a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , how suction pumps work in Suction pump , what caused the rash in Rash ).
  • Imagining : One thinks of possible answers (bus or subway or elevated in Transit , flagpole or ornament or wireless communication aid or direction indicator in Ferryboat , allergic reaction or heat rash in Rash ).
  • Inferring : One works out what would be the case if a possible answer were assumed (valuables missing if there has been a burglary in Disorder , earlier start to the rash if it is an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug in Rash ). Or one draws a conclusion once sufficient relevant evidence is gathered (take the subway in Transit , burglary in Disorder , discontinue blood pressure medication and new cream in Rash ).
  • Knowledge : One uses stored knowledge of the subject-matter to generate possible answers or to infer what would be expected on the assumption of a particular answer (knowledge of a city’s public transit system in Transit , of the requirements for a flagpole in Ferryboat , of Boyle’s law in Bubbles , of allergic reactions in Rash ).
  • Experimenting : One designs and carries out an experiment or a systematic observation to find out whether the results deduced from a possible answer will occur (looking at the location of the flagpole in relation to the pilot’s position in Ferryboat , putting an ice cube on top of a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , measuring the height to which a suction pump will draw water at different elevations in Suction pump , noticing the spacing of diamonds when movement to or from a diamond lane is allowed in Diamond ).
  • Consulting : One finds a source of information, gets the information from the source, and makes a judgment on whether to accept it. None of our 11 examples include searching for sources of information. In this respect they are unrepresentative, since most people nowadays have almost instant access to information relevant to answering any question, including many of those illustrated by the examples. However, Candidate includes the activities of extracting information from sources and evaluating its credibility.
  • Identifying and analyzing arguments : One notices an argument and works out its structure and content as a preliminary to evaluating its strength. This activity is central to Candidate . It is an important part of a critical thinking process in which one surveys arguments for various positions on an issue.
  • Judging : One makes a judgment on the basis of accumulated evidence and reasoning, such as the judgment in Ferryboat that the purpose of the pole is to provide direction to the pilot.
  • Deciding : One makes a decision on what to do or on what policy to adopt, as in the decision in Transit to take the subway.

By definition, a person who does something voluntarily is both willing and able to do that thing at that time. Both the willingness and the ability contribute causally to the person’s action, in the sense that the voluntary action would not occur if either (or both) of these were lacking. For example, suppose that one is standing with one’s arms at one’s sides and one voluntarily lifts one’s right arm to an extended horizontal position. One would not do so if one were unable to lift one’s arm, if for example one’s right side was paralyzed as the result of a stroke. Nor would one do so if one were unwilling to lift one’s arm, if for example one were participating in a street demonstration at which a white supremacist was urging the crowd to lift their right arm in a Nazi salute and one were unwilling to express support in this way for the racist Nazi ideology. The same analysis applies to a voluntary mental process of thinking critically. It requires both willingness and ability to think critically, including willingness and ability to perform each of the mental acts that compose the process and to coordinate those acts in a sequence that is directed at resolving the initiating perplexity.

Consider willingness first. We can identify causal contributors to willingness to think critically by considering factors that would cause a person who was able to think critically about an issue nevertheless not to do so (Hamby 2014). For each factor, the opposite condition thus contributes causally to willingness to think critically on a particular occasion. For example, people who habitually jump to conclusions without considering alternatives will not think critically about issues that arise, even if they have the required abilities. The contrary condition of willingness to suspend judgment is thus a causal contributor to thinking critically.

Now consider ability. In contrast to the ability to move one’s arm, which can be completely absent because a stroke has left the arm paralyzed, the ability to think critically is a developed ability, whose absence is not a complete absence of ability to think but absence of ability to think well. We can identify the ability to think well directly, in terms of the norms and standards for good thinking. In general, to be able do well the thinking activities that can be components of a critical thinking process, one needs to know the concepts and principles that characterize their good performance, to recognize in particular cases that the concepts and principles apply, and to apply them. The knowledge, recognition and application may be procedural rather than declarative. It may be domain-specific rather than widely applicable, and in either case may need subject-matter knowledge, sometimes of a deep kind.

Reflections of the sort illustrated by the previous two paragraphs have led scholars to identify the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a “critical thinker”, i.e., someone who thinks critically whenever it is appropriate to do so. We turn now to these three types of causal contributors to thinking critically. We start with dispositions, since arguably these are the most powerful contributors to being a critical thinker, can be fostered at an early stage of a child’s development, and are susceptible to general improvement (Glaser 1941: 175)

8. Critical Thinking Dispositions

Educational researchers use the term ‘dispositions’ broadly for the habits of mind and attitudes that contribute causally to being a critical thinker. Some writers (e.g., Paul & Elder 2006; Hamby 2014; Bailin & Battersby 2016a) propose to use the term ‘virtues’ for this dimension of a critical thinker. The virtues in question, although they are virtues of character, concern the person’s ways of thinking rather than the person’s ways of behaving towards others. They are not moral virtues but intellectual virtues, of the sort articulated by Zagzebski (1996) and discussed by Turri, Alfano, and Greco (2017).

On a realistic conception, thinking dispositions or intellectual virtues are real properties of thinkers. They are general tendencies, propensities, or inclinations to think in particular ways in particular circumstances, and can be genuinely explanatory (Siegel 1999). Sceptics argue that there is no evidence for a specific mental basis for the habits of mind that contribute to thinking critically, and that it is pedagogically misleading to posit such a basis (Bailin et al. 1999a). Whatever their status, critical thinking dispositions need motivation for their initial formation in a child—motivation that may be external or internal. As children develop, the force of habit will gradually become important in sustaining the disposition (Nieto & Valenzuela 2012). Mere force of habit, however, is unlikely to sustain critical thinking dispositions. Critical thinkers must value and enjoy using their knowledge and abilities to think things through for themselves. They must be committed to, and lovers of, inquiry.

A person may have a critical thinking disposition with respect to only some kinds of issues. For example, one could be open-minded about scientific issues but not about religious issues. Similarly, one could be confident in one’s ability to reason about the theological implications of the existence of evil in the world but not in one’s ability to reason about the best design for a guided ballistic missile.

Facione (1990a: 25) divides “affective dispositions” of critical thinking into approaches to life and living in general and approaches to specific issues, questions or problems. Adapting this distinction, one can usefully divide critical thinking dispositions into initiating dispositions (those that contribute causally to starting to think critically about an issue) and internal dispositions (those that contribute causally to doing a good job of thinking critically once one has started). The two categories are not mutually exclusive. For example, open-mindedness, in the sense of willingness to consider alternative points of view to one’s own, is both an initiating and an internal disposition.

Using the strategy of considering factors that would block people with the ability to think critically from doing so, we can identify as initiating dispositions for thinking critically attentiveness, a habit of inquiry, self-confidence, courage, open-mindedness, willingness to suspend judgment, trust in reason, wanting evidence for one’s beliefs, and seeking the truth. We consider briefly what each of these dispositions amounts to, in each case citing sources that acknowledge them.

