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  • What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

Published on May 30, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment .

To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources .

Critical thinking skills help you to:

  • Identify credible sources
  • Evaluate and respond to arguments
  • Assess alternative viewpoints
  • Test hypotheses against relevant criteria

Table of contents

Why is critical thinking important, critical thinking examples, how to think critically, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about critical thinking.

Critical thinking is important for making judgments about sources of information and forming your own arguments. It emphasizes a rational, objective, and self-aware approach that can help you to identify credible sources and strengthen your conclusions.

Critical thinking is important in all disciplines and throughout all stages of the research process . The types of evidence used in the sciences and in the humanities may differ, but critical thinking skills are relevant to both.

In academic writing , critical thinking can help you to determine whether a source:

  • Is free from research bias
  • Provides evidence to support its research findings
  • Considers alternative viewpoints

Outside of academia, critical thinking goes hand in hand with information literacy to help you form opinions rationally and engage independently and critically with popular media.

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what do we mean by reading and critical thinking skills

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Critical thinking can help you to identify reliable sources of information that you can cite in your research paper . It can also guide your own research methods and inform your own arguments.

Outside of academia, critical thinking can help you to be aware of both your own and others’ biases and assumptions.

Academic examples

However, when you compare the findings of the study with other current research, you determine that the results seem improbable. You analyze the paper again, consulting the sources it cites.

You notice that the research was funded by the pharmaceutical company that created the treatment. Because of this, you view its results skeptically and determine that more independent research is necessary to confirm or refute them. Example: Poor critical thinking in an academic context You’re researching a paper on the impact wireless technology has had on developing countries that previously did not have large-scale communications infrastructure. You read an article that seems to confirm your hypothesis: the impact is mainly positive. Rather than evaluating the research methodology, you accept the findings uncritically.

Nonacademic examples

However, you decide to compare this review article with consumer reviews on a different site. You find that these reviews are not as positive. Some customers have had problems installing the alarm, and some have noted that it activates for no apparent reason.

You revisit the original review article. You notice that the words “sponsored content” appear in small print under the article title. Based on this, you conclude that the review is advertising and is therefore not an unbiased source. Example: Poor critical thinking in a nonacademic context You support a candidate in an upcoming election. You visit an online news site affiliated with their political party and read an article that criticizes their opponent. The article claims that the opponent is inexperienced in politics. You accept this without evidence, because it fits your preconceptions about the opponent.

There is no single way to think critically. How you engage with information will depend on the type of source you’re using and the information you need.

However, you can engage with sources in a systematic and critical way by asking certain questions when you encounter information. Like the CRAAP test , these questions focus on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

When encountering information, ask:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert in their field?
  • What do they say? Is their argument clear? Can you summarize it?
  • When did they say this? Is the source current?
  • Where is the information published? Is it an academic article? Is it peer-reviewed ?
  • Why did the author publish it? What is their motivation?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence? Does it rely on opinion, speculation, or appeals to emotion ? Do they address alternative arguments?

Critical thinking also involves being aware of your own biases, not only those of others. When you make an argument or draw your own conclusions, you can ask similar questions about your own writing:

  • Am I only considering evidence that supports my preconceptions?
  • Is my argument expressed clearly and backed up with credible sources?
  • Would I be convinced by this argument coming from someone else?

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
  • ChatGPT citations
  • Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
  • Using ChatGPT for your studies
  • What is ChatGPT?
  • Chicago style
  • Paraphrasing

 Plagiarism

  • Types of plagiarism
  • Self-plagiarism
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Academic integrity
  • Consequences of plagiarism
  • Common knowledge

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what do we mean by reading and critical thinking skills

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

Critical thinking skills include the ability to:

You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test , focusing on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

Ask questions such as:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence?

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.

Being information literate means that you:

  • Know how to find credible sources
  • Use relevant sources to inform your research
  • Understand what constitutes plagiarism
  • Know how to cite your sources correctly

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search, interpret, and recall information in a way that aligns with our pre-existing values, opinions, or beliefs. It refers to the ability to recollect information best when it amplifies what we already believe. Relatedly, we tend to forget information that contradicts our opinions.

Although selective recall is a component of confirmation bias, it should not be confused with recall bias.

On the other hand, recall bias refers to the differences in the ability between study participants to recall past events when self-reporting is used. This difference in accuracy or completeness of recollection is not related to beliefs or opinions. Rather, recall bias relates to other factors, such as the length of the recall period, age, and the characteristics of the disease under investigation.

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Other students also liked, student guide: information literacy | meaning & examples, what are credible sources & how to spot them | examples, applying the craap test & evaluating sources.

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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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In Summary:

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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What Is Critical Thinking and Why Do We Need To Teach It?

Question the world and sort out fact from opinion.

What is critical thinking? #buzzwordsexplained

The world is full of information (and misinformation) from books, TV, magazines, newspapers, online articles, social media, and more. Everyone has their own opinions, and these opinions are frequently presented as facts. Making informed choices is more important than ever, and that takes strong critical thinking skills. But what exactly is critical thinking? Why should we teach it to our students? Read on to find out.

What is critical thinking?

Critical Thinking Skills infographic detailing observation, analysis, inference, communication, and problem solving

Source: Indeed

Critical thinking is the ability to examine a subject and develop an informed opinion about it. It’s about asking questions, then looking closely at the answers to form conclusions that are backed by provable facts, not just “gut feelings” and opinion. These skills allow us to confidently navigate a world full of persuasive advertisements, opinions presented as facts, and confusing and contradictory information.

The Foundation for Critical Thinking says, “Critical thinking can be seen as having two components: 1) a set of information and belief-generating and processing skills, and 2) the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behavior.”

In other words, good critical thinkers know how to analyze and evaluate information, breaking it down to separate fact from opinion. After a thorough analysis, they feel confident forming their own opinions on a subject. And what’s more, critical thinkers use these skills regularly in their daily lives. Rather than jumping to conclusions or being guided by initial reactions, they’ve formed the habit of applying their critical thinking skills to all new information and topics.

Why is critical thinking so important?

education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think. -Albert Einstein

Imagine you’re shopping for a new car. It’s a big purchase, so you want to do your research thoroughly. There’s a lot of information out there, and it’s up to you to sort through it all.

