The Peak Performance Center
The pursuit of performance excellence, critical thinking.
Critical thinking refers to the process of actively analyzing, assessing, synthesizing, evaluating and reflecting on information gathered from observation, experience, or communication. It is thinking in a clear, logical, reasoned, and reflective manner to solve problems or make decisions. Basically, critical thinking is taking a hard look at something to understand what it really means.
Critical thinkers do not simply accept all ideas, theories, and conclusions as facts. They have a mindset of questioning ideas and conclusions. They make reasoned judgments that are logical and well thought out by assessing the evidence that supports a specific theory or conclusion.
When presented with a new piece of new information, critical thinkers may ask questions such as;
“What information supports that?”
“How was this information obtained?”
“Who obtained the information?”
“How do we know the information is valid?”
“Why is it that way?”
“What makes it do that?”
“How do we know that?”
“Are there other possibilities?”
Combination of Analytical and Creative Thinking
Many people perceive critical thinking just as analytical thinking. However, critical thinking incorporates both analytical thinking and creative thinking. Critical thinking does involve breaking down information into parts and analyzing the parts in a logical, step-by-step manner. However, it also involves challenging consensus to formulate new creative ideas and generate innovative solutions. It is critical thinking that helps to evaluate and improve your creative ideas.
Elements of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking involves:
- Gathering relevant information
- Evaluating information
- Asking questions
- Assessing bias or unsubstantiated assumptions
- Making inferences from the information and filling in gaps
- Using abstract ideas to interpret information
- Formulating ideas
- Weighing opinions
- Reaching well-reasoned conclusions
- Considering alternative possibilities
- Testing conclusions
- Verifying if evidence/argument support the conclusions
Developing Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking is considered a higher order thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, deduction, inference, reason, and evaluation. In order to demonstrate critical thinking, you would need to develop skills in;
Interpreting : understanding the significance or meaning of information
Analyzing : breaking information down into its parts
Connecting : making connections between related items or pieces of information.
Integrating : connecting and combining information to better understand the relationship between the information.
Evaluating : judging the value, credibility, or strength of something
Reasoning : creating an argument through logical steps
Deducing : forming a logical opinion about something based on the information or evidence that is available
Inferring : figuring something out through reasoning based on assumptions and ideas
Generating : producing new information, ideas, products, or ways of viewing things.
Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised
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Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples
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Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.
Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions. Employers prioritize the ability to think critically—find out why, plus see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability throughout the job application process.
Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?
Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and offer the best solution.
Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions independently, and will not need constant handholding.
Hiring a critical thinker means that micromanaging won't be required. Critical thinking abilities are among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. You can demonstrate critical thinking by using related keywords in your resume and cover letter, and during your interview.
Examples of Critical Thinking
The circumstances that demand critical thinking vary from industry to industry. Some examples include:
- A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated.
- A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job.
- An attorney reviews evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.
- A manager analyzes customer feedback forms and uses this information to develop a customer service training session for employees.
Promote Your Skills in Your Job Search
If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, be sure to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.
Add Keywords to Your Resume
You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your work history , include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your resume summary , if you have one.
For example, your summary might read, “Marketing Associate with five years of experience in project management. Skilled in conducting thorough market research and competitor analysis to assess market trends and client needs, and to develop appropriate acquisition tactics.”
Mention Skills in Your Cover Letter
Include these critical thinking skills in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated them at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.
Show the Interviewer Your Skills
You can use these skill words in an interview. Discuss a time when you were faced with a particular problem or challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve it.
Some interviewers will give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your solution rather than the solution itself. The interviewer wants to see you analyze and evaluate (key parts of critical thinking) the given scenario or problem.
Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.
Top Critical Thinking Skills
Keep these in-demand critical thinking skills in mind as you update your resume and write your cover letter. As you've seen, you can also emphasize them at other points throughout the application process, such as your interview.
Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with analytical skills can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.
- Asking Thoughtful Questions
- Data Analysis
- Questioning Evidence
- Recognizing Patterns
Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of colleagues. You need to be able to communicate with others to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage in critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.
