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What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas. Critical thinking has been the subject of much debate and thought since the time of early Greek philosophers such as Plato and Socrates and has continued to be a subject of discussion into the modern age, for example the ability to recognise fake news .
Critical thinking might be described as the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking.
In essence, critical thinking requires you to use your ability to reason. It is about being an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information.
Critical thinkers rigorously question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value. They will always seek to determine whether the ideas, arguments and findings represent the entire picture and are open to finding that they do not.
Critical thinkers will identify, analyse and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or instinct.
Someone with critical thinking skills can:
Understand the links between ideas.
Determine the importance and relevance of arguments and ideas.
Recognise, build and appraise arguments.
Identify inconsistencies and errors in reasoning.
Approach problems in a consistent and systematic way.
Reflect on the justification of their own assumptions, beliefs and values.
Critical thinking is thinking about things in certain ways so as to arrive at the best possible solution in the circumstances that the thinker is aware of. In more everyday language, it is a way of thinking about whatever is presently occupying your mind so that you come to the best possible conclusion.
Critical Thinking is:
A way of thinking about particular things at a particular time; it is not the accumulation of facts and knowledge or something that you can learn once and then use in that form forever, such as the nine times table you learn and use in school.
The Skills We Need for Critical Thinking
The skills that we need in order to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making.
Specifically we need to be able to:
Think about a topic or issue in an objective and critical way.
Identify the different arguments there are in relation to a particular issue.
Evaluate a point of view to determine how strong or valid it is.
Recognise any weaknesses or negative points that there are in the evidence or argument.
Notice what implications there might be behind a statement or argument.
Provide structured reasoning and support for an argument that we wish to make.
The Critical Thinking Process
You should be aware that none of us think critically all the time.
Sometimes we think in almost any way but critically, for example when our self-control is affected by anger, grief or joy or when we are feeling just plain ‘bloody minded’.
On the other hand, the good news is that, since our critical thinking ability varies according to our current mindset, most of the time we can learn to improve our critical thinking ability by developing certain routine activities and applying them to all problems that present themselves.
Once you understand the theory of critical thinking, improving your critical thinking skills takes persistence and practice.
Try this simple exercise to help you to start thinking critically.
Think of something that someone has recently told you. Then ask yourself the following questions:
Who said it?
Someone you know? Someone in a position of authority or power? Does it matter who told you this?
What did they say?
Did they give facts or opinions? Did they provide all the facts? Did they leave anything out?
Where did they say it?
Was it in public or in private? Did other people have a chance to respond an provide an alternative account?
When did they say it?
Was it before, during or after an important event? Is timing important?
Why did they say it?
Did they explain the reasoning behind their opinion? Were they trying to make someone look good or bad?
How did they say it?
Were they happy or sad, angry or indifferent? Did they write it or say it? Could you understand what was said?
What are you Aiming to Achieve?
One of the most important aspects of critical thinking is to decide what you are aiming to achieve and then make a decision based on a range of possibilities.
Once you have clarified that aim for yourself you should use it as the starting point in all future situations requiring thought and, possibly, further decision making. Where needed, make your workmates, family or those around you aware of your intention to pursue this goal. You must then discipline yourself to keep on track until changing circumstances mean you have to revisit the start of the decision making process.
However, there are things that get in the way of simple decision making. We all carry with us a range of likes and dislikes, learnt behaviours and personal preferences developed throughout our lives; they are the hallmarks of being human. A major contribution to ensuring we think critically is to be aware of these personal characteristics, preferences and biases and make allowance for them when considering possible next steps, whether they are at the pre-action consideration stage or as part of a rethink caused by unexpected or unforeseen impediments to continued progress.
The more clearly we are aware of ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, the more likely our critical thinking will be productive.
The Benefit of Foresight
Perhaps the most important element of thinking critically is foresight.
Almost all decisions we make and implement don’t prove disastrous if we find reasons to abandon them. However, our decision making will be infinitely better and more likely to lead to success if, when we reach a tentative conclusion, we pause and consider the impact on the people and activities around us.
The elements needing consideration are generally numerous and varied. In many cases, consideration of one element from a different perspective will reveal potential dangers in pursuing our decision.
For instance, moving a business activity to a new location may improve potential output considerably but it may also lead to the loss of skilled workers if the distance moved is too great. Which of these is the more important consideration? Is there some way of lessening the conflict?
These are the sort of problems that may arise from incomplete critical thinking, a demonstration perhaps of the critical importance of good critical thinking.
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Critical thinking is aimed at achieving the best possible outcomes in any situation. In order to achieve this it must involve gathering and evaluating information from as many different sources possible.
Critical thinking requires a clear, often uncomfortable, assessment of your personal strengths, weaknesses and preferences and their possible impact on decisions you may make.
Critical thinking requires the development and use of foresight as far as this is possible. As Doris Day sang, “the future’s not ours to see”.
Implementing the decisions made arising from critical thinking must take into account an assessment of possible outcomes and ways of avoiding potentially negative outcomes, or at least lessening their impact.
- Critical thinking involves reviewing the results of the application of decisions made and implementing change where possible.
It might be thought that we are overextending our demands on critical thinking in expecting that it can help to construct focused meaning rather than examining the information given and the knowledge we have acquired to see if we can, if necessary, construct a meaning that will be acceptable and useful.
After all, almost no information we have available to us, either externally or internally, carries any guarantee of its life or appropriateness. Neat step-by-step instructions may provide some sort of trellis on which our basic understanding of critical thinking can blossom but it doesn’t and cannot provide any assurance of certainty, utility or longevity.