  • You’ve seen TV commercials for a couple of car models that look really cool and have features you like, such as good gas mileage. Plus, your favorite celebrity drives that car!
  • The manufacturer’s website has a lot of information, like cost, MPG, and other details. It also mentions that this car has been ranked “best in its class.”
  • Your neighbor down the street used to have this kind of car, but he tells you that he eventually got rid of it because he didn’t think it was comfortable to drive. Plus, he heard that brand of car isn’t as good as it used to be.
  • Three independent organizations have done test-drives and published their findings online. They all agree that the car has good gas mileage and a sleek design. But they each have their own concerns or complaints about the car, including one that found it might not be safe in high winds.

So much information! It’s tempting to just go with your gut and buy the car that looks the coolest (or is the cheapest, or says it has the best gas mileage). Ultimately, though, you know you need to slow down and take your time, or you could wind up making a mistake that costs you thousands of dollars. You need to think critically to make an informed choice.

What does critical thinking look like?

Infographic of 8 scientifically proven strategies for critical thinking

Source: TeachThought

Let’s continue with the car analogy, and apply some critical thinking to the situation.

  • Critical thinkers know they can’t trust TV commercials to help them make smart choices, since every single one wants you to think their car is the best option.
  • The manufacturer’s website will have some details that are proven facts, but other statements that are hard to prove or clearly just opinions. Which information is factual, and even more important, relevant to your choice?
  • A neighbor’s stories are anecdotal, so they may or may not be useful. They’re the opinions and experiences of just one person and might not be representative of a whole. Can you find other people with similar experiences that point to a pattern?
  • The independent studies could be trustworthy, although it depends on who conducted them and why. Closer analysis might show that the most positive study was conducted by a company hired by the car manufacturer itself. Who conducted each study, and why?

Did you notice all the questions that started to pop up? That’s what critical thinking is about: asking the right questions, and knowing how to find and evaluate the answers to those questions.

Good critical thinkers do this sort of analysis every day, on all sorts of subjects. They seek out proven facts and trusted sources, weigh the options, and then make a choice and form their own opinions. It’s a process that becomes automatic over time; experienced critical thinkers question everything thoughtfully, with purpose. This helps them feel confident that their informed opinions and choices are the right ones for them.

Key Critical Thinking Skills

There’s no official list, but many people use Bloom’s Taxonomy to help lay out the skills kids should develop as they grow up.

A diagram showing Bloom's Taxonomy (Critical Thinking Skills)

Source: Vanderbilt University

Bloom’s Taxonomy is laid out as a pyramid, with foundational skills at the bottom providing a base for more advanced skills higher up. The lowest phase, “Remember,” doesn’t require much critical thinking. These are skills like memorizing math facts, defining vocabulary words, or knowing the main characters and basic plot points of a story.

Higher skills on Bloom’s list incorporate more critical thinking.

True understanding is more than memorization or reciting facts. It’s the difference between a child reciting by rote “one times four is four, two times four is eight, three times four is twelve,” versus recognizing that multiplication is the same as adding a number to itself a certain number of times. When you understand a concept, you can explain how it works to someone else.

When you apply your knowledge, you take a concept you’ve already mastered and apply it to new situations. For instance, a student learning to read doesn’t need to memorize every word. Instead, they use their skills in sounding out letters to tackle each new word as they come across it.

When we analyze something, we don’t take it at face value. Analysis requires us to find facts that stand up to inquiry. We put aside personal feelings or beliefs, and instead identify and scrutinize primary sources for information. This is a complex skill, one we hone throughout our entire lives.

Evaluating means reflecting on analyzed information, selecting the most relevant and reliable facts to help us make choices or form opinions. True evaluation requires us to put aside our own biases and accept that there may be other valid points of view, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them.

Finally, critical thinkers are ready to create their own result. They can make a choice, form an opinion, cast a vote, write a thesis, debate a topic, and more. And they can do it with the confidence that comes from approaching the topic critically.

How do you teach critical thinking skills?

The best way to create a future generation of critical thinkers is to encourage them to ask lots of questions. Then, show them how to find the answers by choosing reliable primary sources. Require them to justify their opinions with provable facts, and help them identify bias in themselves and others. Try some of these resources to get started.

  • 5 Critical Thinking Skills Every Kid Needs To Learn (And How To Teach Them)
  • 100+ Critical Thinking Questions for Students To Ask About Anything
  • 10 Tips for Teaching Kids To Be Awesome Critical Thinkers
  • Free Critical Thinking Poster, Rubric, and Assessment Ideas

More Critical Thinking Resources

The answer to “What is critical thinking?” is a complex one. These resources can help you dig more deeply into the concept and hone your own skills.

  • The Foundation for Critical Thinking
  • Cultivating a Critical Thinking Mindset (PDF)
  • Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking (Browne/Keeley, 2014)

Have more questions about what critical thinking is or how to teach it in your classroom? Join the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook to ask for advice and share ideas!

Plus, 12 skills students can work on now to help them in careers later ..

What is critical thinking? It's the ability to thoughtfully question the world and sort out fact from opinion, and it's a key life skill.

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what do we mean by reading and critical thinking skills

  • Choosing Effective Vocabulary
  • How to Fill a Page (When You Have Nothing to Say)
  • Resources – Books
  • Critical Thinking and Reading Skills
  • Key Terms and the Inference Continuum
  • Bad Inferences – Fallacies and Biases
  • Application: Inferences and History
  • An Aside: Strong Inferences vs. Ghosts
  • Eight Types of Evidence – Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Bad Evidence – Fallacies and Poor Appeals
  • Value Conflicts and Key Terms
  • Tragic Application of Values
  • Common Value Systems
  • Fallacies and a Few Fun Techniques
  • Donna Hicks’s Essential Elements of Dignity
  • Fundamental Needs
  • Mapping Classroom Culture – Support and Humiliation
  • The Dignity Pledge
  • Separation and Segregation
  • Stripping Away Resources and Protections
  • Violence and Intimidation
  • Murder and Elimination
  • Toxic Mythologies and Deep Narratives
  • Scapegoating and Conspiracy Theories
  • Caricature and Stereotypes
  • Denial and Willful Ignorance
  • Conclusion and FAQs

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2 – Critical Reading

what do we mean by reading and critical thinking skills

“Citizens of modern societies must be good readers to be successful. Reading skills do not guarantee success for anyone, but success is much harder to come by without being a skilled reader. The advent of the computer and the Internet does nothing to change this fact about reading. If anything, electronic communication only increases the need for effective reading skills and strategies as we try to cope with the large quantities of information made available to us.”      –William Grabe

The importance of reading as a literacy skill is without a doubt. It is essential for daily life navigation and academic success. Reading for daily life navigation is relatively easier, compared to academic reading. Think about the kinds of reading you did in elementary and high school (e.g., story books, picture books, textbook chapters, literary works, online information, lecture notes, etc.).

