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How to build your critical thinking skills in 7 steps (with examples)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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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Top 8 Critical Thinking Skills and Ways to Improve Them
As seen in:
Why is critical thinking essential? Firstly, that’s what almost every employer seeks.
Secondly, in the era of fake news, contrasting data, and so much information to process every day, critical thinking is the only way to make sense of this world. Good thing you came to the right place for everything you need to know about critical thinking skills!
This guide will show you:
- The best definition of critical thinking skills.
- How to use critical thinking skills step by step.
- A list of the most important critical thinking skills for the workplace and how to use them to get more job offers.
- Tools and ideas for improving your critical thinking skills fast.
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If you are looking for specific skills sets for your resume, check:
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What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why You Need Them?
Before we jump into defining critical thinking skills, let’s run a quick experiment.
We’ll try to find out if drinking coffee is good for you.
First, google “reasons not to drink coffee.”
Wow! Decreased anxiety ( source ), healthier teeth ( source ), weight loss ( source ), and a healthier heart ( source )!
Oh God! I’ll never touch a cup of coffee again! How about “reasons to drink coffee?”
Lower rates of depression ( source ), memory boost ( source ), longevity ( source ), and, wait for it, a healthier heart ( source ).
Oh well. I’ll never trust the Internet again.
The twist? These are not some random unsupported online claims. There’s legit, peer-reviewed research that backs up EVERY single one of the above findings.
So how do you reconcile these contradictory claims?
By thinking critically .
What does that even mean, though?
What Is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is the ability to think in an organized and rational manner in order to understand connections between ideas and/or facts. It helps you decide what to believe in. In other words, it’s “thinking about thinking”—identifying, analyzing, and then fixing flaws in the way we think.
How to Be a Critical Thinker?
To become one takes time, practice, and patience. But something you can start doing today to improve your critical thinking skills is apply the 7 steps of critical thinking to every problem you tackle—either at work or in your everyday life.
Plus, there are some critical thinking questions to help you out at each of the steps.
Steps of Critical Thinking
1. Identify the problem or question.
Be as precise as possible: the narrower the issue, the easier it is to find solutions or answers.
2. Gather data, opinions, and arguments.
Try to find several sources that present different ideas and points of view.
3. Analyze and evaluate the data.
Are the sources reliable? Are their conclusions data-backed or just argumentative? Is there enough information or data to support given hypotheses?
4. Identify assumptions.
Are you sure the sources you found are unbiased? Are you sure you weren’t biased in your search for answers?
5. Establish significance.
What piece of information is most important? Is the sample size sufficient? Are all opinions and arguments even relevant to the problem you’re trying to solve?
6. Make a decision/reach a conclusion.
Identify various conclusions that are possible and decide which (if any) of them are sufficiently supported. Weigh strengths and limitations of all possible options.
7. Present or communicate.
Once you’ve reached a conclusion, present it to all stakeholders.
Let’s go back to our coffee example and examine it critically, point-by-point.
1. The problem in question was: “is drinking coffee good for you?”
This approach is way to broad.
First of all, what does “good” even mean?
Secondly, we don’t know if we’re talking about long- or short-term effects of drinking coffee. It’s also possible that drinking coffee might benefit some aspects of your health while being detrimental to others.
So, let’s narrow down the problem to: “is drinking coffee good for your heart ?”
2. Listed above, there are only two pieces of research on the impact of drinking coffee on your heart.
The first one suggests that drinking coffee “could account for premature deaths in the region of 14% for coronary heart disease and 20% for stroke.”
According to the second one , “moderate coffee consumption was associated with a lower prevalence of the Coronary Artery Disease.”
We’ve made two other major mistakes in reasoning: first of all, two sources only are not enough.
Secondly, we haven’t taken into account that heart is a very complex organ: just like it is the case with the rest of our body, coffee might be good for some of its functions while bad for others.
3. Both articles cited have appeared in prestigious, peer-reviewed journals.
The first one has been based on literature review only; no original studies.
The second one, although conducted in a large (25.000 participants) sample of men and women, includes only Korean population—people whose hearts can be affected by other factors such as diet or climate.
4. While the two sources don’t appear biased, we were.
We based our initial Google searches on assumptions: “reasons not to drink coffee” (assuming: coffee is bad for our health) and “reasons to drink coffee” (assuming: coffee is worth drinking).
