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.
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.
IMPORTANCE OF CRITICAL THINKING IN COLLEGE WRITING
Thinking is an inborn ability to process the obtained experience and information, analyze and detect the portions of information that may turn out to be necessary at a certain point in time. Human species do not usually ponder on the trait that is practiced on a daily basis. It is applied in all aspects and spheres of our life, and it is especially essential when it comes to education. There are various types of this process, and all of them are necessary to apply at this or that situation to come to the final stage and be successful at diverse processes and models of behavior. A critical thinking assignment plays a crucial role in the whole educational process and influences thousands of students. It is important to add that despite the inherence of this task and skill as the whole among school and college students, as well as among adults, this type of process often turns out to be next-to-impossible to implement and apply, especially in college.
Why is it so? First, such skill is constantly confused with reflection, reasoning, argumentation and accumulation of information that does not always correspond to the input requirements of a particular task or process. Second, many students apply different types of considering diverse issues, problems or questions instead of the critical one. Critical thinking writing tasks are extensively practiced at all departments irrespective of specialization, as they assist in problem-solving, identifying problems and some useful ideas, constructing arguments to apply to different projects even after graduation, constructing logical connections between different arguments and responding to them, detecting common mistakes made by previous students or course mates, etc. All these skills are applied and practiced on a daily basis by most people without giving much thought to the fact that they actually practice them. This part of the process can be called a part of the subconscious reflective ability, as most people apply it regularly and never ponder on the fact how they do it.
Critical thinking and academic writing are interconnected and accompany each other till the very end of the students' education. Nevertheless, most of the newly graduated professionals aren't free from this substantial requirement, as many of them will have to apply the gained knowledge and skills at their workplaces to complete projects, analyze piles of documents and information, process this information to produce reports, invent brand-new appliances and create things, and even develop new ideas that promote a certain organization or company. As you can see, this skill, as well as the assignment, is the ultimate one, and mastering it means having an advantage of those who disregard it. Maybe that is why many students at various stages of education often ask for critical thinking help. This kind of assistance often is very difficult, and it is quite understandable because from a student perspective, multitasking, which is a regular practice for many students, implicates quick thinking that is not always appropriate when a critical thinking assignment writing is involved. But what is it?
WHAT IS CRITICAL THINKING?
It is such a type of thinking that helps to be clear and rational about particular judgments, concepts, ideas, and decision that belong to you or someone else. Improving a theory, developing a new one, backing up obtained evidence for a particular project, completing a distinct constructive assignment can be successfully finished when critical thinking in academic writing is developed at the sufficient level. Some of you may start wondering that these skills are necessary only when some exact sciences are involved, but this is not always the case. Creative tasks often require application of these skills, as this is one of the greatest misconceptions about education. Creativity requires producing and coming up with bright and brand-new ideas that no one else has ever managed to produce or invent.
Greatest minds of all times that invent many useful and grand techniques, inventions, and diverse models are aware of its important, and did and still do their best to practice them in every possible way. Critical thinking and writing skills, such as abilities to analyze, evaluate, complete detailed researches, draw conclusions, etc., are definitely very important when it comes to mastering a course or completing a project with the highest grade. However, it is the ability to apply this skill that makes it so valuable for college and university students. It is also important to point out that to be able to think critically does not mean to criticize a particular thought, argument, idea, or evidence, but rather to evaluate all the information that a person possesses at a given moment and decide what to do about it to solve any kind of problem. Well, at least professors and tutors think so when they ask to complete a critical thinking paper. Teachers constantly challenge their students to put those skills into practice by giving various assignments that assist them in developing these skills without a need to putting much efforts to produce something decent, as well as encouraging them to learn all the secrets and minute details of this process to be able to find the right answers to current problems.
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