  • Attentiveness : One will not think critically if one fails to recognize an issue that needs to be thought through. For example, the pedestrian in Weather would not have looked up if he had not noticed that the air was suddenly cooler. To be a critical thinker, then, one needs to be habitually attentive to one’s surroundings, noticing not only what one senses but also sources of perplexity in messages received and in one’s own beliefs and attitudes (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Habit of inquiry : Inquiry is effortful, and one needs an internal push to engage in it. For example, the student in Bubbles could easily have stopped at idle wondering about the cause of the bubbles rather than reasoning to a hypothesis, then designing and executing an experiment to test it. Thus willingness to think critically needs mental energy and initiative. What can supply that energy? Love of inquiry, or perhaps just a habit of inquiry. Hamby (2015) has argued that willingness to inquire is the central critical thinking virtue, one that encompasses all the others. It is recognized as a critical thinking disposition by Dewey (1910: 29; 1933: 35), Glaser (1941: 5), Ennis (1987: 12; 1991: 8), Facione (1990a: 25), Bailin et al. (1999b: 294), Halpern (1998: 452), and Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo (2001).
  • Self-confidence : Lack of confidence in one’s abilities can block critical thinking. For example, if the woman in Rash lacked confidence in her ability to figure things out for herself, she might just have assumed that the rash on her chest was the allergic reaction to her medication against which the pharmacist had warned her. Thus willingness to think critically requires confidence in one’s ability to inquire (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Courage : Fear of thinking for oneself can stop one from doing it. Thus willingness to think critically requires intellectual courage (Paul & Elder 2006: 16).
  • Open-mindedness : A dogmatic attitude will impede thinking critically. For example, a person who adheres rigidly to a “pro-choice” position on the issue of the legal status of induced abortion is likely to be unwilling to consider seriously the issue of when in its development an unborn child acquires a moral right to life. Thus willingness to think critically requires open-mindedness, in the sense of a willingness to examine questions to which one already accepts an answer but which further evidence or reasoning might cause one to answer differently (Dewey 1933; Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b; Halpern 1998, Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). Paul (1981) emphasizes open-mindedness about alternative world-views, and recommends a dialectical approach to integrating such views as central to what he calls “strong sense” critical thinking. In three studies, Haran, Ritov, & Mellers (2013) found that actively open-minded thinking, including “the tendency to weigh new evidence against a favored belief, to spend sufficient time on a problem before giving up, and to consider carefully the opinions of others in forming one’s own”, led study participants to acquire information and thus to make accurate estimations.
  • Willingness to suspend judgment : Premature closure on an initial solution will block critical thinking. Thus willingness to think critically requires a willingness to suspend judgment while alternatives are explored (Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Halpern 1998).
  • Trust in reason : Since distrust in the processes of reasoned inquiry will dissuade one from engaging in it, trust in them is an initiating critical thinking disposition (Facione 1990a, 25; Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001; Paul & Elder 2006). In reaction to an allegedly exclusive emphasis on reason in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, Thayer-Bacon (2000) argues that intuition, imagination, and emotion have important roles to play in an adequate conception of critical thinking that she calls “constructive thinking”. From her point of view, critical thinking requires trust not only in reason but also in intuition, imagination, and emotion.
  • Seeking the truth : If one does not care about the truth but is content to stick with one’s initial bias on an issue, then one will not think critically about it. Seeking the truth is thus an initiating critical thinking disposition (Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). A disposition to seek the truth is implicit in more specific critical thinking dispositions, such as trying to be well-informed, considering seriously points of view other than one’s own, looking for alternatives, suspending judgment when the evidence is insufficient, and adopting a position when the evidence supporting it is sufficient.

Some of the initiating dispositions, such as open-mindedness and willingness to suspend judgment, are also internal critical thinking dispositions, in the sense of mental habits or attitudes that contribute causally to doing a good job of critical thinking once one starts the process. But there are many other internal critical thinking dispositions. Some of them are parasitic on one’s conception of good thinking. For example, it is constitutive of good thinking about an issue to formulate the issue clearly and to maintain focus on it. For this purpose, one needs not only the corresponding ability but also the corresponding disposition. Ennis (1991: 8) describes it as the disposition “to determine and maintain focus on the conclusion or question”, Facione (1990a: 25) as “clarity in stating the question or concern”. Other internal dispositions are motivators to continue or adjust the critical thinking process, such as willingness to persist in a complex task and willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies in an attempt to self-correct (Halpern 1998: 452). For a list of identified internal critical thinking dispositions, see the Supplement on Internal Critical Thinking Dispositions .

Some theorists postulate skills, i.e., acquired abilities, as operative in critical thinking. It is not obvious, however, that a good mental act is the exercise of a generic acquired skill. Inferring an expected time of arrival, as in Transit , has some generic components but also uses non-generic subject-matter knowledge. Bailin et al. (1999a) argue against viewing critical thinking skills as generic and discrete, on the ground that skilled performance at a critical thinking task cannot be separated from knowledge of concepts and from domain-specific principles of good thinking. Talk of skills, they concede, is unproblematic if it means merely that a person with critical thinking skills is capable of intelligent performance.

Despite such scepticism, theorists of critical thinking have listed as general contributors to critical thinking what they variously call abilities (Glaser 1941; Ennis 1962, 1991), skills (Facione 1990a; Halpern 1998) or competencies (Fisher & Scriven 1997). Amalgamating these lists would produce a confusing and chaotic cornucopia of more than 50 possible educational objectives, with only partial overlap among them. It makes sense instead to try to understand the reasons for the multiplicity and diversity, and to make a selection according to one’s own reasons for singling out abilities to be developed in a critical thinking curriculum. Two reasons for diversity among lists of critical thinking abilities are the underlying conception of critical thinking and the envisaged educational level. Appraisal-only conceptions, for example, involve a different suite of abilities than constructive-only conceptions. Some lists, such as those in (Glaser 1941), are put forward as educational objectives for secondary school students, whereas others are proposed as objectives for college students (e.g., Facione 1990a).

The abilities described in the remaining paragraphs of this section emerge from reflection on the general abilities needed to do well the thinking activities identified in section 6 as components of the critical thinking process described in section 5 . The derivation of each collection of abilities is accompanied by citation of sources that list such abilities and of standardized tests that claim to test them.

Observational abilities : Careful and accurate observation sometimes requires specialist expertise and practice, as in the case of observing birds and observing accident scenes. However, there are general abilities of noticing what one’s senses are picking up from one’s environment and of being able to articulate clearly and accurately to oneself and others what one has observed. It helps in exercising them to be able to recognize and take into account factors that make one’s observation less trustworthy, such as prior framing of the situation, inadequate time, deficient senses, poor observation conditions, and the like. It helps as well to be skilled at taking steps to make one’s observation more trustworthy, such as moving closer to get a better look, measuring something three times and taking the average, and checking what one thinks one is observing with someone else who is in a good position to observe it. It also helps to be skilled at recognizing respects in which one’s report of one’s observation involves inference rather than direct observation, so that one can then consider whether the inference is justified. These abilities come into play as well when one thinks about whether and with what degree of confidence to accept an observation report, for example in the study of history or in a criminal investigation or in assessing news reports. Observational abilities show up in some lists of critical thinking abilities (Ennis 1962: 90; Facione 1990a: 16; Ennis 1991: 9). There are items testing a person’s ability to judge the credibility of observation reports in the Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, Levels X and Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). Norris and King (1983, 1985, 1990a, 1990b) is a test of ability to appraise observation reports.