Google’s search algorithms made sure we found articles in line with our assumptions.
5. Considering all of the above, we can positively state that the information we gathered was not significant for solving the initially stated problem.
6. The only conclusion that can be reached is: according to the data we gathered, drinking coffee might or might not be good for our hearts, depending on many factors and variables we failed to take into account.
7. Even if the conclusion is “the question cannot be answered at this point,” it’s still worth presenting and communicating.
It’s good to know what the limitations of our knowledge on a given topic are.
The point is—
It’s really hard to be sure of something.
And critical thinking skills are necessary for us to accept the flaws in our reasoning and gaps in our knowledge, and take advantage of them!
Why Are Critical Thinking Skills Important?
When you think critically, you’ll constantly challenge what seems given. Say, in your job, even if something appears to be functioning properly, critical thinking will help you try and identify new, better solutions.
Critical thinking skills are the cornerstone of self-development and improvement. That’s why they’re so critical to have in today’s job market. Just think about this— A recent report by the AACU revealed that 93% of employers value critical thinking over the candidate’s undergraduate degree. So—
Let’s go through how you can showcase your critical thinking skills to boost your chances of landing a better job!
And if you want to learn more about other job-winning skills, we've got you covered! Check out our dedicated guides:
- Communication Skills for Your Resume & Workplace Success
- Management Skills You Must Have (Not Just For Managers)
- Hard Skills for Any Resume
- Computer Skills Employers Want
- Soft Skills vs Hard Skills for a Job: What Employers Look for
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When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.
Critical Thinking Skills List for Your Job Search
If you’re just looking for a list of the most important critical thinking skills, we’ve got you covered.
Top Critical Thinking Skills: Examples
Raw lists of skills are pretty useless.
Say, you’re applying for a job and the job description requires “critical thinking skills.” You can’t just dump random entries from the above list of examples on your resume.
You need to prove you can think critically by giving real-life examples of how you used your critical thinking skills.
How to Put Critical Thinking on a Resume: Examples
The best way to present and validate your critical thinking skills is to include examples of them in your past job description bullet points .
Like in these examples:
Critical Thinking Skills on a Resume—Nursing
- Evaluated and analyzed cases at hand to determine the priority of treatment.
- Clearly communicated and explained my rationales to doctors and other members of the nursing staff.
Critical Thinking Skills on a Resume—Engineering
- Identified 8 major hidden design defects with failed constructions.
Critical Thinking Skills on a Resume—Customer Service
- Interpreted the results of phone surveys to develop a new strategy for handling customer complaints.
You get the drill, right? Show don’t tell.
Your critical thinking skills might also be evaluated during job interviews. Again, interviewers will want to see specific examples of how you put your critical thinking to use.
Pro Tip : Most of the interview questions that test critical thinking are situational interview questions. You can learn all about how to handle them from this guide: Toughest Situational Interview Questions and Best Answers
Critical Thinking Interview Questions and Answers: Examples
1. Describe a situation where you challenged the way you and your colleagues did their jobs?
Our online ordering page let clients order incompatible components, causing heavy complaints. I asked if we could put a product check in place. The software engineer added warnings when two products weren’t compatible. Complaints went down by 35%.
2. Describe a situation where you saw a problem and took steps to fix it.
Our rechargeable forklifts had two different plugs. If you used the wrong one, you could wreck a $3,500 battery. I added zip-ties as cord-shorteners so you could only reach the right outlet. We haven’t lost a battery since.
3. Tell me about a time you had to persuade someone to see your side of things.
The owner was convinced our gift shop was a moneymaker. I analyzed our cash flow and found it was running at a 10% deficit. I built data visualizations that showed we could increase store revenue 40% through focusing on more popular products.
Don’t feel like a good enough critical thinker? Not to worry. There are easy ways to improve your critical thinking. You can actually start today!
Because you'll need them—
Employers test your critical thinking skills in many different ways, including on the job interview stage when they ask you lots of different questions.
But these questions actually repeat so you can prepare best answers in advance. How? Read our guide: Most Common Job Interview Questions—And Answers to Impress Your Recruiter
If you came across critical thinking as a job requirement, to land that job interview you also have to list it on your resume and include it in your cover letter, too. Try Zety resume builder and get your resume and matching cover letter ready in a flash . Here’s a resume and cover letter sample made using our builder:
See more cover letter templates and start writing.