Now think about what you were expected to do with your reading at school (e.g., memorize, summarize, discuss, pass a test, apply information, or write essays or papers).

Research shows that what you expect to do with a text affects how you read it.

–Bartholomae & Petrosky (1996)

So, reading is not always the same; you read school texts differently than the texts you choose outside of school tasks. Furthermore, there are many external and internal factors that influence how you interpret and use what you read. Much depends on your background (e.g., cultural participation in communities, identity, historical knowledge), and the context in which you are reading. Classrooms and teachers certainly have an influence. The teaching methods used by your instructor, the texts your instructor chooses, and expectations of student performance on assignments all affect how you read and what you do to accomplish an assignment.

Different levels of education also emphasize different types of reading. For example, in primary or secondary education, you learn what is known, so you focus on correctness, memorization of facts, and application of facts. In higher education, although you might still be required to understand and memorize information, you expand what is known by examining ideas and creating new knowledge. In those processes at different levels, reading has been used for different purposes.

Multilingual reading and writing expert William Grabe has identified six different purposes:

  • Reading to search for information (scanning and skimming)
  • Reading for quick understanding (skimming)
  • Reading to learn
  • Reading to integrate information
  • Reading to evaluate, critique, and use information
  • Reading for general comprehension (in many cases, reading for interest or reading to entertain)

In college, reading to evaluate, critique, and use information is the most practiced and tested skill. But what does it mean? Reading to evaluate, critique, and use information is related to critical reading.

Definition of Critical Reading

Critical reading is a more ACTIVE way of reading. It is a deeper and more complex engagement with a text. Critical reading is a process of analyzing, interpreting and, sometimes, evaluating. When we read critically, we use our critical thinking skills to QUESTION both the text and our own reading of it. Different disciplines may have distinctive modes of critical reading (scientific, philosophical, literary, etc).

[Source: Duncan , n.d., Critical Reading ]

Critical reading does not have to be all negative. The aim of critical reading is not to find fault but to assess the strength of the evidence and the argument. It is just as useful to conclude that a study, or an article, presents very strong evidence and a well-reasoned argument, as it is to identify the studies or articles that are weak.

[Source: What is critical reading? ]

There’s No Reason to Eat Animals by Lindsay Rajt

If we care about the environment and believe that kindness is a virtue-as we all say that we do–a vegan diet is the only sensible option. The question becomes: Why eat animals at all?

Animals are made of flesh, bone, and blood, just as you and I are. They form friendships, feel pain and joy, grieve for lost loved ones and are afraid to die. One cannot profess to care about animals while tearing them away from their friends and families and cutting their throats–or paying someone else to do it–simply to satisfy a fleeting taste for flesh.

[adapted from Pattison, 2015, Critical Reading: English for Academic Purposes for instructional purposes ]

What is your position on the issue?

Do you think that the language used helps the audience? How?

How does the language use affect your evaluation of the issue?

Obesity: A Public Health Failure? By Tavis Glassman PhD, MPH, MCHES, Jennifer Glassman M.A., CCC-SLP, and Aaron J. Diehr, M.A.

Obesity rates continue to increase, bringing into question the efficacy of prevention and treatment efforts. While intuitively appealing, the law on weight gain focusing on calories is too simplistic because calories represent only one factor on issues of weight management. From a historical perspective, the recommendation to eat a low fat, high carbohydrate diet may have been the wrong message to promote, thereby making the obesity situation worse. Suggestions to solve the issues of obesity include taxing, restricting advertising, and reducing the use of sugar. Communities must employ these and other strategies to decrease sugar use and reduce obesity rates.

How would you describe the authors’ educational background?

How does the authors’ background affect your evaluation of the argument?

Students Want More Mobile Devices in Classroom by Ellis Booker

Released last week, the Student Mobile Device Survey reveals that students almost unanimously believe mobile technology will change education and make learning more fun. The survey, which collected the responses of 2,350 US students, was conducted for learning company Pearson by Harris Interactive.

According to the survey, 92% of elementary, middle and high school students believe mobile devices will change the way students learn in the future and make learning more fun (90%). A majority (69%) would like to use mobile devices more in the classroom.

The survey results also contained some surprises. For example, college students in math and science are much more likely to use technology for learning, and researchers expected to see this same pattern in the lower grades.

Are you convinced by the survey results? Why?

Color Scheme Associations in Context

The colors you surround yourself with at work are also important as they make a difference in how you are perceived by members of the public. Traditional workplaces still use dark colors such as navy blue, forest green, and chocolate brown to give clients a sense of seriousness and professionalism.

Think about it: which accountant would you choose to prepare your tax return: the one whose office has navy blue drapes and lamps and a maritime scene on the wall or the one whose office is painted in hot pink with a cartoon character on the wall? An online survey of lawyers carried out by Legal Scene magazine showed that of 287 respondents, 38 percent chose a navy blue color scheme for their office; 32 percent chose brown; 19 percent chose forest green; 7 percent chose burgundy; and only 4 percent chose red, pink or orange (Perkins, 2013).

What kind of bias might be implicated in this survey?

What is your personal experience?

These practices do not ask you to memorize or summarize the information you read, but instead, they ask you to provide your opinions and judgment. To answer those questions, you need to engage in critical reading, a form of active reading.

Active reading, which predominates college-level reading, means reading with the purpose of getting a deeper understanding of the texts you are reading and being engaged in the actions of analyzing, questioning, and evaluating the texts. In other words, instead of accepting the information given to you, you challenge its value by examining the source of the information and the formation of an argument.

The difference in how you read falls into two broad categories:

(Source: Reading Critically ]

Reading critically and actively is essential for college students. But what does critical reading look like in actual practice? Here are the steps that you can follow to do the critical reading.

Step 1:  Understand the purpose of your reading and be selective

As college students, you are very busy with your daily coursework. A freshman usually takes four to five courses or even six courses per semester. This means you have tons of reading to do every week. Getting to know the purpose of the reading assignments can save you time as your reading is more targeted. Remember you do not have to read a whole chapter or book. What you can do is through scanning to determine the sections that are useful for you and then read the parts carefully.

Step 2:  Evaluate the reading text

While reading a text, you need to question/analyze/evaluate the text by considering the following:

  • Assess whether a source is reliable (Read around the text for the title, author, publisher, publication date, good/bad examples, tones, etc.)
  • Distinguish between facts and opinions (Scan for any evidence)
  • Recognize multiple opinions in a text
  • Infer meaning when it is not directly stated
  • Agree or disagree with what you read
  • Consider the relevance of the text to your task
  • Consider what is missing from a text

It may well be necessary to read passages several times to gain a full understanding of texts and be able to evaluate the source. In this process, you can underline, highlight, or circle important parts and points, take notes, or add comments in the margins.