- Active Listening
- Verbal Communication
- Written Communication
Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.
- Drawing Connections
To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.
Problem-solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.
- Attention to Detail
- Decision Making
- Identifying Patterns
More Critical Thinking Skills
- Inductive Reasoning
- Deductive Reasoning
- Noticing Outliers
- Emotional Intelligence
- Strategic Planning
- Project Management
- Ongoing Improvement
- Causal Relationships
- Case Analysis
- SWOT Analysis
- Business Intelligence
- Quantitative Data Management
- Qualitative Data Management
- Risk Management
- Scientific Method
- Consumer Behavior
- Demonstrate that you have critical thinking skills by adding relevant keywords to your resume.
- Mention pertinent critical thinking skills in your cover letter, too, and include an example of a time when you demonstrated them at work.
- Finally, highlight critical thinking skills during your interview. For instance, you might discuss a time when you were faced with a challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking skills to solve it.
University of Louisville. " What is Critical Thinking ."
American Management Association. " AMA Critical Skills Survey: Workers Need Higher Level Skills to Succeed in the 21st Century ."
Watch Now: 6 Skills That Set You Apart In Any Industry
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Three Levels of Critical Thinking
No matter what your stage in life, critical thinking skills allow you to think more deeply. When conducting research and writing for an academic audience, critical reasoning is required to interpret your findings.
Critical-thinking skills connect and organize ideas. Three types distinguish them: analysis, inference, and evaluation.
Analysis involves the following activities:
• Identifying what’s being said
• Distinguishing the relevant from the irrelevant
• Connecting different strands of thought
• Classifying similar characteristics
• Determining differences
• Identifying analogies
Inference requires you to perform the following tasks:
• Drawing out what is being conveyed (and what’s not being conveyed)
• Interpreting actions to be examples of characteristics, intents, or expressions
• Identifying assumptions
• Abstracting ideas
• Applying analogies to reach conclusions
• Recognizing cause and effect relationships
Evaluation includes these activities:
• Giving reasons for decisions
• Judging the value, credibility, or strength of an argument
• Understanding the significance or meaning of information
• Criticizing ideas in a constructive manner
• Modifying ideas in response to counterarguments or feedback
Becoming skilled in problem-solving and critical reasoning gives you a significant advantage in your personal, academic, and professional lives. The processes of critical thinking encouraged by research and writing will benefit you for years to come.
What do you do to think critically?
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The 6 Stages of Critical Thinking
Whilst creative or design-thinking is an essential differentiator in the 21st Century, all is for nothing if you don’t complement creativity with critical thinking.
The stage theory of critical thinking developed by psychologist Linda Elder and Richard Paul identifies six key stages of progression in critical thinking and provides a pathway for applying some benchmarks for improving our ability to analyze problems and dissect arguments. Methods of critical thinking that most of us use, require less effort and are unreflective. whereas mothods that master the analytical thinking require effort and dedication.
Of course, critical thinking requires effort. To progress to higher levels of mastery will require commitment and time. Very much like deliberate practice, critical thinking uses feedback and learning as a method for progressing up the pyramid. The higher levels of mastery aren’t going to happen subconsciously, you have to put in the effort! Like thinking, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
It would be wrong, in my opinion, to believe that pure, rational thinking doesn’t include emotion. Emotion is crucial in coming to any decision. Emotions guide our choices by informing us of what we want and like. This is shown by people who have had damage to the amygdala in the brain, the area most responsible for emotional responses. In the absence of any emotional guidance (as with a damaged amygdala) simple, everyday decisions become impossible. Even deciding what to eat can be agonizing for these people as they weigh up the endless possibilities, the pros and cons, never being able to come to a decision.
Emotional intelligence has a great deal to do with critical thinking and wisdom.
Stage One: The Unreflective Thinker.
People who do not reflect on their thinking, who proceed solely based on their opinions, biases, and prejudices will form misconceptions. They do not reflect on the impact and effect their decisions may have on their lives. They are impulsive, lacking crucial skills that would allow them to parse their thought processes.