How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills
To start working on your critical thinking skills, begin with applying these simple strategies:
1. Ask Simple Critical Thinking Questions
- What do I already know?
- How do I know that?
- What am I trying to prove?
- What are my motivations?
2. Oppose “Common Sense”
The problem with common sense is that it’s so… common .
“No way this business idea can ever be profitable.”
Oh really? Why exactly not? Ramit Sethi is making a killing selling a $300 online course on how to choose a good personal assistant. If that’s profitable, think what else can be.
3. Be Aware of Your Biases
The most common types of cognitive bias you need to avoid are:
- Confirmation Bias : we always subconsciously assume we’re right.
- Action Bias : we act too quickly before thinking something through.
- Association Bias : why did the rain dance always work? Because they’d dance until the rain came.
4. Read a Lot
This will not only help develop your critical thinking skills but actually most skills you can think of. To get a sound start on the theory and strategies behind critical thinking, check out:
- Critical Thinking for Dummies
- How to Think Critically: A Concise Guide
- Critical Thinking Skills: Effective Analysis, Argument and Reflection
- Critical Thinking: Your Guide to Effective Argument, Successful Analysis and Independent Study
- What is Unconscious Bias? (+How to Avoid It in the Workplace)
Want to practice important skills even more? Check out these two guides: Situational Interview Questions [+20 Answers to Nail Your Interview] and Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers [STAR Method]
Here’s all you need to know about critical thinking skills in a nutshell:
- The key critical thinking skills are: analysis, interpretation, inference, explanation, self-regulation, open-mindedness, and problem-solving.
- In order to apply the basic principles of critical thinking, follow these steps: identify the problem, gather data, analyze and evaluate, identify assumptions, establish significance, make a decision, and communicate.
- To become a better critical thinker: ask simple questions, challenge common assumptions, be aware of your biases, and read more.
Do you have any questions about critical thinking skills? Maybe you’d like to share some tips on how to think more critically everyday? Let me know in the comments. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
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The seven key steps of critical thinking.
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As leaders, it is our job to get the very best out of our workforce. We focus on how best to motivate, inspire and create an environment in which employees are satisfied, engaged and productive. This leads us to deliver an excellent customer/client experience.
But all in all, the effort we put into growing our workforce, we often forget the one person who is in constant need of development: ourselves. In particular, we neglect the soft skills that are vital to becoming the best professional possible — one of them being critical thinking.
When you're able to critically think, it opens the door for employee engagement, as you become the go-to person for assistance with issues, challenges and problems. In turn, you teach your workforce how to critically think and problem solve.
Let’s take a look at the key steps in developing critical thinking skills.
What Is Critical Thinking?
One of my favorite definitions of critical thinking comes from Edward Glaser. He said , “The ability to think critically, as conceived in this volume, involves three things:
1. An attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one’s experiences
2. Knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning
3. Some skill in applying those methods."
In short, the ability to think critically is the art of analyzing and evaluating data for a practical approach to understanding the data, then determining what to believe and how to act.
The three characteristics of critical thinking include:
• Being quick and decisive: One of the most admirable leadership qualities the ability to be quick and decisive with decisions. There are times where an answer just needs to be given and given right now. But that doesn't mean you should make a decision just to make one. Sometimes, quick decisions can fall flat. I know some of mine have.
• Being resourceful and creative: Over the years, members of my workforce have come to me with challenges and have needed some creativity and resourcefulness. As they spell out the situation, you listen to the issue, analyze their dilemma and guide them the best way possible. Thinking outside the box and sharing how to get there is a hallmark of a great leader.
• Being systematic and organized: Martin Gabel is quoted as saying , “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Sometimes, taking a minute to be systematic and follow an organized approach makes all the difference. This is where critical thinking meets problem solving. Define the problem, come up with a list of solutions, then select the best answer, implement it, create an evaluation tool and fine-tune as needed.
Components Of Critical Thinking
Now that you know the what and why of becoming a critical thinker, let’s focus on the how best to develop this skill.
1. Identify the problem or situation, then define what influenced this to occur in the first place.
2. Investigate the opinions and arguments of the individuals involved in this process. Any time you have differences of opinions, it is vital that you research independently, so as not to be influenced by a specific bias.