Continue to: Critical Thinking and Fake News Critical Reading
See also: Analytical Skills Understanding and Addressing Conspiracy Theories Introduction to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
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6 Critical Thinking Skills You Need to Master Now
By Will Erstad on 01/22/2018
No matter what walk of life you come from, what industry you’re interested in pursuing or how much experience you’ve already garnered, we’ve all seen firsthand the importance of critical thinking skills. In fact, lacking such skills can truly make or break a person’s career, as the consequences of one’s inability to process and analyze information effectively can be massive.
“The ability to think critically is more important now than it has ever been,” urges Kris Potrafka , founder and CEO of Music Firsthand. “Everything is at risk if we don’t all learn to think more critically.” If people cannot think critically, he explains, they not only lessen their prospects of climbing the ladder in their respective industries, but they also become easily susceptible to things like fraud and manipulation.
With that in mind, you’re likely wondering what you can do to make sure you’re not one of those people. Developing your critical thinking skills is something that takes concentrated work. It can be best to begin by exploring the definition of critical thinking and the skills it includes—once you do, you can then venture toward the crucial question at hand: How can I improve?
This is no easy task, which is why we aimed to help break down the basic elements of critical thinking and offer suggestions on how you can hone your skills and become a better critical thinker.
What is critical thinking?
Even if you want to be a better critical thinker, it’s hard to improve upon something you can’t define. Critical thinking is the analysis of an issue or situation and the facts, data or evidence related to it. Ideally, critical thinking is to be done objectively—meaning without influence from personal feelings, opinions or biases—and it focuses solely on factual information.
Critical thinking is a skill that allows you to make logical and informed decisions to the best of your ability. For example, a child who has not yet developed such skills might believe the Tooth Fairy left money under their pillow based on stories their parents told them. A critical thinker, however, can quickly conclude that the existence of such a thing is probably unlikely—even if there are a few bucks under their pillow.
6 Crucial critical thinking skills (and how you can improve them)
While there’s no universal standard for what skills are included in the critical thinking process, we’ve boiled it down to the following six. Focusing on these can put you on the path to becoming an exceptional critical thinker.
The first step in the critical thinking process is to identify the situation or problem as well as the factors that may influence it. Once you have a clear picture of the situation and the people, groups or factors that may be influenced, you can then begin to dive deeper into an issue and its potential solutions.
How to improve: When facing any new situation, question or scenario, stop to take a mental inventory of the state of affairs and ask the following questions:
- Who is doing what?
- What seems to be the reason for this happening?
- What are the end results, and how could they change?
When comparing arguments about an issue, independent research ability is key. Arguments are meant to be persuasive—that means the facts and figures presented in their favor might be lacking in context or come from questionable sources. The best way to combat this is independent verification; find the source of the information and evaluate.
How to improve: It can be helpful to develop an eye for unsourced claims. Does the person posing the argument offer where they got this information from? If you ask or try to find it yourself and there’s no clear answer, that should be considered a red flag. It’s also important to know that not all sources are equally valid—take the time to learn the difference between popular and scholarly articles .
3. Identifying biases
This skill can be exceedingly difficult, as even the smartest among us can fail to recognize biases. Strong critical thinkers do their best to evaluate information objectively. Think of yourself as a judge in that you want to evaluate the claims of both sides of an argument, but you’ll also need to keep in mind the biases each side may possess.
It is equally important—and arguably more difficult—to learn how to set aside your own personal biases that may cloud your judgment. “Have the courage to debate and argue with your own thoughts and assumptions,” Potrafka encourages. “This is essential for learning to see things from different viewpoints.”
How to improve: “Challenge yourself to identify the evidence that forms your beliefs, and assess whether or not your sources are credible,” offers Ruth Wilson, director of development at Brightmont Academy .
First and foremost, you must be aware that bias exists. When evaluating information or an argument, ask yourself the following:
- Who does this benefit?
- Does the source of this information appear to have an agenda?
- Is the source overlooking, ignoring or leaving out information that doesn’t support its beliefs or claims?
- Is this source using unnecessary language to sway an audience’s perception of a fact?
The ability to infer and draw conclusions based on the information presented to you is another important skill for mastering critical thinking. Information doesn’t always come with a summary that spells out what it means. You’ll often need to assess the information given and draw conclusions based upon raw data.
The ability to infer allows you to extrapolate and discover potential outcomes when assessing a scenario. It is also important to note that not all inferences will be correct. For example, if you read that someone weighs 260 pounds, you might infer they are overweight or unhealthy. Other data points like height and body composition, however, may alter that conclusion.
How to improve: An inference is an educated guess, and your ability to infer correctly can be polished by making a conscious effort to gather as much information as possible before jumping to conclusions. When faced with a new scenario or situation to evaluate, first try skimming for clues—things like headlines, images and prominently featured statistics—and then make a point to ask yourself what you think is going on.
5. Determining relevance
One of the most challenging parts of thinking critically during a challenging scenario is figuring out what information is the most important for your consideration. In many scenarios, you’ll be presented with information that may seem important, but it may pan out to be only a minor data point to consider.
How to improve: The best way to get better at determining relevance is by establishing a clear direction in what you’re trying to figure out. Are you tasked with finding a solution? Should you be identifying a trend? If you figure out your end goal, you can use this to inform your judgment of what is relevant.
Even with a clear objective, however, it can still be difficult to determine what information is truly relevant. One strategy for combating this is to make a physical list of data points ranked in order of relevance. When you parse it out this way, you’ll likely end up with a list that includes a couple of obviously relevant pieces of information at the top of your list, in addition to some points at the bottom that you can likely disregard. From there, you can narrow your focus on the less clear-cut topics that reside in the middle of your list for further evaluation.