Critical reading often involves re-reading a text multiple times, putting our focus on different aspects of the text. The first time we read a text, we may be focused on getting an overall sense of the information the author is presenting – in other words, simply understanding what they are trying to say. On subsequent readings, however, we can focus on how the author presents that information, the kinds of evidence they provide to support their arguments (and how convincing we find that evidence), the connection between their evidence and their conclusions, etc.

[Source: Lane, 2021, Critical Thinking for Critical Writing ]

Step 3:  Document your reading and form your own argument

After you finish reading a text, sort out your notes and keep track of the sources you have read on the topic you are exploring. After you read several sources, you might be able to form your own argument(s) and use the sources as evidence for your argument(s).

In college, critical reading usually leads to critical writing.

Critical writing comes from critical reading. Whenever you have to write a paper, you have to reflect on various written texts, think and interpret research that has previously been carried out on your subject. With the aim of writing your independent analysis of the subject, you have to critically read sources and use them suitably to formulate your argument. The interpretations and conclusions you derive from the literature you read are the stepping stones towards devising your own approach.

[Source: Does Critical Reading Influence Academic Writing? ]

In a word, through critical reading, you form your own argument(s), and the evidence used to support your argument(s) is usually from the texts that you read critically. The Source Essay Writing Service explains how critical reading influences academic writing.

How does critical reading influence your writing skills?

Once you start reading texts critically, you develop an understanding of how to write research papers. Here are some practical tips that will help you in academic writing:

  • Examine introductions and conclusions of the texts while critical reading so when you write an independent content, you would be able to decide how to focus your critical work.
  • When you highlight or take notes from a text, make sure you focus on the argument. The way the author explains the analytical progress, the concepts used, and arriving at conclusions will help you to write your own facts and examples in an interesting way.
  • By closely reading the texts, you will be able to look for the patterns that give meaning, purpose, and consistency to the text. The way the arguments are presented in paragraphs will aid you in structuring information in your writing.
  • When you critically read a text, you are able to learn how an argument is placed in the text. Try to understand how you can use this placement strategy in academic writing. Paying attention to the context is an important aspect that you learn from critical reading.
  • While reading a text, you will notice that the author has given the due credit to the sources used or the references that were consulted. This will help you in understanding how you can cite sources and quotes in your content.
  • Critical reading skills enhance your way of thinking and writing skills. The more you read, the better is your knowledge and vocabulary. It is important to use the precise words to express your meaning. You can learn new words and improve your writing by reading as many texts as you can.

Activity 1: Discuss the following questions with your group

  • A website from the United Nations Educational, Scientific ad Cultural Organization (UNESCO) gives some statistics about the level of education reached by young women in Indonesia. Is this a reliable source?
  • You find an interesting article about addiction to online gambling. The article has some interesting statistics, but it was published ten years ago. Is it worth using?
  • You find a book about World War II that presents a different opinion from your other sources. What would you like to know about the author before you decide whether or not to take him seriously?
  • An article tells you that research into space exploration is a waste of money. Do you think this article is presenting facts or opinions? How can you tell? What might you look for in the article?
  • You find some research that states that people who own dogs generally live longer lives than those who do not. The author has some convincing arguments, but you are not sure whether or not she has enough evidence. How mush is enough?
  • A newspaper article tells you about human rights abuses in a certain country. The writer of this article has never visited the country in question; his claims are based on interviews with other people. How would you evaluate his information?
  • You find two websites about the use of seaweed as a source of energy. One is full of long words and complicated sentences; the other uses simple, clear language. Is the first one a more reliable source?
  • You have read nine different articles that tell you that there is no connection between wealth and happiness. The tenth article gives the opposite opinion: rich people are happier than those who are poor. What questions would you ask yourself about this article before you decide whether or not to consider it?

Activity 2: Reading for analyzing styles

Please read the news and discuss the importance of the graphs in supporting the arguments of the text.

Gender Pay Gap in U.S. Held Steady in 2020

By amanda barroso and anna brown.

The gender gap in pay has remained relatively stable in the United States over the past 15 years or so. In 2020, women earned 84% of what men earned, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers. Based on this estimate, it would take an extra 42 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2020.

As has been the case in recent decades, the 2020 wage gap was smaller for workers ages 25 to 34 than for all workers 16 and older. Women ages 25 to 34 earned 93 cents for every dollar a man in the same age group earned on average. In 1980, women ages 25 to 34 earned 33 cents less than their male counterparts, compared with 7 cents in 2020. The estimated 16-cent gender pay gap among all workers in 2020 was down from 36 cents in 1980.

what do we mean by reading and critical thinking skills

The U.S. Census Bureau has also analyzed the gender pay gap, though its analysis looks only at full-time workers (as opposed to full- and part-time workers). In 2019, full-time, year-round working women earned 82% of what their male counterparts earned, according to the Census Bureau’s most recent analysis.

Why does a gender pay gap still persist?

Much of this gap has been explained by measurable factors such as educational attainment, occupational segregation and work experience. The narrowing of the gap is attributable in large part to gains women have made in each of these dimensions.

Even though women have increased their presence in higher-paying jobs traditionally dominated by men, such as professional and managerial positions, women as a whole continue to be over-represented in lower-paying occupations relative to their share of the workforce. This may contribute to gender differences in pay.

what do we mean by reading and critical thinking skills

Other factors that are difficult to measure, including gender discrimination, may also contribute to the ongoing wage discrepancy. In a 2017 Pew Research Center survey , about four-in-ten working women (42%) said they had experienced gender discrimination at work, compared with about two-in-ten men (22%). One of the most commonly reported forms of discrimination focused on earnings inequality. One-in-four employed women said they had earned less than a man who was doing the same job; just 5% of men said they had earned less than a woman doing the same job.

Motherhood can also lead to interruptions in women’s career paths and have an impact on long-term earnings. Our 2016 survey of workers who had taken parental, family or medical leave in the two years prior to the survey found that mothers typically take more time off than fathers after birth or adoption. The median length of leave among mothers after the birth or adoption of their child was 11 weeks, compared with one week for fathers. About half (47%) of mothers who took time off from work in the two years after birth or adoption took off 12 weeks or more.

Mothers were also nearly twice as likely as fathers to say taking time off had a negative impact on their job or career. Among those who took leave from work in the two years following the birth or adoption of their child, 25% of women said this had a negative impact at work, compared with 13% of men.

what do we mean by reading and critical thinking skills

[Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/05/25/gender-pay-gap-facts/ ]

Activity 3: Reading for arguments

What’s the main argument of the poem?