3. Evaluate information factually. Recognizing predispositions of those involved is a challenging task at times. It is your responsibility to weigh the information from all sources and come to your own conclusions.
4. Establish significance. Figure out what information is most important for you to consider in the current situation. Sometimes, you just have to remove data points that have no relevance.
5. Be open-minded and consider all points of view. This is a good time to pull the team into finding the best solution. This point will allow you to develop the critical-thinking skills of those you lead.
6. Take time to reflect once you have gathered all the information. In order to be decisive and make decisions quickly, you need to take time to unwrap all the information and set a plan of attack. If you are taking time to think about the best solution, keep your workforce and leaders apprised of your process and timeline.
7. Communicate your findings and results. This is a crucial yet often overlooked component. Failing to do so can cause much confusion in the organization.
Developing your critical-thinking skills is fundamental to your leadership success. As you set off to develop these abilities, it will require a clear, sometimes difficult evaluation of your current level of critical thinking. From there you can determine the best way to polish and strengthen your current skill set and establish a plan for your future growth.
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6 Steps to better critical thinking
Rationale’s interface has been designed to provide a path for critical thinking. From gathering research, to weighing up evidence to formulating a judgement, Rationale will assist you.
Take a look at these 6 critical thinking steps with examples to demonstrate the path to better outcomes.
Step 1: ORGANISE INFORMATION We have no difficulty in locating information. The key is that the information is selected and structured appropriately. With Rationale’s grouping maps you can drag information from the web onto your workspace via the scratchpad and include colour, hyperlinks and images. The structured, pyramid like maps provide a guide for students to structure the information in such a way that reveals the connections between the main topic and its various themes or categories.
Step 2: STRUCTURE REASONING Many people provide opinions but rarely provide supporting reasons for their view. Rationale’s reasoning maps encourage people to support their responses and to consider different opinions. It uses colour conventions to display reasoning – green for reasons, red for objections and orange for rebuttals. It also includes indicator or connecting words so that the relationship between statements is clearly understood.
Step 3: CONSIDER EVIDENCE A test of a solid argument is how good the evidence is that underpins the claims. Rationale’s basis boxes provide a means to identify the basis upon which a statement is given. The icons provide a visual guide as to the range of research utilised and the strength of the evidence that is provided.
Step 4: IDENTIFY ASSUMPTIONS We often talk about analysing arguments. This can mean a few things including looking at the logical structure of the argument to ensure it is valid or well formed and also identifying assumptions or co premises. For those who require higher levels of analysis, Rationale provides the analysis map format to show the relationships between main premises and co premises.
Step 5: EVALUATE ARGUMENTS Once arguments for and against an issue have been logically structured, they need to be evaluated. Rationale provides a visual guide for the evaluation of claims and evidence – the stronger the colour, the stronger the argument while icons designate acceptable or rejected claims. While learning this process of evaluating arguments, the colour and icons provide immediate undertanding and communication of the conclusion.
Step 6: COMMUNICATE CONCLUSION Presenting ideas orally or in writing is crucial and is often the distinguishing feature between good results and average ones. Rationale has essay and letter writing templates to build skills and confidence. Templates provide instruction and generation of prose. When exported, there is a structured essay plan with detailed instructions to assist understanding of clear and systematic prose.
- Rasmussen University
- Transferable Skills
- Critical Thinking
Steps to Critical Thinking
Critical thinking: steps to critical thinking.
- Steps 1 & 2: Reflection and Analysis
- Step 3: Acquisition of Information
- Step 4: Creativity
- Step 5: Structuring Arguments
- Step 6: Decision Making
- Steps 7 & 8: Commitment and Debate
- In the Classroom
- In the Workplace
Critical Thinking can be broken down into 8 different categories to include:
- Acquisition of Information.
- Structuring arguments.
- Decision making.
Now, you might be wondering, "how can I benefit from this process?" By examining the 8 Steps of Critical Thinking you can apply these skills towards your coursework and/or past, current, and future employment.
To be able to make a decision based on sound judgment it is important to reflect on the issue at hand, analyze the pros and cons, gather all pertinent information, keep an open and unbiased mind, construct concise and well-structured arguments, practice good decision making, commit to follow through, and debate as to whether you have made the right decision or not.