It’s incredibly easy to sit back and take everything presented to you at face value, but that can also be also a recipe for disaster when faced with a scenario that requires critical thinking. It’s true that we’re all naturally curious—just ask any parent who has faced an onslaught of “Why?” questions from their child. As we get older, it can be easier to get in the habit of keeping that impulse to ask questions at bay. But that’s not a winning approach for critical thinking.
How to improve: While it might seem like a curious mind is just something you’re born with, you can still train yourself to foster that curiosity productively. All it takes is a conscious effort to ask open-ended questions about the things you see in your everyday life, and you can then invest the time to follow up on these questions.
“Being able to ask open-ended questions is an important skill to develop—and bonus points for being able to probe,” Potrafka says.
Become a better critical thinker
Thinking critically is vital for anyone looking to have a successful college career and a fruitful professional life upon graduation. Your ability to objectively analyze and evaluate complex subjects and situations will always be useful. Unlock your potential by practicing and refining the six critical thinking skills above.
Most professionals credit their time in college as having been crucial in the development of their critical thinking abilities. If you’re looking to improve your skills in a way that can impact your life and career moving forward, higher education is a fantastic venue through which to achieve that. For some of the surefire signs you’re ready to take the next step in your education, visit our article, “ 6 Signs You’re Ready to Be a College Student .”
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in December 2012. It has since been updated.
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Critical thinking is the one skillset you can't afford not to master
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What is critical thinking?
5 characteristics of critical thinking, what are critical thinking skills, and why are they important, 6 key critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking skills: a real-life example
13 ways to start thinking critically
Whether you’re aiming to improve your performance at work or simply trying to live a more fulfilling life , you’ll need a variety of hard and soft skills to move the needle. Some skills come naturally to some people, while others need to develop them actively.
One of these skills is critical thinking. But critical thinking itself is made up of several types of skills that contribute to solving problems more effectively.
Let’s explore the different types of critical thinking skills and how you can start improving them to level up your career.
Critical thinking is the ability to analyze facts and form a judgment. It is a form of emotional intelligence .
Someone with critical thinking skills can think clearly and rationally when the situation demands it. It allows them to perform problem-solving and decision-making more effectively.
As a result, you can look further than what you see at face value. You’re able to analyze what you see from a situation and gain some insight that goes further than what’s obvious to anyone from the outside.
Critical thinking also requires being able to understand the logical connection between two or more ideas or concepts. For example, a team working on a company’s pricing strategy needs to think critically about several concepts.
Both the marketing and sales teams must work together. They need to analyze how to maximize sales. But they need to do so while also meeting profit goals. It’s important to understand the logical connection between sales strategy and marketing logistics. It’s the only way to get a good outcome.
Critical thinking is different from creative thinking . Creative thinking is the ability to generate brand new, innovative ideas. On the other hand, critical thinking requires you to carefully and logically analyze what information is given to you. Both are important to maximize results in any given situation.
What defines critical thinking? How does it affect the decision-making process? Here are five characteristics that make up the ability to think critically.
Critical thinkers have specific traits that allow them to think the way they do. Some people are predisposed to these traits, while others need to develop them actively.
Some of these dispositions include:
- Respecting evidence and reasoning
- Being able to consider different perspectives and points of view: in other words, having cognitive flexibility
- Not being stuck in one position
- Clarity and precision
Good critical thinkers need to make solid arguments.
An argument is making a statement aided by supporting evidence. It’s important to use well thought-out arguments when you’re in a constructive conflict . When analyzing a situation critically, you’ll need to make several arguments in your own mind to come to a judgment.
In addition to arguments, critical thinking also requires inferring conclusions. From the facts and arguments presented to you, you need to use reasoning skills to come to a logical conclusion.
This conclusion will determine the best course of action to take.
Critical thinking is sometimes a matter of discerning truth from fiction. Not all facts presented to you may have the same level of truth. Certain conditions need to be met for something to be considered believable, and a critical thinker needs to be able to understand that.
Metacognition is the ability to think about your own thinking. Critical thinkers should be able to analyze their thoughts so that they can judge whether or not they’ve thought everything through. This helps them come up with better hypotheses.
The critical thinking skills definition is: soft skills that help you in the critical thinking process. Developing these skills can improve your ability to think critically.
Critical thinking skills are considered one of many durable skills in the workplace . Many of these are soft skills that are also useful in other situations.
According to research by America Succeeds, critical thinking is in the top five most requested durable skills in job postings. Those top five durable skills get requested 2.6x more often than the top five hard skills. This goes to show that soft skills like critical thinking skills are in demand in the workplace.
Critical thinking skills are important for several reasons. These include helping you work independently and solve problems . Not all positions require ongoing critical thinking. But, those skills definitely matter to anyone who wants to uplevel their career. And even the most easygoing positions require at least some level of critical thinking skills.
For example, working as an accountant can be straightforward in most cases. But it may require critical thinking skills. For instance, what if certain expenses aren’t easily distributed in simple categories? Without critical thinking skills, an accountant will struggle to work independently and solve problems on their own.
Critical thinking abilities also matter in everyday life. Having a foundation for critical thinking can help you analyze several possible solutions for problems that pop up in the home. It can also help you:
- Analyze different viewpoints
- Come up with the best solution for complex problems
- Become a better learner
The key critical thinking skills are identifying biases, inference, research, identification, curiosity, and judging relevance.
Let’s explore these six critical thinking skills you should learn and why they’re so important to the critical thinking process.
1. Identifying biases
This critical thinking skill is necessary for metacognition, which is the fifth characteristic of critical thinking. It involves knowing when others have a cognitive bias and when you have one yourself.
Biases can influence how someone understands the facts presented to them. But when you’re aware of those biases, you can question yourself on those biases and consider other points of view.