Emotional abilities : The emotions that drive a critical thinking process are perplexity or puzzlement, a wish to resolve it, and satisfaction at achieving the desired resolution. Children experience these emotions at an early age, without being trained to do so. Education that takes critical thinking as a goal needs only to channel these emotions and to make sure not to stifle them. Collaborative critical thinking benefits from ability to recognize one’s own and others’ emotional commitments and reactions.

Questioning abilities : A critical thinking process needs transformation of an inchoate sense of perplexity into a clear question. Formulating a question well requires not building in questionable assumptions, not prejudging the issue, and using language that in context is unambiguous and precise enough (Ennis 1962: 97; 1991: 9).

Imaginative abilities : Thinking directed at finding the correct causal explanation of a general phenomenon or particular event requires an ability to imagine possible explanations. Thinking about what policy or plan of action to adopt requires generation of options and consideration of possible consequences of each option. Domain knowledge is required for such creative activity, but a general ability to imagine alternatives is helpful and can be nurtured so as to become easier, quicker, more extensive, and deeper (Dewey 1910: 34–39; 1933: 40–47). Facione (1990a) and Halpern (1998) include the ability to imagine alternatives as a critical thinking ability.

Inferential abilities : The ability to draw conclusions from given information, and to recognize with what degree of certainty one’s own or others’ conclusions follow, is universally recognized as a general critical thinking ability. All 11 examples in section 2 of this article include inferences, some from hypotheses or options (as in Transit , Ferryboat and Disorder ), others from something observed (as in Weather and Rash ). None of these inferences is formally valid. Rather, they are licensed by general, sometimes qualified substantive rules of inference (Toulmin 1958) that rest on domain knowledge—that a bus trip takes about the same time in each direction, that the terminal of a wireless telegraph would be located on the highest possible place, that sudden cooling is often followed by rain, that an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug generally shows up soon after one starts taking it. It is a matter of controversy to what extent the specialized ability to deduce conclusions from premisses using formal rules of inference is needed for critical thinking. Dewey (1933) locates logical forms in setting out the products of reflection rather than in the process of reflection. Ennis (1981a), on the other hand, maintains that a liberally-educated person should have the following abilities: to translate natural-language statements into statements using the standard logical operators, to use appropriately the language of necessary and sufficient conditions, to deal with argument forms and arguments containing symbols, to determine whether in virtue of an argument’s form its conclusion follows necessarily from its premisses, to reason with logically complex propositions, and to apply the rules and procedures of deductive logic. Inferential abilities are recognized as critical thinking abilities by Glaser (1941: 6), Facione (1990a: 9), Ennis (1991: 9), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 99, 111), and Halpern (1998: 452). Items testing inferential abilities constitute two of the five subtests of the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (Watson & Glaser 1980a, 1980b, 1994), two of the four sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), three of the seven sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), 11 of the 34 items on Forms A and B of the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992), and a high but variable proportion of the 25 selected-response questions in the Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Experimenting abilities : Knowing how to design and execute an experiment is important not just in scientific research but also in everyday life, as in Rash . Dewey devoted a whole chapter of his How We Think (1910: 145–156; 1933: 190–202) to the superiority of experimentation over observation in advancing knowledge. Experimenting abilities come into play at one remove in appraising reports of scientific studies. Skill in designing and executing experiments includes the acknowledged abilities to appraise evidence (Glaser 1941: 6), to carry out experiments and to apply appropriate statistical inference techniques (Facione 1990a: 9), to judge inductions to an explanatory hypothesis (Ennis 1991: 9), and to recognize the need for an adequately large sample size (Halpern 1998). The Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) includes four items (out of 52) on experimental design. The Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) makes room for appraisal of study design in both its performance task and its selected-response questions.

Consulting abilities : Skill at consulting sources of information comes into play when one seeks information to help resolve a problem, as in Candidate . Ability to find and appraise information includes ability to gather and marshal pertinent information (Glaser 1941: 6), to judge whether a statement made by an alleged authority is acceptable (Ennis 1962: 84), to plan a search for desired information (Facione 1990a: 9), and to judge the credibility of a source (Ennis 1991: 9). Ability to judge the credibility of statements is tested by 24 items (out of 76) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) and by four items (out of 52) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). The College Learning Assessment’s performance task requires evaluation of whether information in documents is credible or unreliable (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Argument analysis abilities : The ability to identify and analyze arguments contributes to the process of surveying arguments on an issue in order to form one’s own reasoned judgment, as in Candidate . The ability to detect and analyze arguments is recognized as a critical thinking skill by Facione (1990a: 7–8), Ennis (1991: 9) and Halpern (1998). Five items (out of 34) on the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992) test skill at argument analysis. The College Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) incorporates argument analysis in its selected-response tests of critical reading and evaluation and of critiquing an argument.

Judging skills and deciding skills : Skill at judging and deciding is skill at recognizing what judgment or decision the available evidence and argument supports, and with what degree of confidence. It is thus a component of the inferential skills already discussed.

Lists and tests of critical thinking abilities often include two more abilities: identifying assumptions and constructing and evaluating definitions.

In addition to dispositions and abilities, critical thinking needs knowledge: of critical thinking concepts, of critical thinking principles, and of the subject-matter of the thinking.

We can derive a short list of concepts whose understanding contributes to critical thinking from the critical thinking abilities described in the preceding section. Observational abilities require an understanding of the difference between observation and inference. Questioning abilities require an understanding of the concepts of ambiguity and vagueness. Inferential abilities require an understanding of the difference between conclusive and defeasible inference (traditionally, between deduction and induction), as well as of the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Experimenting abilities require an understanding of the concepts of hypothesis, null hypothesis, assumption and prediction, as well as of the concept of statistical significance and of its difference from importance. They also require an understanding of the difference between an experiment and an observational study, and in particular of the difference between a randomized controlled trial, a prospective correlational study and a retrospective (case-control) study. Argument analysis abilities require an understanding of the concepts of argument, premiss, assumption, conclusion and counter-consideration. Additional critical thinking concepts are proposed by Bailin et al. (1999b: 293), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 105–106), Black (2012), and Blair (2021).

According to Glaser (1941: 25), ability to think critically requires knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning. If we review the list of abilities in the preceding section, however, we can see that some of them can be acquired and exercised merely through practice, possibly guided in an educational setting, followed by feedback. Searching intelligently for a causal explanation of some phenomenon or event requires that one consider a full range of possible causal contributors, but it seems more important that one implements this principle in one’s practice than that one is able to articulate it. What is important is “operational knowledge” of the standards and principles of good thinking (Bailin et al. 1999b: 291–293). But the development of such critical thinking abilities as designing an experiment or constructing an operational definition can benefit from learning their underlying theory. Further, explicit knowledge of quirks of human thinking seems useful as a cautionary guide. Human memory is not just fallible about details, as people learn from their own experiences of misremembering, but is so malleable that a detailed, clear and vivid recollection of an event can be a total fabrication (Loftus 2017). People seek or interpret evidence in ways that are partial to their existing beliefs and expectations, often unconscious of their “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998). Not only are people subject to this and other cognitive biases (Kahneman 2011), of which they are typically unaware, but it may be counter-productive for one to make oneself aware of them and try consciously to counteract them or to counteract social biases such as racial or sexual stereotypes (Kenyon & Beaulac 2014). It is helpful to be aware of these facts and of the superior effectiveness of blocking the operation of biases—for example, by making an immediate record of one’s observations, refraining from forming a preliminary explanatory hypothesis, blind refereeing, double-blind randomized trials, and blind grading of students’ work. It is also helpful to be aware of the prevalence of “noise” (unwanted unsystematic variability of judgments), of how to detect noise (through a noise audit), and of how to reduce noise: make accuracy the goal, think statistically, break a process of arriving at a judgment into independent tasks, resist premature intuitions, in a group get independent judgments first, favour comparative judgments and scales (Kahneman, Sibony, & Sunstein 2021). It is helpful as well to be aware of the concept of “bounded rationality” in decision-making and of the related distinction between “satisficing” and optimizing (Simon 1956; Gigerenzer 2001).