Cuzzle #1 of 5 (Critical Thinking Puzzle)
A barn has a very steep roof that comes together at the top in a sharp point. If a rooster lays an egg on the very apex of the roof, which side would the egg roll down?
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- Last Updated: Feb 21, 2023 2:35 PM
- URL: https://guides.rasmussen.edu/criticalthinking
Design thinking, innovation, user experience and healthcare design
6 Steps for Effective Critical Thinking
On a daily basis, we face problems and situations that should be evaluated and solved, and we are challenged to understand different perspectives to think about these situations. Most of us are building our cognitive thinking based on previous similar situations or experiences. However, this may not guarantee a better solution for a problem , as our decision may be affected by emotions, non-prioritized facts, or other external influences that reflect on the final decision. Therefore, critical thinking tends to build a rational, open-mined process that depends on information and empirical evidence.
The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as an “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.” The process tends to help us judge and evaluate situations based on understanding the related data, analyze it, build a clear understanding of the problem, choose the proper solution, and take actions based on the established solution.
The critical thinking process prevents our minds from jumping directly to conclusions. Instead, it guides the mind through logical steps that tend to widen the range of perspectives, accept findings, put aside personal biases, and consider reasonable possibilities. This can be achieved through six steps: knowledge, comprehension, application, analyze, synthesis, and take action. Below is a brief description of each step and how to implement them.
Step 1: Knowledge
For every problem, clear vision puts us on the right path to solve it. This step identifies the argument or the problem that needs to be solved. Questions should be asked to acquire a deep understanding about the problem. In some cases, there is no actual problem, thus no need to move forward with other steps in the critical thinking model. The questions in this stage should be open-ended to allow the chance to discuss and explore main reasons. At this stage, two main questions need to be addressed: What is the problem? And why do we need to solve it?
Step 2: Comprehension
Once the problem is identified, the next step is to understand the situation and the facts aligned with it. The data is collected about the problem using any of the research methods that can be adopted depending on the problem, the type of the data available, and the deadline required to solve it.
Step 3: Application
This step continues the previous one to complete the understanding of different facts and resources required to solve the problem by building a linkage between the information and resources. Mind maps can be used to analyze the situation, build a relation between it and the core problem, and determine the best way to move forward.
Step 4: Analyze
Once the information is collected and linkages are built between it the main problems, the situation is analyzed in order to identify the situation, the strong points, the weak points, and the challenges faced while solving the problem. The priorities are set for the main causes and determine how they can be addressed in the solution. One of the commonly used tools that can be deployed to analyze the problem and the circumstances around it is the cause effect diagram , which divides the problem from its causes and aims to identify the different causes and categorize them based on their type and impact on the problem.
Step 5: Synthesis
In this stage, once the problem is fully analyzed and all the related information is considered, a decision should be formed about how to solve the problem and the initial routes to follow to take this decision into action. If there are number of solutions, they should be evaluated and prioritized in order to find the most advantageous solution. One of the tools that contribute choosing the problem solution is the SWOT analysis that tends to identify the solution’s strength, weakness, opportunity, and threats.
Step 6: Take Action
The final step is to build an evaluation about the problem that can be put into action. The result of critical thinking should be transferred into action steps. If the decision involves a specific project or team, a plan of action could be implemented to ensure that the solution is adopted and executed as planned.
The critical thinking method can be adopted to replace emotions and perusal biases when trying to think about a situation or a problem. The time for adopting critical thinking varies based on the problem; it may take few minutes to number of days. The advantage of deploying critical thinking is that it contributes to widening our perspectives about situations and broadening our thinking possibilities. However, these steps should be translated into a plan of action that ensures that the decided resolution is well achieved and integrated between all the involved bodies.
Dr Rafiq Elmansy
'm an academic, author and design thinker, currently teaching design at the University of Leeds with a research focus on design thinking, design for health, interaction design and design for behaviour change. I developed and taught design programmes at Wrexham Glyndwr University, Northumbria University and The American University in Cairo. Additionally, I'm a published book author and founder of Designorate.com. I am a fellow for the Higher Education Academy (HEA), the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), and an Adobe Education Leader. I write Adobe certification exams with Pearson Certiport. My design experience involves 20 years working with clients such as the UN, World Bank, Adobe, and Schneider. I worked with the Adobe team in developing many Adobe applications for more than 12 years.
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