Fire and Ice

By robert frost, some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. from what i’ve tasted of desire i hold with those who favor fire. but if it had to perish twice, i think i know enough of hate to say that for destruction ice is also great and would suffice..

References:

Barroso, A., & Brown, A. (2021, May 25). Gender pay gap in U.S. held steady in 2020. Pew Research Center. Retrieved July 22, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/05/25/gender-pay-gap-facts/

Bartholomae, D., Petrosky, T., & Waite, S. (2002). Ways of reading: An anthology for writers (p. 720). Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Duncan, J. (n.d.). The Writing Centre, University of Toronto Scarborough. Modified by Michael O’Connor. https://www.stetson.edu/other/writing-program/media/CRITICAL%20READING.pdf

Grabe, W. (2008). Reading in a second language: Moving from theory to practice. Cambridge University Press.

Lane, J. (2021, July 9). Critical thinking for critical writing. Simon Fraser University. Retrieved July 22, 2022, from https://www.lib.sfu.ca/about/branches-depts/slc/writing/argumentation/critical-thinking-writing

Pattison, T. (2015). Critical Reading: English for academic purposes for instructional purposes. Pearson.

Sourceessay. (n.d.). What is critical reading. https://sourceessay.com/does-critical-reading-influence-academic-writing/

University of Leicester. (n.d.). What is critical reading? Bangor University. https://www.bangor.ac.uk/studyskills/study-guides/critical-reading.php.en

Critical Reading, Writing, and Thinking Copyright © 2022 by Zhenjie Weng, Josh Burlile, Karen Macbeth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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what do we mean by reading and critical thinking skills

Critical thinking

Advice and resources to help you develop your critical voice.

Developing critical thinking skills is essential to your success at University and beyond.  We all need to be critical thinkers to help us navigate our way through an information-rich world. 

Whatever your discipline, you will engage with a wide variety of sources of information and evidence.  You will develop the skills to make judgements about this evidence to form your own views and to present your views clearly.

One of the most common types of feedback received by students is that their work is ‘too descriptive’.  This usually means that they have just stated what others have said and have not reflected critically on the material.  They have not evaluated the evidence and constructed an argument.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the art of making clear, reasoned judgements based on interpreting, understanding, applying and synthesising evidence gathered from observation, reading and experimentation. Burns, T., & Sinfield, S. (2016)  Essential Study Skills: The Complete Guide to Success at University (4th ed.) London: SAGE, p94.

Being critical does not just mean finding fault.  It means assessing evidence from a variety of sources and making reasoned conclusions.  As a result of your analysis you may decide that a particular piece of evidence is not robust, or that you disagree with the conclusion, but you should be able to state why you have come to this view and incorporate this into a bigger picture of the literature.

Being critical goes beyond describing what you have heard in lectures or what you have read.  It involves synthesising, analysing and evaluating what you have learned to develop your own argument or position.

Critical thinking is important in all subjects and disciplines – in science and engineering, as well as the arts and humanities.  The types of evidence used to develop arguments may be very different but the processes and techniques are similar.  Critical thinking is required for both undergraduate and postgraduate levels of study.

What, where, when, who, why, how?

Purposeful reading can help with critical thinking because it encourages you to read actively rather than passively.  When you read, ask yourself questions about what you are reading and make notes to record your views.  Ask questions like:

  • What is the main point of this paper/ article/ paragraph/ report/ blog?
  • Who wrote it?
  • Why was it written?
  • When was it written?
  • Has the context changed since it was written?
  • Is the evidence presented robust?
  • How did the authors come to their conclusions?
  • Do you agree with the conclusions?
  • What does this add to our knowledge?
  • Why is it useful?

Our web page covering Reading at university includes a handout to help you develop your own critical reading form and a suggested reading notes record sheet.  These resources will help you record your thoughts after you read, which will help you to construct your argument. 

Reading at university

Developing an argument

Being a university student is about learning how to think, not what to think.  Critical thinking shapes your own values and attitudes through a process of deliberating, debating and persuasion.   Through developing your critical thinking you can move on from simply disagreeing to constructively assessing alternatives by building on doubts.

There are several key stages involved in developing your ideas and constructing an argument.  You might like to use a form to help you think about the features of critical thinking and to break down the stages of developing your argument.

Features of critical thinking (pdf)

Features of critical thinking (Word rtf)

Our webpage on Academic writing includes a useful handout ‘Building an argument as you go’.

Academic writing

You should also consider the language you will use to introduce a range of viewpoints and to evaluate the various sources of evidence.  This will help your reader to follow your argument.  To get you started, the University of Manchester's Academic Phrasebank has a useful section on Being Critical. 

Academic Phrasebank

Developing your critical thinking

Set yourself some tasks to help develop your critical thinking skills.  Discuss material presented in lectures or from resource lists with your peers.  Set up a critical reading group or use an online discussion forum.  Think about a point you would like to make during discussions in tutorials and be prepared to back up your argument with evidence.

For more suggestions:

Developing your critical thinking - ideas (pdf)

Developing your critical thinking - ideas (Word rtf)

Published guides

For further advice and more detailed resources please see the Critical Thinking section of our list of published Study skills guides.

Study skills guides  

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Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms for thinking carefully, and the thinking components on which they focus. Its adoption as an educational goal has been recommended on the basis of respect for students’ autonomy and preparing students for success in life and for democratic citizenship. “Critical thinkers” have the dispositions and abilities that lead them to think critically when appropriate. The abilities can be identified directly; the dispositions indirectly, by considering what factors contribute to or impede exercise of the abilities. Standardized tests have been developed to assess the degree to which a person possesses such dispositions and abilities. Educational intervention has been shown experimentally to improve them, particularly when it includes dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring. Controversies have arisen over the generalizability of critical thinking across domains, over alleged bias in critical thinking theories and instruction, and over the relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking.

2.1 Dewey’s Three Main Examples

2.2 dewey’s other examples, 2.3 further examples, 2.4 non-examples, 3. the definition of critical thinking, 4. its value, 5. the process of thinking critically, 6. components of the process, 7. contributory dispositions and abilities, 8.1 initiating dispositions, 8.2 internal dispositions, 9. critical thinking abilities, 10. required knowledge, 11. educational methods, 12.1 the generalizability of critical thinking, 12.2 bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, 12.3 relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking, other internet resources, related entries.

