How to: Critical Thinking

*Freebie checklist to download at the end of the blog post*

Here you are, you have just started your semester and if you are scrolling down the pages of your assessment briefs, you are finding many mentions to the fact that you are supposed to demonstrate critical thinking skills. You are asked to critically assess a specific aspect of a topic.

It might be difficult to do a critical analysis of something if you do not know what the meaning of ‘critical thinking’ is and don’t worry, this is something you will learn and with a little bit of training won’t be a problem anymore.
I am here to tell you a little bit about it.

Critical thinking is extremely important in learning because is one of the skills that we develop and that will stick with us for the rest of our lives, it is something we will need when we make informed decisions and does not only apply to the academic /student environment. One of the things that I keep repeating to my students is that they will always know where to find information but is learning how to think about it that will make the difference.

Critical thinking is logical and independent thinking. To be able to think critically, you should avoid bias and challenge any observation by weighing pros and cons, challenges, limitations and opportunities.

To train yourself to think critically, here are some questions you can ask yourself to develop your thinking:

If you are working on an assignment with a specific topic in mind, you would rather start by describing the context and the resources that you have collected. The questions that you could ask yourself to guide you towards this early stage could be the following:

  • WHO are the people writing the articles you are reading?
  • WHAT is the work done/main topic? WHAT type of problem or research question is being addressed?
  • WHERE did you find the information? WHEN was the information released? Is it recent?

Of course, you can have added more questions of the same type according to what is your specific goal and remember that the relevance of your sources is of extreme importance.

 As you might guess, describing something is not the same as having a critical approach and as the word says, to be critical, we need to go in-depth.

Once you have laid out the context, you can start thinking about the WHY and HOW so questions of such type should pop up in your head:

  • WHY is this research approach considered important?
  • HOW are the studies conducted? Are there any contrasting pieces of evidence? Are there similar studies? Do these agree or are there studies/evidence/opinions in disagreement?
  • HOW are they trying to find a solution? Are the methods appropriate?

This is the moment where you can start comparing and contrast your sources and start getting into deeper thinking.

As a final approach to your assignment, you should have the picture very clear which means that now you can answer questions such as:

  • WHAT is the future approach?
  • WHAT has been achieved so far? Were the methods relevant? Has this been relevant to the topic that I am covering?
  • WHAT are my conclusions according to what I have researched and read?

By the end of your assignment you:

  • would have gone through descriptive analysis of the topic you are covering;
  • would have analysed and explained your sources, highlighted comparisons and contrasts of what you have found;
  • would have made a conclusion that will be based on your thoughts following the analysis of your resources.

Download a checklist that will help you understand the key points to consider when you are asked to use critical thinking.

Please, remember that different assignments and tasks will have to do with different topics and type of observations. The checklist below should be seen as a guideline which means that you will have to later adapt it to the specific situation for your assignment.

Click on the link below:

Critical Thinking Checklist

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