Identifying biases is especially important for people who make hiring decisions. That’s because biases against groups of minorities can lead to inequalities in the workplace when not identified.
For example, imagine a hiring manager comparing two resumes. Their gut feeling could guide them to discount one of the resumes due to a bias against the opposite gender. But let’s say this hiring manager realizes they have this bias. They can then question themselves on whether or not this bias is influencing their judgment.
Inference is the ability to draw conclusions based on the information you have. Without inference, it can be difficult to take action once you’ve analyzed the facts presented to you. Processing information is key to coming up with a reasoned judgment.
For example, let’s go back to the accountant struggling to assign the correct category to a business expense. They can analyze other similar situations and infer the most logical category based on that information.
Before you analyze facts and infer a conclusion, you need to find out what those facts are. Researching skills allow you to discover facts and figures to make an argument.
Not all situations will have the required information available to you. Researching skills are necessary to dig into a situation and gather the information you need to think critically.
Some situations don’t require further research. For example, a first responder who arrives on the scene of an automobile accident won’t perform further research. They’ll have to analyze what they see in front of them and decide which injuries are the most urgent to care for.
On the other hand, someone performing a market analysis will need to research competitors and gather information before coming up with an opinion.
Identification is different from inference and research. It involves being able to identify a problem but also what’s influencing that problem.
In short, identification is necessary for someone to realize that they need to think critically about something. Without proper identification skills, it will be difficult for someone to know when it’s time to analyze a situation.
For example, let’s say you’re entering numbers in a spreadsheet. The numbers aren’t coming out as they usually do. Without identification skills, you could easily keep going without realizing there’s an issue. But when you identify what’s going on, you can see that something is broken in the spreadsheet’s formula.
Only once you identify the fact that the formula is broken can you start analyzing what’s going on to solve the issue.
Don’t be afraid to question everything and explore what you’re curious about. That’s because intellectual curiosity is a valuable skill, especially when it comes to critical thinking.
One way to practice curiosity is to adopt a beginner’s mindset . When you come into every situation with the mindset of a beginner, you’re able to keep an open mind. You’ll be able to perceive things you may not have noticed when keeping your mind closed.
6. Judging relevance
Not all information is equally pertinent. In order to make a critical judgment, it’s important to be able to judge the relevance of the information you have.
Take, for instance, basic online researching skills. You have access to a plethora of information on virtually every topic imaginable. But performing online research requires you to constantly judge the relevance of what you see.
Without judging relevance, you’d spend too much time on details that don’t matter as much for the final desired outcome. But when you’re able to discern what’s most pertinent, you can give that information more weight as you’re thinking critically.
Critical thinking skills: a real-life example
So what would critical thinking skills look like in a real-life situation?
Let’s imagine you’re working in software quality assurance (QA) as a team lead. But every time your team needs to enter bug regression, everyone gets bottlenecked because you must manually populate the spreadsheet used for the regression. While you do this task, your team cannot be productive without you.
This process happens once a week and easily wastes half an hour for each team member.
First, you must identify what’s going on. The team gets bottlenecked because only you, as the team lead, can access the information required to fill in the regression spreadsheet.
Next, you can research information. You can inquire to higher-ups about the reason why only you have access to this information. You can also speak to other teams about what potential solutions they’ve come up with to solve this problem.
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to analyze the information and judge relevance. Some teams have solutions that don’t apply to you, so that information isn’t relevant anymore.
Figure out if there are any personal biases before you analyze your information.
For example, it’s possible that you don’t get along with one of the other team leads. As a result, you could discount the information they’ve given you. But by identifying this bias, you can look past your personal opinion of this person and see how valuable their solution is.
Based on what you’ve analyzed, it’s time to brainstorm and come up with a solution. You realize that creating a simple, automated script will save your team’s time. And it will do so without consuming too many resources from the engineering department.
Next, present your solution to your manager. Explain how you came to this conclusion.
Now, let’s say your spreadsheet automation solution is approved. It’s important to go back and analyze what happens after implementing the solution. But only do this once the spreadsheet has been in place for long enough to gather plenty of information.
Here’s an example. You could realize that the solution did solve the bottleneck. But, the script also slows down the spreadsheet and makes it difficult to work with. This would require you to go back to the drawing board and start the process all over again.
Want to start improving your own critical thinking skill sets? Here’s how you can improve critical thinking skills using 13 techniques:
- Play games that require critical thinking skills
- Ask more questions, even basic ones
- Question your assumptions
- Develop your technical skills so that you can identify problems more easily
- Find ways to solve more problems (at work and at home)
- Become aware of your mental processes, like the availability heuristic
- Think for yourself: don’t adopt other people’s opinions without questioning them first
- Seek out diversity of thought
- Start developing foresight
- Try active listening
- Weigh the consequences of different actions before you act
- Seek a mentor who can help you develop these skills
- Get professional coaching
How to improve your critical thinking skills
Critical thinking skills aren’t always easy to develop. But it’s much easier to start thinking critically when you have someone to work with. Try a custom BetterUp demo to see how a coach can help you develop your critical thinking skills today.
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- Career Advice
Top 8 Critical Thinking Skills and Ways to Improve Them
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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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Want to learn more about listing all kinds of skills on a resume? See our guide with the ultimate list of Best Job Skills to Put on a Resume
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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Why Is Critical Thinking Important? A Survival Guide
Why is critical thinking important? The decisions that you make affect your quality of life. And if you want to ensure that you live your best, most successful and happy life, you’re going to want to make conscious choices. That can be done with a simple thing known as critical thinking. Here’s how to improve your critical thinking skills and make decisions that you won’t regret.
What Is Critical Thinking?