Critical thinking about an issue requires substantive knowledge of the domain to which the issue belongs. Critical thinking abilities are not a magic elixir that can be applied to any issue whatever by somebody who has no knowledge of the facts relevant to exploring that issue. For example, the student in Bubbles needed to know that gases do not penetrate solid objects like a glass, that air expands when heated, that the volume of an enclosed gas varies directly with its temperature and inversely with its pressure, and that hot objects will spontaneously cool down to the ambient temperature of their surroundings unless kept hot by insulation or a source of heat. Critical thinkers thus need a rich fund of subject-matter knowledge relevant to the variety of situations they encounter. This fact is recognized in the inclusion among critical thinking dispositions of a concern to become and remain generally well informed.

Experimental educational interventions, with control groups, have shown that education can improve critical thinking skills and dispositions, as measured by standardized tests. For information about these tests, see the Supplement on Assessment .

What educational methods are most effective at developing the dispositions, abilities and knowledge of a critical thinker? In a comprehensive meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies of strategies for teaching students to think critically, Abrami et al. (2015) found that dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring each increased the effectiveness of the educational intervention, and that they were most effective when combined. They also found that in these studies a combination of separate instruction in critical thinking with subject-matter instruction in which students are encouraged to think critically was more effective than either by itself. However, the difference was not statistically significant; that is, it might have arisen by chance.

Most of these studies lack the longitudinal follow-up required to determine whether the observed differential improvements in critical thinking abilities or dispositions continue over time, for example until high school or college graduation. For details on studies of methods of developing critical thinking skills and dispositions, see the Supplement on Educational Methods .

12. Controversies

Scholars have denied the generalizability of critical thinking abilities across subject domains, have alleged bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, and have investigated the relationship of critical thinking to other kinds of thinking.

McPeck (1981) attacked the thinking skills movement of the 1970s, including the critical thinking movement. He argued that there are no general thinking skills, since thinking is always thinking about some subject-matter. It is futile, he claimed, for schools and colleges to teach thinking as if it were a separate subject. Rather, teachers should lead their pupils to become autonomous thinkers by teaching school subjects in a way that brings out their cognitive structure and that encourages and rewards discussion and argument. As some of his critics (e.g., Paul 1985; Siegel 1985) pointed out, McPeck’s central argument needs elaboration, since it has obvious counter-examples in writing and speaking, for which (up to a certain level of complexity) there are teachable general abilities even though they are always about some subject-matter. To make his argument convincing, McPeck needs to explain how thinking differs from writing and speaking in a way that does not permit useful abstraction of its components from the subject-matters with which it deals. He has not done so. Nevertheless, his position that the dispositions and abilities of a critical thinker are best developed in the context of subject-matter instruction is shared by many theorists of critical thinking, including Dewey (1910, 1933), Glaser (1941), Passmore (1980), Weinstein (1990), Bailin et al. (1999b), and Willingham (2019).

McPeck’s challenge prompted reflection on the extent to which critical thinking is subject-specific. McPeck argued for a strong subject-specificity thesis, according to which it is a conceptual truth that all critical thinking abilities are specific to a subject. (He did not however extend his subject-specificity thesis to critical thinking dispositions. In particular, he took the disposition to suspend judgment in situations of cognitive dissonance to be a general disposition.) Conceptual subject-specificity is subject to obvious counter-examples, such as the general ability to recognize confusion of necessary and sufficient conditions. A more modest thesis, also endorsed by McPeck, is epistemological subject-specificity, according to which the norms of good thinking vary from one field to another. Epistemological subject-specificity clearly holds to a certain extent; for example, the principles in accordance with which one solves a differential equation are quite different from the principles in accordance with which one determines whether a painting is a genuine Picasso. But the thesis suffers, as Ennis (1989) points out, from vagueness of the concept of a field or subject and from the obvious existence of inter-field principles, however broadly the concept of a field is construed. For example, the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning hold for all the varied fields in which such reasoning occurs. A third kind of subject-specificity is empirical subject-specificity, according to which as a matter of empirically observable fact a person with the abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker in one area of investigation will not necessarily have them in another area of investigation.

The thesis of empirical subject-specificity raises the general problem of transfer. If critical thinking abilities and dispositions have to be developed independently in each school subject, how are they of any use in dealing with the problems of everyday life and the political and social issues of contemporary society, most of which do not fit into the framework of a traditional school subject? Proponents of empirical subject-specificity tend to argue that transfer is more likely to occur if there is critical thinking instruction in a variety of domains, with explicit attention to dispositions and abilities that cut across domains. But evidence for this claim is scanty. There is a need for well-designed empirical studies that investigate the conditions that make transfer more likely.

It is common ground in debates about the generality or subject-specificity of critical thinking dispositions and abilities that critical thinking about any topic requires background knowledge about the topic. For example, the most sophisticated understanding of the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning is of no help unless accompanied by some knowledge of what might be plausible explanations of some phenomenon under investigation.

Critics have objected to bias in the theory, pedagogy and practice of critical thinking. Commentators (e.g., Alston 1995; Ennis 1998) have noted that anyone who takes a position has a bias in the neutral sense of being inclined in one direction rather than others. The critics, however, are objecting to bias in the pejorative sense of an unjustified favoring of certain ways of knowing over others, frequently alleging that the unjustly favoured ways are those of a dominant sex or culture (Bailin 1995). These ways favour:

  • reinforcement of egocentric and sociocentric biases over dialectical engagement with opposing world-views (Paul 1981, 1984; Warren 1998)
  • distancing from the object of inquiry over closeness to it (Martin 1992; Thayer-Bacon 1992)
  • indifference to the situation of others over care for them (Martin 1992)
  • orientation to thought over orientation to action (Martin 1992)
  • being reasonable over caring to understand people’s ideas (Thayer-Bacon 1993)
  • being neutral and objective over being embodied and situated (Thayer-Bacon 1995a)
  • doubting over believing (Thayer-Bacon 1995b)
  • reason over emotion, imagination and intuition (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • solitary thinking over collaborative thinking (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • written and spoken assignments over other forms of expression (Alston 2001)
  • attention to written and spoken communications over attention to human problems (Alston 2001)
  • winning debates in the public sphere over making and understanding meaning (Alston 2001)