They don’t apply relevant standards to their thinking, like accuracy, precision, or logic, in any consistent way. Most of us are at some time, unreflective thinkers.
Stage Two: The Challenged Thinker.
This person has an awareness of the place thinking has on their existence and behavior and realizes that a lack of critical thinking can develop into major issues.
To solve a problem, you must first identify that there is a problem. “High-quality thinking requires deliberate reflective thinking about thinking.” (Elder & Paul).This involves also recognizing that mental processes involve false beliefs, biases, and false assumptions. However, at this stage perhaps, not all mental flaws are identified.
The Challenged thinker will have a sense that critical thinking involves addressing assumptions, inferences, and other points of view. They may be fully aware of their own self-deception.
People at this stage in their thinking may believe that their thinking is better than it actually is, therefore making it more difficult to recognize their own poor thinking.
Stage Three: The Beginning Thinker.
People at this level of thinking actively take control of their thinking and behavior across wider areas of their lives. They have recognized that thinking can have blind spots and other problems and are beginning to take steps to address these.
A Beginning Thinker will see the value of reason, will become more self-aware of their thinking processes and will look into underlying biases and assumptions. At the same time the beginner will develop higher internal standards of clarity, logic, and accuracy and begin to realize the role played by emotion and ego in critical thinking.
Here also the Beginning Thinker will be more responsive to criticism and feedback and will utilize them in adjusting the direction of their thinking.
Stage Four: The Practical Thinker.
The Practical Thinker will recognize their deficiencies and will have developed some of the skills to deal with them. They will practice better thinking habits and will regularly analyze their mental processes.
The Practical Thinker will have an awareness of their mind’s strengths and weaknesses although perhaps without a systematic way of gaining insight into their thoughts. They may still be subject to self-deception.
To get to this stage, the person needs “intellectual perseverance” This involves developing a systematic and purposeful plan with deliberate practice methods, to take incremental and controlling steps to improvement.
Thinking is inevitably driven by questions - questions that seek answers for a purpose. For this to happen we need information, we need to interpret and understand that information by making inferences. Our inferences are based on our assumptions and are colored by a concept and our point of view.
Stage Five: The Advanced Thinker.
The Advanced Thinker will have strong habits that allow them to reflect on their own thinking with insights into varied and different areas of life. They would typically be able to spot prejudices in their ownthinking and understanding and from anothrs point of view. They will be fair-minded.
Whilst the Advanced Thinker may fully appreciate the role of their ego in the flow of ideas, they may not be able to see all the inferences and influences that affect their own mentality and that of others.
The Advanced Thinker will be comfortable with self-criticism and will systematically try to improve step-by-step. They will have intellectual insights that develop into new thought patterns and habits. They have aquired intellectual integrity, recognizing inconsistencies and contradictions, and intellectual empathy to be able to see the world from someone else’s point of view and to genuinely understand others. Advanced Thinkers will have the intellectual courage to confront ideas and beliefs that are not necessarily theirs.
Stage 6: The Master Thinker.
Master Thinkers are completely in control of how they make decisions and process information. They are constantly improving their thought skills. By regular practice, they raise the level of their thinking to a level of conscious realization.
A Master Thinker will be able to gain great insights into mental processes and will gain control over their ego. This will manifest itself in superior practical knowledge and insights, constantly re-examining assumptions, logic, and cognitive biases. They will analyze their own responses.
Our minds, when left to their own devices, will always veer towards anything that is immediately easy and comfortable. The brain wants to conserve energy; this organ consumes nearly 20% of our energy and constantly seeks to find methods to use less. The brain seeks whatever will serve its best interest and that is often finding the path of least resistance. It will resist anything which is difficult to understand and involves complexity.
Psychologists think (probably rightly) that most of us will never become master thinkers. But by constant intentional practicing, we can quickly see improvements in thinking - particularly in critical thinking and problem understanding/solving.