You’ve surely heard of critical thinking, but you might not be entirely sure what it really means, and that’s because there are many definitions. For the most part, however, we think of critical thinking as the process of analyzing facts in order to form a judgment. Basically, it’s thinking about thinking.
How Has The Definition Evolved Over Time?
The first time critical thinking was documented is believed to be in the teachings of Socrates , recorded by Plato. But throughout history, the definition has changed.
Today it is best understood by philosophers and psychologists and it’s believed to be a highly complex concept. Some insightful modern-day critical thinking definitions include :
- “Reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.”
- “Deciding what’s true and what you should do.”
The Importance Of Critical Thinking
Why is critical thinking important? Good question! Here are a few undeniable reasons why it’s crucial to have these skills.
1. Critical Thinking Is Universal
Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. What does this mean? It means that no matter what path or profession you pursue, these skills will always be relevant and will always be beneficial to your success. They are not specific to any field.
2. Crucial For The Economy
Our future depends on technology, information, and innovation. Critical thinking is needed for our fast-growing economies, to solve problems as quickly and as effectively as possible.
3. Improves Language & Presentation Skills
In order to best express ourselves, we need to know how to think clearly and systematically — meaning practice critical thinking! Critical thinking also means knowing how to break down texts, and in turn, improve our ability to comprehend.
4. Promotes Creativity
By practicing critical thinking, we are allowing ourselves not only to solve problems but also to come up with new and creative ideas to do so. Critical thinking allows us to analyze these ideas and adjust them accordingly.
5. Important For Self-Reflection
Without critical thinking, how can we really live a meaningful life? We need this skill to self-reflect and justify our ways of life and opinions. Critical thinking provides us with the tools to evaluate ourselves in the way that we need to.
Photo by Marcelo Chagas from Pexels
6. the basis of science & democracy.
In order to have a democracy and to prove scientific facts, we need critical thinking in the world. Theories must be backed up with knowledge. In order for a society to effectively function, its citizens need to establish opinions about what’s right and wrong (by using critical thinking!).
Benefits Of Critical Thinking
We know that critical thinking is good for society as a whole, but what are some benefits of critical thinking on an individual level? Why is critical thinking important for us?
1. Key For Career Success
Critical thinking is crucial for many career paths. Not just for scientists, but lawyers , doctors, reporters, engineers , accountants, and analysts (among many others) all have to use critical thinking in their positions.
In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking is one of the most desirable skills to have in the workforce, as it helps analyze information, think outside the box, solve problems with innovative solutions, and plan systematically.
2. Better Decision Making
There’s no doubt about it — critical thinkers make the best choices. Critical thinking helps us deal with everyday problems as they come our way, and very often this thought process is even done subconsciously. It helps us think independently and trust our gut feeling.
3. Can Make You Happier!
While this often goes unnoticed, being in touch with yourself and having a deep understanding of why you think the way you think can really make you happier. Critical thinking can help you better understand yourself, and in turn, help you avoid any kind of negative or limiting beliefs, and focus more on your strengths. Being able to share your thoughts can increase your quality of life.
4. Form Well-Informed Opinions
There is no shortage of information coming at us from all angles. And that’s exactly why we need to use our critical thinking skills and decide for ourselves what to believe. Critical thinking allows us to ensure that our opinions are based on the facts, and help us sort through all that extra noise.
5. Better Citizens
One of the most inspiring critical thinking quotes is by former US president Thomas Jefferson: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
What Jefferson is stressing to us here is that critical thinkers make better citizens, as they are able to see the entire picture without getting sucked into biases and propaganda.
6. Improves Relationships
While you may be convinced that being a critical thinker is bound to cause you problems in relationships, this really couldn’t be less true! Being a critical thinker can allow you to better understand the perspective of others, and can help you become more open-minded towards different views.
7. Promotes Curiosity
Critical thinkers are constantly curious about all kinds of things in life, and tend to have a wide range of interests. Critical thinking means constantly asking questions and wanting to know more, about why, what, who, where, when, and everything else that can help them make sense of a situation or concept, never taking anything at face value.
8. Allows For Creativity
Critical thinkers are also highly creative thinkers, and see themselves as limitless when it comes to possibilities. They are constantly looking to take things further, which is crucial in the workforce.
9. Enhances Problem Solving Skills
Those with critical thinking skills tend to solve problems as part of their natural instinct. Critical thinkers are patient and committed to solving the problem, similar to Albert Einstein, one of the best critical thinking examples, who said “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Critical thinkers’ enhanced problem-solving skills makes them better at their jobs and better at solving the world’s biggest problems. Like Einstein, they have the potential to literally change the world.
10. An Activity For The Mind
Just like our muscles, in order for them to be strong, our mind also needs to be exercised and challenged. It’s safe to say that critical thinking is almost like an activity for the mind — and it needs to be practiced. Critical thinking encourages the development of many crucial skills such as logical thinking, decision making, and open-mindness.
11. Creates Independence
When we think critically, we think on our own as we trust ourselves more. Critical thinking is key to creating independence, and encouraging students to make their own decisions and form their own opinions.
12. Crucial Life Skill
Critical thinking is crucial not just for learning, but for life overall! Education isn’t just a way to prepare ourselves for life, but it’s pretty much life itself. Learning is a lifelong process that we go through each and every day.
How to Think Critically
Now that you know the benefits of thinking critically, how do you actually do it?
How To Improve Your Critical Thinking
- Define Your Question: When it comes to critical thinking, it’s important to always keep your goal in mind. Know what you’re trying to achieve, and then figure out how to best get there.
- Gather Reliable Information: Make sure that you’re using sources you can trust — biases aside. That’s how a real critical thinker operates!
- Ask The Right Questions: We all know the importance of questions, but be sure that you’re asking the right questions that are going to get you to your answer.