A common thread in this smorgasbord of accusations is dissatisfaction with focusing on the logical analysis and evaluation of reasoning and arguments. While these authors acknowledge that such analysis and evaluation is part of critical thinking and should be part of its conceptualization and pedagogy, they insist that it is only a part. Paul (1981), for example, bemoans the tendency of atomistic teaching of methods of analyzing and evaluating arguments to turn students into more able sophists, adept at finding fault with positions and arguments with which they disagree but even more entrenched in the egocentric and sociocentric biases with which they began. Martin (1992) and Thayer-Bacon (1992) cite with approval the self-reported intimacy with their subject-matter of leading researchers in biology and medicine, an intimacy that conflicts with the distancing allegedly recommended in standard conceptions and pedagogy of critical thinking. Thayer-Bacon (2000) contrasts the embodied and socially embedded learning of her elementary school students in a Montessori school, who used their imagination, intuition and emotions as well as their reason, with conceptions of critical thinking as

thinking that is used to critique arguments, offer justifications, and make judgments about what are the good reasons, or the right answers. (Thayer-Bacon 2000: 127–128)

Alston (2001) reports that her students in a women’s studies class were able to see the flaws in the Cinderella myth that pervades much romantic fiction but in their own romantic relationships still acted as if all failures were the woman’s fault and still accepted the notions of love at first sight and living happily ever after. Students, she writes, should

be able to connect their intellectual critique to a more affective, somatic, and ethical account of making risky choices that have sexist, racist, classist, familial, sexual, or other consequences for themselves and those both near and far… critical thinking that reads arguments, texts, or practices merely on the surface without connections to feeling/desiring/doing or action lacks an ethical depth that should infuse the difference between mere cognitive activity and something we want to call critical thinking. (Alston 2001: 34)

Some critics portray such biases as unfair to women. Thayer-Bacon (1992), for example, has charged modern critical thinking theory with being sexist, on the ground that it separates the self from the object and causes one to lose touch with one’s inner voice, and thus stigmatizes women, who (she asserts) link self to object and listen to their inner voice. Her charge does not imply that women as a group are on average less able than men to analyze and evaluate arguments. Facione (1990c) found no difference by sex in performance on his California Critical Thinking Skills Test. Kuhn (1991: 280–281) found no difference by sex in either the disposition or the competence to engage in argumentative thinking.

The critics propose a variety of remedies for the biases that they allege. In general, they do not propose to eliminate or downplay critical thinking as an educational goal. Rather, they propose to conceptualize critical thinking differently and to change its pedagogy accordingly. Their pedagogical proposals arise logically from their objections. They can be summarized as follows:

  • Focus on argument networks with dialectical exchanges reflecting contesting points of view rather than on atomic arguments, so as to develop “strong sense” critical thinking that transcends egocentric and sociocentric biases (Paul 1981, 1984).
  • Foster closeness to the subject-matter and feeling connected to others in order to inform a humane democracy (Martin 1992).
  • Develop “constructive thinking” as a social activity in a community of physically embodied and socially embedded inquirers with personal voices who value not only reason but also imagination, intuition and emotion (Thayer-Bacon 2000).
  • In developing critical thinking in school subjects, treat as important neither skills nor dispositions but opening worlds of meaning (Alston 2001).
  • Attend to the development of critical thinking dispositions as well as skills, and adopt the “critical pedagogy” practised and advocated by Freire (1968 [1970]) and hooks (1994) (Dalgleish, Girard, & Davies 2017).

A common thread in these proposals is treatment of critical thinking as a social, interactive, personally engaged activity like that of a quilting bee or a barn-raising (Thayer-Bacon 2000) rather than as an individual, solitary, distanced activity symbolized by Rodin’s The Thinker . One can get a vivid description of education with the former type of goal from the writings of bell hooks (1994, 2010). Critical thinking for her is open-minded dialectical exchange across opposing standpoints and from multiple perspectives, a conception similar to Paul’s “strong sense” critical thinking (Paul 1981). She abandons the structure of domination in the traditional classroom. In an introductory course on black women writers, for example, she assigns students to write an autobiographical paragraph about an early racial memory, then to read it aloud as the others listen, thus affirming the uniqueness and value of each voice and creating a communal awareness of the diversity of the group’s experiences (hooks 1994: 84). Her “engaged pedagogy” is thus similar to the “freedom under guidance” implemented in John Dewey’s Laboratory School of Chicago in the late 1890s and early 1900s. It incorporates the dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring that Abrami (2015) found to be most effective in improving critical thinking skills and dispositions.

What is the relationship of critical thinking to problem solving, decision-making, higher-order thinking, creative thinking, and other recognized types of thinking? One’s answer to this question obviously depends on how one defines the terms used in the question. If critical thinking is conceived broadly to cover any careful thinking about any topic for any purpose, then problem solving and decision making will be kinds of critical thinking, if they are done carefully. Historically, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’ were two names for the same thing. If critical thinking is conceived more narrowly as consisting solely of appraisal of intellectual products, then it will be disjoint with problem solving and decision making, which are constructive.

Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives used the phrase “intellectual abilities and skills” for what had been labeled “critical thinking” by some, “reflective thinking” by Dewey and others, and “problem solving” by still others (Bloom et al. 1956: 38). Thus, the so-called “higher-order thinking skills” at the taxonomy’s top levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation are just critical thinking skills, although they do not come with general criteria for their assessment (Ennis 1981b). The revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2001) likewise treats critical thinking as cutting across those types of cognitive process that involve more than remembering (Anderson et al. 2001: 269–270). For details, see the Supplement on History .

As to creative thinking, it overlaps with critical thinking (Bailin 1987, 1988). Thinking about the explanation of some phenomenon or event, as in Ferryboat , requires creative imagination in constructing plausible explanatory hypotheses. Likewise, thinking about a policy question, as in Candidate , requires creativity in coming up with options. Conversely, creativity in any field needs to be balanced by critical appraisal of the draft painting or novel or mathematical theory.

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  • Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking (AILACT)
  • Critical Thinking Across the European Higher Education Curricula (CRITHINKEDU)
  • Critical Thinking Definition, Instruction, and Assessment: A Rigorous Approach
  • Critical Thinking Research (RAIL)
  • Foundation for Critical Thinking
  • Insight Assessment
  • Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21)
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  • The Nature of Critical Thinking: An Outline of Critical Thinking Dispositions and Abilities , by Robert H. Ennis

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critical thinking checklist

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Bring the spirit of exploration to your classroom.

critical thinking checklist

Ultimate Critical Thinking Cheat Sheet

critical thinking checklist

18 thoughts on “ Ultimate Critical Thinking Cheat Sheet ”

Can I use this for company training? Is there a purchase/copyright.

Hi, Dale: You will need to contact the Global Digital Citizen Foundation to request permission to use this resource.

#hi, where can i get a chart?

Hi, Alma! The good folks at the Global Digital Citizen Foundation can help you here: https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/critical-thinking-skills-cheatsheet-infographic

Where is the actual critical aspect of the “thinking”? I would want to see, “What are the premises of the argument? Are they actually true? What evidence supports it and contradicts it? What other explanations might cause that result? What would be the result of the intervention? Does the proposed intervention actually address the problem identified? Is the problem identified the right problem?”

Thank you, PaulR! The fact that these basic rhetorical questions are missing from this infographic illustrates what is wrong with our current methods of “debate” on issues from climate change to healthcare.

Great post. Thanks

Excellent. Useful for the classroom.

Go to the previous page where you saw this graphic. There is a link above it that will allow you to download it.

I want to purchase

https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/critical-thinking-skills-cheatsheet-infographic

How may I obtain a copy? Thanks.

I’m interested in a copy too.

I’d like to get one too. How can one be purchased? Thank you

Is this a poster that can be purchased? How can I get a copy?