In today’s complex, information-rich world, it is easy to get lost in irrelevance and lose sight of priorities. Critical thinking is a crucial skill; it is the ability to be able to separate what is important and relevant for decision-making. The logic and deductive qualities of critical thinking are the perfect companion to creative thinking and should be seen as part of the whole “thinking” package.
compare this with the Six Socratic Questions
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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:
- Analytical Skills Examples
- Problem Solving Skills Examples
- Creative Thinking Skills Examples
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
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check . Start building a professional resume template here for free .
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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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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- Academic skills
A model for critical thinking.
Critical thinking is an important life skill, and an essential part of university studies. Central to critical thinking is asking meaningful questions.
This three-stage model, adapted from LearnHigher , will help you generate questions to understand, analyse, and evaluate something, such as an information source.
Starting with the description stage, you ask questions such as: What? Where? Why? and Who? These help you establish the background and context.
For example, if you are reading a journal article, you might ask questions such as:
- Who wrote this?
- What is it about?
- When was it written?
- What is the aim of the article?
If you are thinking through a problem, you might ask:
- What is this problem about?
- Who does it involve or affect?
- When and where is this happening?
These types of questions lead to descriptive answers. Although the ability to describe something is important, to really develop your understanding and critically engage, we need to move beyond these types of questions. This moves you into the analysis stage.
Here you will ask questions such as: How? Why? and What if? These help you to examine methods and processes, reasons and causes, and the alternative options. For example, if you are reading a journal article, you might ask:
- How was the research conducted?
- Why are these theories discussed?
- What are the alternative methods and theories?
- What are the contributing factors to the problem?
- How might one factor impact another?
- What if one factor is removed or altered?
Asking these questions helps you to break something into parts and consider the relationship between each part, and each part to the whole. This process will help you develop more analytical answers and deeper thinking.
Finally, you come to the evaluation stage, where you will ask 'so what?' and 'what next?' questions to make judgments and consider the relevance; implications; significance and value of something.
You may ask questions such as:
- What do I think about this?
- How is this relevant to my assignment?
- How does this compare to other research I have read?
Making such judgments will lead you to reasonable conclusions, solutions, or recommendations.
The way we think is complex. This model is not intended to be used in a strictly linear way, or as a prescriptive set of instructions. You may move back and forth between different segments. For example, you may ask, 'what is this about?', and then move straight to, 'is this relevant to me?'
The model is intended to encourage a critically questioning approach, and can be applied to many learning scenarios at university, such as: interpreting assignment briefs; developing arguments; evaluating sources; analysing data or formulating your own questions to research an answer.
Watch the ‘Thinking Critically at University’ video for an in-depth description of a critical thinking model. View video using Microsoft Stream (link opens in a new window, available for University members only). The rest of our Critical thinking pages will show you how to use this model in practice.
This model has been adapted from LearnHigher under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0.
- System Integration
- Workforce Development
The 4 steps of critical thinking
Key steps to improving critical thinking include analyze, interpret, present, and evaluate.
As an engineer, your technical skills are likely already finely honed. Yet, it may be that colleagues with weaker technical skills are getting ahead.
What’s going on? The truth is, even in the world of engineering, technical skills are only part of the answer. As important are professional skills: the ability to identify and overcome business challenges, with the same acumen used to solve technical ones.
In other words: to increase your impact and grow your career, develop critical thinking skills. We all have heard about critical thinking, vaguely remember covering it in college, and often downplay it as simply common sense. However, there is much more to it.
What is critical thinking?
The world is awash in data. There’s too much to analyze, too little time to accomplish goals, and too many pressing problems that need immediate attention.
Critical thinking is a process by which anyone can consistently and accurately solve problems, by seeing the world more clearly than others and envisioning solutions others do not. Of course, critical thinking isn’t limited to technical problems.
The most successful professionals tend to be the people with the best critical thinking skills, who look beyond the rote facts and figures of their discipline. In a world where infinite data is instantly available, critical thinking and the ability to learn quickly are the long-term competitive differentiators.
How to improve critical thinking
To improve critical thinking, follow the same four-step process many of the world’s top consultants follow: analyze the most relevant data, interpret that data to create actionable solutions, present the findings in a compelling manner, and thoughtfully evaluate the success of the solutions involved.