- Look Short & Long Term: When coming up with solutions, think about both the short- and long-term consequences. Both of them are significant in the equation.
- Explore All Sides: There is never just one simple answer, and nothing is black or white. Explore all options and think outside of the box before you come to any conclusions.
How Is Critical Thinking Developed At School?
Critical thinking is developed in nearly everything we do. However, much of this important skill is encouraged to be practiced at school, and rightfully so! Critical thinking goes beyond just thinking clearly — it’s also about thinking for yourself.
When a teacher asks a question in class, students are given the chance to answer for themselves and think critically about what they learned and what they believe to be accurate. When students work in groups and are forced to engage in discussion, this is also a great chance to expand their thinking and use their critical thinking skills.
How Does Critical Thinking Apply To Your Career?
Once you’ve finished school and entered the workforce, your critical thinking journey only expands and grows from here!
Impress Your Employer
Employers value employees who are critical thinkers, ask questions, offer creative ideas, and are always ready to offer innovation against the competition. No matter what your position or role in a company may be, critical thinking will always give you the power to stand out and make a difference.
Careers That Require Critical Thinking
Some of many examples of careers that require critical thinking include:
- Human resources specialist
- Marketing associate
- Business analyst
Truth be told however, it’s probably harder to come up with a professional field that doesn’t require any critical thinking!
Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile from Pexels
What is someone with critical thinking skills capable of doing.
Someone with critical thinking skills is able to think rationally and clearly about what they should or not believe. They are capable of engaging in their own thoughts, and doing some reflection in order to come to a well-informed conclusion.
A critical thinker understands the connections between ideas, and is able to construct arguments based on facts, as well as find mistakes in reasoning.
The Process Of Critical Thinking
The process of critical thinking is highly systematic.
What Are Your Goals?
Critical thinking starts by defining your goals, and knowing what you are ultimately trying to achieve.
Once you know what you are trying to conclude, you can foresee your solution to the problem and play it out in your head from all perspectives.
What Does The Future Of Critical Thinking Hold?
The future of critical thinking is the equivalent of the future of jobs. In 2020, critical thinking was ranked as the 2nd top skill (following complex problem solving) by the World Economic Forum .
We are dealing with constant unprecedented changes, and what success is today, might not be considered success tomorrow — making critical thinking a key skill for the future workforce.
Why Is Critical Thinking So Important?
Why is critical thinking important? Critical thinking is more than just important! It’s one of the most crucial cognitive skills one can develop.
By practicing well-thought-out thinking, both your thoughts and decisions can make a positive change in your life, on both a professional and personal level. You can hugely improve your life by working on your critical thinking skills as often as you can.
More From Forbes
13 Easy Steps To Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills
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With the sheer volume of information that we’re bombarded with on a daily basis – and with the pervasiveness of fake news and social media bubbles – the ability to look at evidence, evaluate the trustworthiness of a source, and think critically is becoming more important than ever. This is why, for me, critical thinking is one of the most vital skills to cultivate for future success.
Critical thinking isn’t about being constantly negative or critical of everything. It’s about objectivity and having an open, inquisitive mind. To think critically is to analyze issues based on hard evidence (as opposed to personal opinions, biases, etc.) in order to build a thorough understanding of what’s really going on. And from this place of thorough understanding, you can make better decisions and solve problems more effectively.
To put it another way, critical thinking means arriving at your own carefully considered conclusions instead of taking information at face value. Here are 13 ways you can cultivate this precious skill:
1. Always vet new information with a cautious eye. Whether it’s an article someone has shared online or data that’s related to your job, always vet the information you're presented with. Good questions to ask here include, "Is this information complete and up to date?” “What evidence is being presented to support the argument?” and “Whose voice is missing here?”
2. Look at where the information has come from. Is the source trustworthy? What is their motivation for presenting this information? For example, are they trying to sell you something or get you to take a certain action (like vote for them)?
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3. Consider more than one point of view. Everyone has their own opinions and motivations – even highly intelligent people making reasonable-sounding arguments have personal opinions and biases that shape their thinking. So, when someone presents you with information, consider whether there are other sides to the story.
4. Practice active listening. Listen carefully to what others are telling you, and try to build a clear picture of their perspective. Empathy is a really useful skill here since putting yourself in another person's shoes can help you understand where they're coming from and what they might want. Try to listen without judgment – remember, critical thinking is about keeping an open mind.
5. Gather additional information where needed. Whenever you identify gaps in the information or data, do your own research to fill those gaps. The next few steps will help you do this objectively…
6. Ask lots of open-ended questions. Curiosity is a key trait of critical thinkers, so channel your inner child and ask lots of "who," "what," and "why" questions.
7. Find your own reputable sources of information, such as established news sites, nonprofit organizations, and education institutes. Try to avoid anonymous sources or sources with an ax to grind or a product to sell. Also, be sure to check when the information was published. An older source may be unintentionally offering up wrong information just because events have moved on since it was published; corroborate the info with a more recent source.
8. Try not to get your news from social media. And if you do see something on social media that grabs your interest, check the accuracy of the story (via reputable sources of information, as above) before you share it.
9. Learn to spot fake news. It's not always easy to spot false or misleading content, but a good rule of thumb is to look at the language, emotion, and tone of the piece. Is it using emotionally charged language, for instance, and trying to get you to feel a certain way? Also, look at the sources of facts, figures, images, and quotes. A legit news story will clearly state its sources.
10. Learn to spot biased information. Like fake news, biased information may seek to appeal more to your emotions than logic and/or present a limited view of the topic. So ask yourself, “Is there more to this topic than what’s being presented here?” Do your own reading around the topic to establish the full picture.