I would appreciate to know if someone have translated that Cheatsheet in French language

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Critical thinking is the one skillset you can't afford not to master

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What is critical thinking?

5 characteristics of critical thinking, what are critical thinking skills, and why are they important, 6 key critical thinking skills, critical thinking example in real-life, 13 ways to start thinking critically.

Whether you’re aiming to improve your performance at work or simply trying to live a more fulfilling life , you’ll need a variety of hard and soft skills to move the needle. Some skills come naturally to some people, while others need to develop them actively.

One of these skills is critical thinking. But critical thinking itself is made up of several types of skills that contribute to solving problems more effectively.

Let’s explore the different types of critical thinking skills and how you can start improving them to level up your career.

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze facts objectively and form a judgment. It is a form of emotional intelligence .

Someone with critical thinking skills can think clearly and rationally when the situation demands it. It allows them to perform problem-solving and decision-making more effectively. 

As a result, you can look further than what you see at face value. You’re able to analyze what you see from a situation and gain some insight that goes further than what’s obvious to anyone from the outside.

Critical thinking also requires being able to understand the logical connection between two or more ideas or concepts. For example, a team working on a company’s pricing strategy needs to think critically about several concepts. 

Both the marketing and sales teams must work together. They need to analyze how to maximize sales. But they need to do so while also meeting profit goals. It’s important to understand the logical connection between sales strategy and marketing logistics. It’s the only way to get a good outcome.

Critical thinking is different from creative thinking . Creative thinking is the ability to generate brand new, innovative ideas. On the other hand, critical thinking requires you to carefully and logically analyze what information is given to you. Both are important to maximize results in any given situation.

woman-sitting-and-thinking-critical-thinking-skills

What defines critical thinking? How does it affect the decision-making process? Here are five characteristics that make up the ability to think critically.

1. Dispositions

Critical thinkers have specific traits that allow them to think the way they do. Some people are predisposed to these traits, while others need to develop them actively.

Some of these dispositions include:

  • Open-mindedness
  • Respecting evidence and reasoning
  • Being able to consider different perspectives and points of view: in other words, having cognitive flexibility
  • Not being stuck in one position
  • Clarity and precision

2. Argument

Good critical thinkers need to make solid arguments. 

An argument is making a statement aided by supporting evidence. It’s important to use well thought-out arguments when you’re in a constructive conflict . When analyzing a situation critically, you’ll need to make several arguments in your own mind to come to a judgment. 

3. Reasoning

In addition to arguments, critical thinking also requires inferring conclusions. From the facts and arguments presented to you, you need to use reasoning skills to come to a logical conclusion. 

This conclusion will determine the best course of action to take.

woman-thinking-at-computer-critical-thinking-skills

4. Criteria

Critical thinking is sometimes a matter of discerning truth from fiction. Not all facts presented to you may have the same level of truth. Certain conditions need to be met for something to be considered believable, and a critical thinker needs to be able to understand that.

5. Metacognition

Metacognition is the ability to think about your own thinking. Critical thinkers should be able to analyze their thoughts so that they can judge whether or not they’ve thought everything through. This helps them come up with better hypotheses.

The critical thinking skills definition is: soft skills that help you in the critical thinking process. Developing these skills can improve your ability to think critically.

Critical thinking skills are considered one of many durable skills in the workplace . Many of these are soft skills that are also useful in other situations.

According to research by America Succeeds, critical thinking is in the top five most requested durable skills in job postings. Those top five durable skills get requested 2.6x more often than the top five hard skills. This goes to show that soft skills like critical thinking skills are in demand in the workplace.

Critical thinking skills are important for several reasons. These include helping you work independently and solve problems . Not all positions require ongoing critical thinking. But, those skills definitely matter to anyone who wants to uplevel their career. And even the most easygoing positions require at least some level of critical thinking skills.

For example, working as an accountant can be straightforward in most cases. But it may require critical thinking skills. For instance, what if certain expenses aren’t easily distributed in simple categories? Without critical thinking skills, an accountant will struggle to work independently and solve problems on their own.

Critical thinking abilities also matter in everyday life. Having a foundation for critical thinking can help you analyze several possible solutions for problems that pop up in the home. It can also help you:

  • Analyze different viewpoints
  • Come up with the best solution for complex problems
  • Become a better learner

The key critical thinking skills are identifying biases, inference, research, identification, curiosity, and judging relevance.

Let’s explore these six critical thinking skills you should learn and why they’re so important to the critical thinking process.

1. Identifying biases

This critical thinking skill is necessary for metacognition, which is the fifth characteristic of critical thinking. It involves knowing when others have a cognitive bias and when you have one yourself.

Biases can influence how someone understands the facts presented to them. But when you’re aware of those biases, you can question yourself on those biases and consider other points of view.

Identifying biases is especially important for people who make hiring decisions. That’s because biases against groups of minorities can lead to inequalities in the workplace when not identified. 

For example, imagine a hiring manager comparing two resumes. Their gut feeling could guide them to discount one of the resumes due to a bias against the opposite gender. But let’s say this hiring manager realizes they have this bias. They can then question themselves on whether or not this bias is influencing their judgment. 

2. Inference

Inference is the ability to draw conclusions based on the information you have. Without inference, it can be difficult to take action once you’ve analyzed the facts presented to you. Processing information is key to coming up with a reasoned judgment.

For example, let’s go back to the accountant struggling to assign the correct category to a business expense. They can analyze other similar situations and infer the most logical category based on that information.

3. Research

Before you analyze facts and infer a conclusion, you need to find out what those facts are. Researching skills allow you to discover facts and figures to make an argument.

Not all situations will have the required information available to you. Researching skills are necessary to dig into a situation and gather the information you need to think critically.

Some situations don’t require further research. For example, a first responder who arrives on the scene of an automobile accident won’t perform further research. They’ll have to analyze what they see in front of them and decide which injuries are the most urgent to care for. 

On the other hand, someone performing a market analysis will need to research competitors and gather information before coming up with an opinion. 

4. Identification

Identification is different from inference and research. It involves being able to identify a problem but also what’s influencing that problem.

In short, identification is necessary for someone to realize that they need to think critically about something. Without proper identification skills, it will be difficult for someone to know when it’s time to analyze a situation. 

For example, let’s say you’re entering numbers in a spreadsheet. The numbers aren’t coming out as they usually do. Without identification skills, you could easily keep going without realizing there’s an issue. But when you identify what’s going on, you can see that something is broken in the spreadsheet’s formula.

Only once you identify the fact that the formula is broken can you start analyzing what’s going on to solve the issue.

5. Curiosity

Don’t be afraid to question everything and explore what you’re curious about. That’s because intellectual curiosity is a valuable skill, especially when it comes to critical thinking.

One way to practice curiosity is to adopt a beginner’s mindset . When you come into every situation with the mindset of a beginner, you’re able to keep an open mind. You’ll be able to perceive things you may not have noticed when keeping your mind closed.

6. Judging relevance

Not all information is equally pertinent. In order to make a critical judgment, it’s important to be able to judge the relevance of the information you have.

Take, for instance, basic online researching skills. You have access to a plethora of information on virtually every topic imaginable. But performing online research requires you to constantly judge the relevance of what you see. 

Without judging relevance, you’d spend too much time on details that don’t matter as much for the final desired outcome. But when you’re able to discern what’s most pertinent, you can give that information more weight as you’re thinking critically.

middle-aged-woman-at-computer-critical-thinking-skills

So what would critical thinking skills look like in a real-life situation?