When faced with an actual problem to solve, too many professionals fall victim to analysis paralysis. With all the data available today, information gathering can go on forever, extending to cranking through formulas and formatting reports and dashboards. How many times have you heard, “Wait, we haven’t analyzed all the data yet…?”
Instead, as a professional, the initial task is to identify and frame the real problem. Scan available data, develop an initial hypothesis, then use that to guide a narrower, deeper collection of relevant data. Prioritize what’s needed through the lens of that initial hypothesis and test it for validity. If it holds, double down on that path of reasoning. If not, revector and try again.
Once the relevant data is identified and collected, the goal is to make connections between ideas and convert them to actionable insights.
Frameworks and mental models are great tools to evaluate abstract ideas and translate them to the real world. Since most business problems are complicated and too complex to be comprehended in their entirety, a model contains only those features that are of primary importance to the purpose at hand. Think of frameworks as mental scaffolding to guide thinking while allowing flexibility to solve problems based on actual data; not a rote formula that may not apply to the situation at hand.
Once the data is analyzed and interpreted, it’s time to present the findings. But the work of critical thinking isn’t done yet. Time is the most precious commodity for executives, so present the results so that they anticipate and answer the reader’s most likely questions, in a sequence that supports a natural storyline. This means straddling the world of summary and detail, giving readers the answer up front and supporting with the detail needed. Remember, think deductively (in sequence), but communicate inductively (answer first, then support with details).
A great approach to structuring an individual output is the Pyramid Principle. It starts with situational context, describes complicating factors, and then formulates overarching questions and sub-questions to set up the analysis. Those questions are then addressed as a mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive set of answers, with supporting detail.
Critical thinking culminates in measuring the results. Determine the correct metrics, accurately measure what worked and what did not. See the results with intellectual integrity, as they really are, not as hoped or feared. Identify personal bias and then filter for it. The closer the individual is to the problem, and the more expert, the greater the danger. Strive to see with a beginner’s mindset.
Critical thinking is not a linear, one-time activity. The beauty of critical thinking and a well-crafted message is that even if initially wrong, recommendations can be explained and then refined. This naturally follows an agile, iterative approach that loops back upon itself until a sufficiently accurate answer can be reached, and other interested parties can understand and accept the result.
Why is critical thinking important?
Every industry is being disrupted, and the very nature of work is changing. Research indicates that up to 40% of human work will be automated within 10 years. If a process and policy can be documented, it can be automated. This is true for engineering as well.
Yet, there is at least one kind of work that isn’t going anywhere soon: the human ability to solve problems through critical thinking. By developing the skills that can’t be automated, a career is future proofed, no matter what the robots have in store. Invest time to develop this foundational skill.
Jeff Kavanaugh is a senior partner at Infosys , the consulting and technology firm. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. His book Consulting Essentials was published in April. It is available in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover formats.
This article appears in the IIoT for Engineers supplement for Control Engineering and Plant Engineering .
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Critical thinking refers to the process of actively analyzing, assessing, synthesizing, evaluating and reflecting on information gathered from observation
Analysis. Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text.
Critical thinking can sometimes be a convoluted and mysterious process; ... principles, evidence, beliefs, and opinions from the analysis phase.
No matter what your stage in life, critical thinking skills allow you to think more deeply. When conducting research and writing for an
Methods of critical thinking that most of us use, require less effort and are unreflective. whereas mothods that master the analytical
Analytical thinking: Part of critical thinking is evaluating data from multiple sources in order to come to the best conclusions. · Open-
Steps of Critical Thinking · 1. Identify the problem or question. · 2. Gather data, opinions, and arguments. · 3. Analyze and evaluate the data. · 4
Step 1: Knowledge · Step 2: Comprehension · Step 3: Application · Step 4: Analyze · Step 5: Synthesis · Step 6: Take Action
A model for critical thinking ; What is it about? When was it written? What is the aim of the article? ; What is this problem about? Who does it involve or affect
The 4 steps of critical thinking · 1. Analysis. When faced with an actual problem to solve, too many professionals fall victim to analysis