Use of the term ‘critical thinking’ to describe an educational goal goes back to the American philosopher John Dewey (1910), who more commonly called it ‘reflective thinking’. He defined it as

active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Dewey 1910: 6; 1933: 9)

and identified a habit of such consideration with a scientific attitude of mind. His lengthy quotations of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill indicate that he was not the first person to propose development of a scientific attitude of mind as an educational goal.

In the 1930s, many of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study of the Progressive Education Association (Aikin 1942) adopted critical thinking as an educational goal, for whose achievement the study’s Evaluation Staff developed tests (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942). Glaser (1941) showed experimentally that it was possible to improve the critical thinking of high school students. Bloom’s influential taxonomy of cognitive educational objectives (Bloom et al. 1956) incorporated critical thinking abilities. Ennis (1962) proposed 12 aspects of critical thinking as a basis for research on the teaching and evaluation of critical thinking ability.

Since 1980, an annual international conference in California on critical thinking and educational reform has attracted tens of thousands of educators from all levels of education and from many parts of the world. Also since 1980, the state university system in California has required all undergraduate students to take a critical thinking course. Since 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions in conjunction with the divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association (APA). In 1987, the APA’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy commissioned a consensus statement on critical thinking for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (Facione 1990a). Researchers have developed standardized tests of critical thinking abilities and dispositions; for details, see the Supplement on Assessment . Educational jurisdictions around the world now include critical thinking in guidelines for curriculum and assessment.

For details on this history, see the Supplement on History .

2. Examples and Non-Examples

Before considering the definition of critical thinking, it will be helpful to have in mind some examples of critical thinking, as well as some examples of kinds of thinking that would apparently not count as critical thinking.

Dewey (1910: 68–71; 1933: 91–94) takes as paradigms of reflective thinking three class papers of students in which they describe their thinking. The examples range from the everyday to the scientific.

Transit : “The other day, when I was down town on 16th Street, a clock caught my eye. I saw that the hands pointed to 12:20. This suggested that I had an engagement at 124th Street, at one o’clock. I reasoned that as it had taken me an hour to come down on a surface car, I should probably be twenty minutes late if I returned the same way. I might save twenty minutes by a subway express. But was there a station near? If not, I might lose more than twenty minutes in looking for one. Then I thought of the elevated, and I saw there was such a line within two blocks. But where was the station? If it were several blocks above or below the street I was on, I should lose time instead of gaining it. My mind went back to the subway express as quicker than the elevated; furthermore, I remembered that it went nearer than the elevated to the part of 124th Street I wished to reach, so that time would be saved at the end of the journey. I concluded in favor of the subway, and reached my destination by one o’clock.” (Dewey 1910: 68–69; 1933: 91–92)

Ferryboat : “Projecting nearly horizontally from the upper deck of the ferryboat on which I daily cross the river is a long white pole, having a gilded ball at its tip. It suggested a flagpole when I first saw it; its color, shape, and gilded ball agreed with this idea, and these reasons seemed to justify me in this belief. But soon difficulties presented themselves. The pole was nearly horizontal, an unusual position for a flagpole; in the next place, there was no pulley, ring, or cord by which to attach a flag; finally, there were elsewhere on the boat two vertical staffs from which flags were occasionally flown. It seemed probable that the pole was not there for flag-flying.

“I then tried to imagine all possible purposes of the pole, and to consider for which of these it was best suited: (a) Possibly it was an ornament. But as all the ferryboats and even the tugboats carried poles, this hypothesis was rejected. (b) Possibly it was the terminal of a wireless telegraph. But the same considerations made this improbable. Besides, the more natural place for such a terminal would be the highest part of the boat, on top of the pilot house. (c) Its purpose might be to point out the direction in which the boat is moving.

“In support of this conclusion, I discovered that the pole was lower than the pilot house, so that the steersman could easily see it. Moreover, the tip was enough higher than the base, so that, from the pilot’s position, it must appear to project far out in front of the boat. Moreover, the pilot being near the front of the boat, he would need some such guide as to its direction. Tugboats would also need poles for such a purpose. This hypothesis was so much more probable than the others that I accepted it. I formed the conclusion that the pole was set up for the purpose of showing the pilot the direction in which the boat pointed, to enable him to steer correctly.” (Dewey 1910: 69–70; 1933: 92–93)

Bubbles : “In washing tumblers in hot soapsuds and placing them mouth downward on a plate, bubbles appeared on the outside of the mouth of the tumblers and then went inside. Why? The presence of bubbles suggests air, which I note must come from inside the tumbler. I see that the soapy water on the plate prevents escape of the air save as it may be caught in bubbles. But why should air leave the tumbler? There was no substance entering to force it out. It must have expanded. It expands by increase of heat, or by decrease of pressure, or both. Could the air have become heated after the tumbler was taken from the hot suds? Clearly not the air that was already entangled in the water. If heated air was the cause, cold air must have entered in transferring the tumblers from the suds to the plate. I test to see if this supposition is true by taking several more tumblers out. Some I shake so as to make sure of entrapping cold air in them. Some I take out holding mouth downward in order to prevent cold air from entering. Bubbles appear on the outside of every one of the former and on none of the latter. I must be right in my inference. Air from the outside must have been expanded by the heat of the tumbler, which explains the appearance of the bubbles on the outside. But why do they then go inside? Cold contracts. The tumbler cooled and also the air inside it. Tension was removed, and hence bubbles appeared inside. To be sure of this, I test by placing a cup of ice on the tumbler while the bubbles are still forming outside. They soon reverse” (Dewey 1910: 70–71; 1933: 93–94).

Dewey (1910, 1933) sprinkles his book with other examples of critical thinking. We will refer to the following.

Weather : A man on a walk notices that it has suddenly become cool, thinks that it is probably going to rain, looks up and sees a dark cloud obscuring the sun, and quickens his steps (1910: 6–10; 1933: 9–13).

Disorder : A man finds his rooms on his return to them in disorder with his belongings thrown about, thinks at first of burglary as an explanation, then thinks of mischievous children as being an alternative explanation, then looks to see whether valuables are missing, and discovers that they are (1910: 82–83; 1933: 166–168).

Typhoid : A physician diagnosing a patient whose conspicuous symptoms suggest typhoid avoids drawing a conclusion until more data are gathered by questioning the patient and by making tests (1910: 85–86; 1933: 170).

Blur : A moving blur catches our eye in the distance, we ask ourselves whether it is a cloud of whirling dust or a tree moving its branches or a man signaling to us, we think of other traits that should be found on each of those possibilities, and we look and see if those traits are found (1910: 102, 108; 1933: 121, 133).