Let’s imagine you’re working in software quality assurance (QA) as a team lead. But every time your team needs to enter bug regression, everyone gets bottlenecked because you must manually populate the spreadsheet used for the regression. While you do this task, your team cannot be productive without you.

This process happens once a week and easily wastes half an hour for each team member.

First, you must identify what’s going on. The team gets bottlenecked because only you, as the team lead, can access the information required to fill in the regression spreadsheet.

Next, you can research information. You can inquire to higher-ups about the reason why only you have access to this information. You can also speak to other teams about what potential solutions they’ve come up with to solve this problem.

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to analyze the information and judge relevance. Some teams have solutions that don’t apply to you, so that information isn’t relevant anymore. 

Figure out if there are any personal biases before you analyze your information. 

For example, it’s possible that you don’t get along with one of the other team leads. As a result, you could discount the information they’ve given you. But by identifying this bias, you can look past your personal opinion of this person and see how valuable their solution is.

Based on what you’ve analyzed, it’s time to brainstorm and come up with a solution. You realize that creating a simple, automated script will save your team’s time. And it will do so without consuming too many resources from the engineering department.

Next, present your solution to your manager. Explain how you came to this conclusion. 

Now, let’s say your spreadsheet automation solution is approved. It’s important to go back and analyze what happens after implementing the solution. But only do this once the spreadsheet has been in place for long enough to gather plenty of information. 

Here’s an example. You could realize that the solution did solve the bottleneck. But, the script also slows down the spreadsheet and makes it difficult to work with. This would require you to go back to the drawing board and start the process all over again.

Want to start improving your own critical thinking skill sets? Here’s how you can improve critical thinking skills using 13 techniques:

  • Play games that require critical thinking skills
  • Ask more questions, even basic ones
  • Question your assumptions
  • Develop your technical skills so that you can identify problems more easily
  • Find ways to solve more problems (at work and at home)
  • Become aware of your mental processes, like the availability heuristic
  • Think for yourself: don’t adopt other people’s opinions without questioning them first
  • Seek out diversity of thought
  • Start developing foresight
  • Try active listening
  • Weigh the consequences of different actions before you act
  • Seek a mentor who can help you develop these skills
  • Get professional coaching

young-woman-using-phone-and-laptop-critical-thinking-skills

How to improve your critical thinking skills 

Critical thinking skills aren’t always easy to develop. But it’s much easier to start thinking critically when you have someone to work with. Try a custom BetterUp demo to see how a coach can help you develop your critical thinking skills today.

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Maggie Wooll, MBA

Maggie Wooll is a researcher, author, and speaker focused on the evolving future of work. Formerly the lead researcher at the Deloitte Center for the Edge, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Princeton University and an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Maggie is passionate about creating better work and greater opportunities for all.

How to develop critical thinking skills

Why self-management is key to success and how to improve yours, what’s convergent thinking how to be a better problem-solver, the most critical skills for leaders are fundamentally human, the new skill set needed to succeed in the hybrid workplace, how intrapersonal skills shape teams, plus 5 ways to build them, how to be optimistic, building strength for tomorrow: new president of betterup care™ on extending proactive mental health across the enterprise, the 5 business communication skills worth perfecting, similar articles, what is lateral thinking 7 techniques to encourage creative ideas, 9 cognitive skill examples and how to improve them, how to pitch ideas: 8 tips to captivate any audience, what is creative thinking and why does it matter, what are analytical skills examples and how to level up, how divergent thinking can drive your creativity, how the minto pyramid principle can enhance your communication skills, discover 5 decision models and when to use them, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..

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Checklist for Critical Thinking

Tool: Checklist for Critical Thinking

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This checklist identifies some of the specific behaviors of critical thinking and can assist educators in assessing themselves and their work.

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  • Section 2. Thinking Critically

Chapter 17 Sections

  • Section 1. An Introduction to the Problem-Solving Process
  • Section 3. Defining and Analyzing the Problem
  • Section 4. Analyzing Root Causes of Problems: The "But Why?" Technique
  • Section 5. Addressing Social Determinants of Health and Development
  • Section 6. Generating and Choosing Solutions
  • Section 7. Putting Your Solution into Practice
  • Main Section

What is critical thinking?

___You know that critical thinking is the process of examining, analyzing, questioning, and challenging situations, issues and information of all kinds.

___You know the elements of critical thinking:

  • Problem/goal identification
  • Exploration
  • Repeat the process

___You know the goals of critical thinking:

  • Finding the truth
  • Considering the context
  • Understanding assumptions
  • Creating alternative approaches

Why is critical thinking important?

You understand that:

___It identifies bias

___It's oriented toward the problem, issue, or situation that you're addressing

___It brings in other necessary factors

___It considers both the simplicity and the complexity of its object

___It gives you the most nearly accurate view of reality

___It is most likely to get you the results you want

Who can (and should) learn to think critically?

___You know that most people can and should learn to think critically

___You know that the many adults who have the capacity for critical thinking, but who haven't been taught and lack the experiences to learn on their own are both most in need of, and most receptive to, learning critical thinking.

How to help others learn to think critically

___You know that learning critical thinking is an irreversible, often frightening process that requires support.

___You understand how to be a facilitator of critical thinking:

  • Affirm learners' self-worth
  • Listen attentively to learners
  • Show your support for critical thinking efforts
  • Reflect and mirror learners' ideas and actions
  • Motivate people to think critically, but help them to understand when it's appropriate to voice critical ideas and when it's not.
  • Regularly evaluate progress with learners
  • Be a critical teacher
  • Make people aware of how they learn critical thinking
  • Model critical thinking

___You know how to encourage the critical stance (i.e. applying critical thinking to whatever you encounter):

  • Help learners recognize and examine their own assumptions
  • Examine information for accuracy, assumptions, biases, or specific interests
  • Consider the context of what you're looking at

___You know how to facilitate problem solving using critical thinking

  • Identify the assumptions behind the problem
  • Challenge those assumptions
  • Imagine alternatives to what you started with
  • Critique those alternatives
  • Reframe the problem and solution

More From Forbes

3 critical thinking skills you need in 2024.

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Critical thinking skills help you improve diversity and inclusion within your team

In 2018, a Hart survey revealed that out of over 500 business executives interviewed, 78% agreed that critical thinking is the most essential skill they desire to see demonstrated in their employees. However, astonishingly, a mere 34% of college graduates were equipped with this in-demand skill.

Today, critical thinking remains one of the most essential skill sets you need to succeed in today's workforce and experience a thriving career. The World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs 2023 report confirmed just how essential critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills are in 2024, placing this skill set at the top of its list.

In an earlier report from the Forum, it most notably pointed out:

“Skills gaps continue to be high as in-demand skills across jobs change in the next five years. The top skills and skill groups which employers see as rising in prominence in the lead up to 2025, include groups such as critical thinking and analysis as well as problem-solving."

This is hardly surprising, given the fact that we continue to be bombarded with the spread of misinformation everyday, from social media, to conspiracy groups, to the prevalent usage of AI which can generate misleading and potentially harmful information if not developed and used ethically. This makes it of the utmost important that we take deliberate effort to develop the habit of critically analysis, everything instead of taking at face value and accepting things for what they are.