11. Question your own biases, too. Everyone has biases, and there’s no point pretending otherwise. The trick is to think objectively about your likes and dislikes, preferences, and beliefs, and consider how these might affect your thinking.
12. Form your own opinions. Remember, critical thinking is about thinking independently. So once you’ve assessed all the information, form your own conclusions about it.
13. Continue to work on your critical thinking skills. I recommend looking at online learning platforms such as Udemy and Coursera for courses on general critical thinking skills, as well as courses on specific subjects like cognitive biases.
Read more about critical thinking and other essential skills in my new book, Future Skills: The 20 Skills & Competencies Everyone Needs To Succeed In A Digital World . Written for anyone who wants to surf the wave of digital transformation – rather than be drowned by it – the book explores why these vital future skills matter and how to develop them.
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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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Critical thinking in everyday life.
by Winston Sieck updated September 19, 2021
Have you ever been listening to one of your teacher’s lessons and thought that it had no relevance to your own life?
You’re not alone. Just about every student has felt the same way.
Sure, you use critical thinking skills in the classroom to solve word problems in math, write essays in English, and create hypotheses in science.
But how will you use critical thinking in everyday life?
First, keep in mind that critical thinking is simply a “deliberate thought process.”
Basically, it means that you are using reason and logic to come to a conclusion about an issue or decision you are tangling with.
And clear, sound reasoning is something that will help you every day.
To help you make the leap from classroom to real world, here are 3 concrete examples of critical thinking in everyday life.
Fake News vs. Real News
Take a moment to reflect on your media skills. Do you think you have what it takes to sort out a real news source from a piece of clever advertising?
According to a recent study from Stanford University, a whopping 82% of the teens surveyed could not distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a legitimate news story.
Part of the problem may come from schools cutting back on formal instruction of critical thinking skills and an assumption that today’s “digital native” teens can automatically tell the difference without practice or instruction.
You are good at lots of things. But, you know, you’ve practiced those things you’re good at. So, how can you practice telling fact from fiction?
One way (outside of school) is to chat with your family and friends about media sources. Find out how they stay informed, and why they choose those outlets. Ask each other routine questions for evaluating sources .
Do your Friends Know Everything?
It’s tempting to believe that the world begins and ends with your friends. Don’t get me wrong. Friends are definitely important. However, it pays to reflect a little on how a group influences our lives.
To practice critical thinking in everyday life, take a close look at your group of friends. Are there things that are “forbidden” in your social circle? Are you expected to act a certain way, dress a certain way?
Think a certain way?
It’s natural that when a group defines something as “cool”, all the people in the group work to fit into that definition. Regardless of what they individually believe.
The problem is that virtually every situation can be defined in multiple ways. What is “dumb” to one person may be “cool” to another.
Develop your ability to redefine the way you see the world around you. On your own terms.
Find a time when your friend group sees the negative in a situation. Is there a positive way to view it instead? Or at least a way that makes it seem not quite so bad?
You may not be ready to speak up with your independent view. And that’s ok. Just practice thinking differently from the group to strengthen your mind.
Critical Thinking in the Driver’s Seat
One of the core critical thinking skills you need every day is the ability to examine the implications and consequences of a belief or action. In its deepest form, this ability can help you form your own set of beliefs in everything from climate change to religion.
But this skill can also save your life (and your car insurance rate) behind the wheel.
Imagine you are cruising down the freeway when your phone alerts you to an incoming text message. The ability to examine your potential actions and their accompanying consequences will help you make the best choice for how to handle the situation.
Do you look at the text and risk getting into an accident? Do you wait and risk not responding to an urgent matter? Or do you pull over to look at the text and risk being late for your appointment?
The same skill can be applied when you are looking for a place to park, when to pull onto a busy street, or whether to run the yellow light.
Better yet, the more practiced you are at looking at the implications of your driving habits, the faster you can make split second decisions behind the wheel.
Why Critical Thinking in Everyday Life Matters
Literally everyone can benefit from critical thinking because the need for it is all around us.
In a philosophical paper , Peter Facione makes a strong case that critical thinking skills are needed by everyone, in all societies who value safety, justice, and a host of other positive values:
“Considered as a form of thoughtful judgment or reflective decision-making, in a very real sense critical thinking is pervasive. There is hardly a time or a place where it would not seem to be of potential value. As long as people have purposes in mind and wish to judge how to accomplish them, as long as people wonder what is true and what is not, what to believe and what to reject, strong critical thinking is going to be necessary.”
So, in other words, as long as you remain curious, purposeful, and ambitious, no matter what your interests, you’re going to need critical thinking to really own your life.
About Winston Sieck
Dr. Winston Sieck is a cognitive psychologist working to advance the development of thinking skills. He is founder and president of Global Cognition, and director of Thinker Academy .
July 27, 2019 at 7:20 am
Wonderful article.. Useful in daily life… I have never imagined the way critical thinking is useful to make judgments
December 9, 2020 at 9:38 pm
My name is Anthony Lambert I am student at miller Motte. Critical Thinking is one my classes. I thank you for giving me the skills of critical thinking.
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6 amazing tips to improve your critical thinking skills.
Some people are inherently gifted with certain abilities, while others must work hard to cultivate them. Being able to think critically is one such skill. However, critical thinking itself is made up of a variety of abilities — both hard and soft skills — that help in problem-solving. So what is critical thinking exactly? Read on.
What is Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is the process of questioning, analyzing, interpreting, evaluating, and forming an opinion about what you read, hear, say, or write. The term ‘critical’ originates from the Greek word kritikos , which means ‘ability to judge or distinguish’. Making trustworthy decisions based on accurate information is what critical thinking is all about. It is built on universal intellectual ideals: clarity, correctness, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, excellent reasoning, depth, and fairness. As a result, employers place a premium on the capacity to think critically.