Suction pump : In thinking about the suction pump, the scientist first notes that it will draw water only to a maximum height of 33 feet at sea level and to a lesser maximum height at higher elevations, selects for attention the differing atmospheric pressure at these elevations, sets up experiments in which the air is removed from a vessel containing water (when suction no longer works) and in which the weight of air at various levels is calculated, compares the results of reasoning about the height to which a given weight of air will allow a suction pump to raise water with the observed maximum height at different elevations, and finally assimilates the suction pump to such apparently different phenomena as the siphon and the rising of a balloon (1910: 150–153; 1933: 195–198).

Diamond : A passenger in a car driving in a diamond lane reserved for vehicles with at least one passenger notices that the diamond marks on the pavement are far apart in some places and close together in others. Why? The driver suggests that the reason may be that the diamond marks are not needed where there is a solid double line separating the diamond lane from the adjoining lane, but are needed when there is a dotted single line permitting crossing into the diamond lane. Further observation confirms that the diamonds are close together when a dotted line separates the diamond lane from its neighbour, but otherwise far apart.

Rash : A woman suddenly develops a very itchy red rash on her throat and upper chest. She recently noticed a mark on the back of her right hand, but was not sure whether the mark was a rash or a scrape. She lies down in bed and thinks about what might be causing the rash and what to do about it. About two weeks before, she began taking blood pressure medication that contained a sulfa drug, and the pharmacist had warned her, in view of a previous allergic reaction to a medication containing a sulfa drug, to be on the alert for an allergic reaction; however, she had been taking the medication for two weeks with no such effect. The day before, she began using a new cream on her neck and upper chest; against the new cream as the cause was mark on the back of her hand, which had not been exposed to the cream. She began taking probiotics about a month before. She also recently started new eye drops, but she supposed that manufacturers of eye drops would be careful not to include allergy-causing components in the medication. The rash might be a heat rash, since she recently was sweating profusely from her upper body. Since she is about to go away on a short vacation, where she would not have access to her usual physician, she decides to keep taking the probiotics and using the new eye drops but to discontinue the blood pressure medication and to switch back to the old cream for her neck and upper chest. She forms a plan to consult her regular physician on her return about the blood pressure medication.

Candidate : Although Dewey included no examples of thinking directed at appraising the arguments of others, such thinking has come to be considered a kind of critical thinking. We find an example of such thinking in the performance task on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+), which its sponsoring organization describes as

a performance-based assessment that provides a measure of an institution’s contribution to the development of critical-thinking and written communication skills of its students. (Council for Aid to Education 2017)

A sample task posted on its website requires the test-taker to write a report for public distribution evaluating a fictional candidate’s policy proposals and their supporting arguments, using supplied background documents, with a recommendation on whether to endorse the candidate.

Immediate acceptance of an idea that suggests itself as a solution to a problem (e.g., a possible explanation of an event or phenomenon, an action that seems likely to produce a desired result) is “uncritical thinking, the minimum of reflection” (Dewey 1910: 13). On-going suspension of judgment in the light of doubt about a possible solution is not critical thinking (Dewey 1910: 108). Critique driven by a dogmatically held political or religious ideology is not critical thinking; thus Paulo Freire (1968 [1970]) is using the term (e.g., at 1970: 71, 81, 100, 146) in a more politically freighted sense that includes not only reflection but also revolutionary action against oppression. Derivation of a conclusion from given data using an algorithm is not critical thinking.

What is critical thinking? There are many definitions. Ennis (2016) lists 14 philosophically oriented scholarly definitions and three dictionary definitions. Following Rawls (1971), who distinguished his conception of justice from a utilitarian conception but regarded them as rival conceptions of the same concept, Ennis maintains that the 17 definitions are different conceptions of the same concept. Rawls articulated the shared concept of justice as

a characteristic set of principles for assigning basic rights and duties and for determining… the proper distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation. (Rawls 1971: 5)

Bailin et al. (1999b) claim that, if one considers what sorts of thinking an educator would take not to be critical thinking and what sorts to be critical thinking, one can conclude that educators typically understand critical thinking to have at least three features.

  • It is done for the purpose of making up one’s mind about what to believe or do.
  • The person engaging in the thinking is trying to fulfill standards of adequacy and accuracy appropriate to the thinking.
  • The thinking fulfills the relevant standards to some threshold level.

One could sum up the core concept that involves these three features by saying that critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking. This core concept seems to apply to all the examples of critical thinking described in the previous section. As for the non-examples, their exclusion depends on construing careful thinking as excluding jumping immediately to conclusions, suspending judgment no matter how strong the evidence, reasoning from an unquestioned ideological or religious perspective, and routinely using an algorithm to answer a question.

If the core of critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking, conceptions of it can vary according to its presumed scope, its presumed goal, one’s criteria and threshold for being careful, and the thinking component on which one focuses. As to its scope, some conceptions (e.g., Dewey 1910, 1933) restrict it to constructive thinking on the basis of one’s own observations and experiments, others (e.g., Ennis 1962; Fisher & Scriven 1997; Johnson 1992) to appraisal of the products of such thinking. Ennis (1991) and Bailin et al. (1999b) take it to cover both construction and appraisal. As to its goal, some conceptions restrict it to forming a judgment (Dewey 1910, 1933; Lipman 1987; Facione 1990a). Others allow for actions as well as beliefs as the end point of a process of critical thinking (Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b). As to the criteria and threshold for being careful, definitions vary in the term used to indicate that critical thinking satisfies certain norms: “intellectually disciplined” (Scriven & Paul 1987), “reasonable” (Ennis 1991), “skillful” (Lipman 1987), “skilled” (Fisher & Scriven 1997), “careful” (Bailin & Battersby 2009). Some definitions specify these norms, referring variously to “consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends” (Dewey 1910, 1933); “the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning” (Glaser 1941); “conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication” (Scriven & Paul 1987); the requirement that “it is sensitive to context, relies on criteria, and is self-correcting” (Lipman 1987); “evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations” (Facione 1990a); and “plus-minus considerations of the product in terms of appropriate standards (or criteria)” (Johnson 1992). Stanovich and Stanovich (2010) propose to ground the concept of critical thinking in the concept of rationality, which they understand as combining epistemic rationality (fitting one’s beliefs to the world) and instrumental rationality (optimizing goal fulfillment); a critical thinker, in their view, is someone with “a propensity to override suboptimal responses from the autonomous mind” (2010: 227). These variant specifications of norms for critical thinking are not necessarily incompatible with one another, and in any case presuppose the core notion of thinking carefully. As to the thinking component singled out, some definitions focus on suspension of judgment during the thinking (Dewey 1910; McPeck 1981), others on inquiry while judgment is suspended (Bailin & Battersby 2009, 2021), others on the resulting judgment (Facione 1990a), and still others on responsiveness to reasons (Siegel 1988). Kuhn (2019) takes critical thinking to be more a dialogic practice of advancing and responding to arguments than an individual ability.