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Through developing critical thinking skills, you can prevent the advancement of misinformation, become a trusted an reliable source within your network and industry, and gain access to exciting career opportunities including promotions.

But how can you develop critical thinking and analysis skills?

First, let's unpack what critical thinking actually is.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking, in simple terms, is the process of objectively analyzing data, and using your reflections and observations from multiple sources to arrive at conclusions, decisions, or judgements.

What Are Some Critical Thinking Skills?

To develop critical thinking for your career success, consider building the following skills:

1. Curiosity

Innovation comes through being curious enough to keep probing and digging for information. Challenge your own assumptions, and those of others. As you do this, you will notice that it will help pave the way for the removal of unconscious bias within the workplace. When never you do receive information, regardless of the source or format, seek clarification before accepting it as fact.

2. Evaluation

To evaluate others' conclusions and supporting arguments, research their background, credentials, reputation, possible influencing factors, and experience. This will help you assess just how reliable, relevant, and credible they are.

3. Diversity

Last but not least, it's essential to keep an open mind to a wide variety of sources. The greater the variety, the higher the quality of your conclusion. For example, as a leader or manager, you should seek to foster inclusivity and diversity within your team by creating processes whereby all team members can feel involved in your decision-making or policy creation process.

This helps to ensure that the final solution is reflective of those it is intended to serve and is well adapted to everyone's needs and preferences.

Through developing critical thinking skills, you can help stay the spread of misinformation and be ... [+] recognized as a credible industry expert

Practice these three essential critical thinking skills every time you read a new item of information online, when browsing through social media, watching the news, in a meeting, or when studying for your professional development. The more you practice, the more you'll refine and strengthen your critical thinking skills over time.

Rachel Wells

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COMMENTS

  1. Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well. Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly ...

  2. How to build critical thinking skills for better decision-making

    Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value. Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible. Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation. So, critical thinking isn't just being intelligent or analytical.

  3. PDF The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts & Tools

    ConCepts and tools. By Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder. The Foundation for Critical Thinking. www.criticalthinking.org 707-878-9100 [email protected]. Why A Critical Thinking Mini-Guide? This miniature guide focuses on of the essence of critical thinking concepts and tools distilled into pocket size.

  4. PDF Aspiring Thinker's Guide to Critical Thinking

    Provides grading rubrics and outlines five levels of close reading and substantive writing. #563m. "Aspiring Thinker's Guide to Critical Thinking" Mini-Guide Price List: (+ shipping and handling) Item #554m. 1-24 copies $6.00 each 25-199 copies $5.00 each 200-499 copies $4.00 each 500+ copies $3.50 each.

  5. Critical thinking : Skills Hub : University of Sussex

    Critical thinking is a key skill for university and students can find the concept hard to grasp. However, it is something that you do already; when you choose how to spend your time, which news sources to listen to, and which products to buy. At university, you need to apply this analytical thinking to what you read, hear and write.

  6. Critical Thinking Skills For Dummies Cheat Sheet

    Critical thinkers check the methodology. A key critical thinking skill is to be able to understand, and criticize, a writer's methodology. When authors write books, conduct studies, or investigate a topic, they operate within a research paradigm (a theoretical framework) that affects how they view and investigate the subject. In formal academic studies, authors discuss the research paradigm ...

  7. A Crash Course in Critical Thinking

    In the new expanded edition of my book A More Beautiful Question (AMBQ), I took a deep dive into critical thinking.Here are a few key things I learned. First off, before you can get better at ...

  8. Academic Guides: Academic Skills Center: Critical Reading

    Use this checklist to practice critical thinking while reading an article, watching an advertisement, or making an important purchase or voting decision. Critical Reading Checklist (Word) Critical Reading Checklist (PDF) Critical Thinking Bookmark (PDF) Learn about the ways that active reading instead of passive reading is the key to growing ...

  9. 2.3: Critical Thinking

    Adaptions: Reformatted, some content removed to fit a broader audience. 2.3: Critical Thinking is shared under a license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts. Critical thinking is something that helps a reader become more inquisitive by asking probing questions to gain a deeper understanding or connection to a text.

  10. Build Critical Thinking Skills in 7 Steps w/ Examples [2024] • Asana

    The critical thinking process doesn't necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 6. Present your solution. Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers.

  11. LibGuides: Critical Thinking and Reasoning: Checklists

    Checklists. It can be a challenge to recognize credible and reliable information, not only in doing research but in everyday life. Numerous frameworks have been developed for evaluating information sources. Each takes its own approach and has different names for its elements, and each offers valuable criteria to use when filtering through sources.

  12. Critical Thinking

    Critical Thinking 101: Spectrum of Authority. 3. Clarify Thinking. When you use critical thinking to evaluate information, you need to clarify your thinking to yourself and likely to others. Doing this well is mainly a process of asking and answering probing questions, such as the logic questions discussed earlier.

  13. A Short Guide to Building Your Team's Critical Thinking Skills

    A Short Guide to Building Your Team's Critical Thinking Skills. by. Matt Plummer. October 11, 2019. twomeows/Getty Images. Summary. Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess ...

  14. Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. ... Perhaps the best way to conceptualize the critical thinking process is as a checklist whose component events can occur ...

  15. Ultimate Critical Thinking Cheat Sheet

    Ultimate Critical Thinking Cheat Sheet. carylsue 01/19/2017 01/19/2017. 18 thoughts on ...

  16. PDF C RITI C AL HI N KING T

    The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Seventh Edition… over one million in use. This miniature guide focuses on the essence of critical thinking concepts and tools distilled into pocket size. For faculty it provides a shared concept of critical thinking. For students it is a critical thinking supplement to

  17. PDF Checklist for Critical Thought

    Checklist for Critical Thought (Checklist excerpted from "The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools" by Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder. 2008 special edition.) 1. All reasoning has a purpose. • State your purpose clearly. • Distinguish your purpose from related purposes.

  18. 6 important critical thinking skills you should master

    The key critical thinking skills are identifying biases, inference, research, identification, curiosity, and judging relevance. Let's explore these six critical thinking skills you should learn and why they're so important to the critical thinking process. 1. Identifying biases.

  19. PDF Critical Thinking Checklist

    Critical Thinking Checklist Questions to ask during Analysis/Interpretation Does the form or structure fit the topic? Do you understand what the topic is? Can you explain it (translate) that topic ...

  20. Checklist for Critical Thinking

    Tool: Checklist for Critical Thinking. Download. RECOMMEND VIA EMAIL. This checklist identifies some of the specific behaviors of critical thinking and can assist educators in assessing themselves and their work.

  21. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

    "Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action" (Scriven, 1996). ...

  22. Section 2. Thinking Critically

    Be a critical teacher; Make people aware of how they learn critical thinking; Model critical thinking ___You know how to encourage the critical stance (i.e. applying critical thinking to whatever you encounter): Help learners recognize and examine their own assumptions; Examine information for accuracy, assumptions, biases, or specific interests

  23. 1.3: Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is important because it relates to nearly all tasks, situations, topics, careers, environments, challenges, and opportunities. It's not restricted to a particular subject area. Figure 1.3.2 1.3. 2. Critical thinking is clear, reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do.

  24. 3 Critical Thinking Skills You Need In 2024

    Critical thinking skills help you improve diversity and inclusion within your team. getty. In 2018, a Hart survey revealed that out of over 500 business executives interviewed, 78% agreed that ...