Why is Critical Thinking Important
We’ve now got clarity on the question of what is critical thinking . Let’s now understand why it is important.
Some Occupations Demand it
Critical thinking is a crucial aspect of any career where the goal is to objectively infer facts without bias, examine the context, solve creative challenges, and come up with practical answers.
It Improves Decision-Making
Big life-changing decisions, such as whether to change careers or not, benefit from critical thinking. It motivates you to investigate and choose objective reasoning over your immediate emotional reaction.
Critical Thinkers are More Content
Every difficult situation can be further simplified if one has the ability to think critically. Critical thinking invokes a sense of introspection which hones personal growth and amplifies general satisfaction.
Keeps You Well-Informed
Critical thinkers excel at researching and locating the most significant pieces of information that make them well-informed on any given issue. This is useful in workplace interactions and in establishing oneself as an industry thought leader.
Helps in Self-Reflection
Critical thinkers are more self-reflective and can modify their views and attitudes in light of new facts because they deflect the impulse to defend their personal convictions.
Types of Critical Thinking
There are three main types of critical thinking: analysis, inference, and evaluation.
- Recognizing what is being said
- Differentiating the relevant from the irrelevant
- Connecting various lines of thinking
- Identifying what is being communicated (and what isn’t)
- Taking someone’s actions as instances of attributes, intentions, or expressions
- Idea extraction
- Using analogies to draw conclusions
- Understanding cause-and-effect relationships
- Reasoning for decisions
- Determining the worth, trustworthiness, or power of an argument
- Understanding the importance or value of information
Critical Thinking Skills: A Real-Life Example
So, what is critical thinking when it comes to real-world situations? It’s asking yourself these kinds of questions: Should you go to college, or should you enroll in an online course? Should you be working part-time? Should you aim to work for a startup, non-profit, or for-profit organization? Each of these solutions has advantages and disadvantages. For instance, it takes time to decide on a profession. We must develop an argument for each possible alternative and evaluate the economical, social, and professional contexts. We must ask ourselves why this is the best option for us. After making a decision, we must endeavor to forecast the consequences of that action one, five, and 10 years in the future, And that’s before we eventually reach a moment where we can determine whether to change careers.
The Process of Thinking Critically
Here are 6 steps to understand the process and give us clarity on what critical thinking is :
In order to explain the problem or scenario and ensure that all team members are on the same page:
- Think about the 5 W’s—who, what, when, why, where—and the H, how.
- What is going on?
- Who are the individuals involved?
- Who owns or has a significant investment in the process of making a decision?
- What is the best method to describe or categorize this?
Once everyone in the team feels that they have understood the problems deeply, they are ready to move on to analysis.
To discuss the issue further, explore the intended and actual relationships among the statements and the questions from the team members. Consider each individual’s viewpoint, beliefs, and assumptions. Examine the facts and any metrics available to back up the information.
- What is your reasoning for making that assertion?
- What is your conclusion?
- What exactly are you claiming?
- Why do you believe that?
- What are the arguments (both pro and con)?
Once everyone on the team feels that they have explored the questions thoroughly, they are ready to move on to inference.
To locate and collect the components required to arrive at logical conclusions, the team will have to use the information from the analysis phase, including the facts, assertions, guidelines, arguments, convictions, and views, to generate ideas. This is the time to list potential solutions and talk about the practicality of each one.
- What inferences are we able to draw based on what we now know?
- What can we rule out in light of what we now know?
- What is implied by this evidence?
- What would happen if we rejected or adopted that presumption?
- Are there any negative effects that we may and should anticipate?
Once everyone on the team feels like they have explored all the data, and questions, they can move to the evaluation stage.
This means evaluating the validity of the conclusions reached during the inference phase and to examine any fresh information and concepts developed since the last session. Examine the viability of potential ideas with new eyes and look for logical and cognitive flaws.
- How reliable is the assertion?
- How persuasive are the claims made by team members?
- Do we have accurate information?
- How certain can we be about our conclusion in light of what we know now?
- What would it look like if we put this solution in place within a year?
Explain the steps the team took to come up with the answers. Setting the mental process in context helps to understand how it developed.
- What were the investigation’s precise findings or outcomes?
- How did you go about doing the analysis?
- How did you arrive at that conclusion?
- Why do you believe that was the appropriate response or a workable solution?
- How would you describe the reasoning behind this specific choice?
Carefully examine assumptions and assess any biases the team may have. In order to challenge, confirm, validate, or link one’s reasoning or outcomes, evaluate the team’s inferential judgments.
- How effective was our technique, and how closely did we adhere to it?
- Is it possible to reconcile these two seemingly incompatible conclusions?
- How strong is our proof?
- What are we missing before we commit to this solution?
- Can we revisit some definitions before we make any final class?
Critical Thinking Dispositions
Critical thinking disposition is a quality or mental practice that is incorporated into one’s beliefs or behaviors in order to solve issues and make decisions effectively.
Here are 12 dispositions for critical thinking:
- Goal-oriented internalization
How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills?
Improving critical thinking skills is crucial. Here’s how you can do it in a few steps:
- Becoming self-aware
- Understanding your own mental process
- Developing foresight
- Practicing active listening
- Asking questions
- Evaluating existing evidence
Critical thinking is mostly considered a soft skill that can help you advance your career. But there are technical aspects to it as well. And if you’re unsure what you want to do, then you might consider exploring some online courses offered by Emeritus that offer training in soft skills as well as technical skills.
By Siddhesh Shinde
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Emeritus Institute of Management | Committee for Private Education Registration Number 201510637C | Period: 29 March 2022 to 28 March 2026
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