In educational contexts, a definition of critical thinking is a “programmatic definition” (Scheffler 1960: 19). It expresses a practical program for achieving an educational goal. For this purpose, a one-sentence formulaic definition is much less useful than articulation of a critical thinking process, with criteria and standards for the kinds of thinking that the process may involve. The real educational goal is recognition, adoption and implementation by students of those criteria and standards. That adoption and implementation in turn consists in acquiring the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker.

Conceptions of critical thinking generally do not include moral integrity as part of the concept. Dewey, for example, took critical thinking to be the ultimate intellectual goal of education, but distinguished it from the development of social cooperation among school children, which he took to be the central moral goal. Ennis (1996, 2011) added to his previous list of critical thinking dispositions a group of dispositions to care about the dignity and worth of every person, which he described as a “correlative” (1996) disposition without which critical thinking would be less valuable and perhaps harmful. An educational program that aimed at developing critical thinking but not the correlative disposition to care about the dignity and worth of every person, he asserted, “would be deficient and perhaps dangerous” (Ennis 1996: 172).

Dewey thought that education for reflective thinking would be of value to both the individual and society; recognition in educational practice of the kinship to the scientific attitude of children’s native curiosity, fertile imagination and love of experimental inquiry “would make for individual happiness and the reduction of social waste” (Dewey 1910: iii). Schools participating in the Eight-Year Study took development of the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems as a means to leading young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States (Aikin 1942: 17–18, 81). Harvey Siegel (1988: 55–61) has offered four considerations in support of adopting critical thinking as an educational ideal. (1) Respect for persons requires that schools and teachers honour students’ demands for reasons and explanations, deal with students honestly, and recognize the need to confront students’ independent judgment; these requirements concern the manner in which teachers treat students. (2) Education has the task of preparing children to be successful adults, a task that requires development of their self-sufficiency. (3) Education should initiate children into the rational traditions in such fields as history, science and mathematics. (4) Education should prepare children to become democratic citizens, which requires reasoned procedures and critical talents and attitudes. To supplement these considerations, Siegel (1988: 62–90) responds to two objections: the ideology objection that adoption of any educational ideal requires a prior ideological commitment and the indoctrination objection that cultivation of critical thinking cannot escape being a form of indoctrination.

Despite the diversity of our 11 examples, one can recognize a common pattern. Dewey analyzed it as consisting of five phases:

  • suggestions , in which the mind leaps forward to a possible solution;
  • an intellectualization of the difficulty or perplexity into a problem to be solved, a question for which the answer must be sought;
  • the use of one suggestion after another as a leading idea, or hypothesis , to initiate and guide observation and other operations in collection of factual material;
  • the mental elaboration of the idea or supposition as an idea or supposition ( reasoning , in the sense on which reasoning is a part, not the whole, of inference); and
  • testing the hypothesis by overt or imaginative action. (Dewey 1933: 106–107; italics in original)

The process of reflective thinking consisting of these phases would be preceded by a perplexed, troubled or confused situation and followed by a cleared-up, unified, resolved situation (Dewey 1933: 106). The term ‘phases’ replaced the term ‘steps’ (Dewey 1910: 72), thus removing the earlier suggestion of an invariant sequence. Variants of the above analysis appeared in (Dewey 1916: 177) and (Dewey 1938: 101–119).

The variant formulations indicate the difficulty of giving a single logical analysis of such a varied process. The process of critical thinking may have a spiral pattern, with the problem being redefined in the light of obstacles to solving it as originally formulated. For example, the person in Transit might have concluded that getting to the appointment at the scheduled time was impossible and have reformulated the problem as that of rescheduling the appointment for a mutually convenient time. Further, defining a problem does not always follow after or lead immediately to an idea of a suggested solution. Nor should it do so, as Dewey himself recognized in describing the physician in Typhoid as avoiding any strong preference for this or that conclusion before getting further information (Dewey 1910: 85; 1933: 170). People with a hypothesis in mind, even one to which they have a very weak commitment, have a so-called “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998): they are likely to pay attention to evidence that confirms the hypothesis and to ignore evidence that counts against it or for some competing hypothesis. Detectives, intelligence agencies, and investigators of airplane accidents are well advised to gather relevant evidence systematically and to postpone even tentative adoption of an explanatory hypothesis until the collected evidence rules out with the appropriate degree of certainty all but one explanation. Dewey’s analysis of the critical thinking process can be faulted as well for requiring acceptance or rejection of a possible solution to a defined problem, with no allowance for deciding in the light of the available evidence to suspend judgment. Further, given the great variety of kinds of problems for which reflection is appropriate, there is likely to be variation in its component events. Perhaps the best way to conceptualize the critical thinking process is as a checklist whose component events can occur in a variety of orders, selectively, and more than once. These component events might include (1) noticing a difficulty, (2) defining the problem, (3) dividing the problem into manageable sub-problems, (4) formulating a variety of possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (5) determining what evidence is relevant to deciding among possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (6) devising a plan of systematic observation or experiment that will uncover the relevant evidence, (7) carrying out the plan of systematic observation or experimentation, (8) noting the results of the systematic observation or experiment, (9) gathering relevant testimony and information from others, (10) judging the credibility of testimony and information gathered from others, (11) drawing conclusions from gathered evidence and accepted testimony, and (12) accepting a solution that the evidence adequately supports (cf. Hitchcock 2017: 485).

Checklist conceptions of the process of critical thinking are open to the objection that they are too mechanical and procedural to fit the multi-dimensional and emotionally charged issues for which critical thinking is urgently needed (Paul 1984). For such issues, a more dialectical process is advocated, in which competing relevant world views are identified, their implications explored, and some sort of creative synthesis attempted.

If one considers the critical thinking process illustrated by the 11 examples, one can identify distinct kinds of mental acts and mental states that form part of it. To distinguish, label and briefly characterize these components is a useful preliminary to identifying abilities, skills, dispositions, attitudes, habits and the like that contribute causally to thinking critically. Identifying such abilities and habits is in turn a useful preliminary to setting educational goals. Setting the goals is in its turn a useful preliminary to designing strategies for helping learners to achieve the goals and to designing ways of measuring the extent to which learners have done so. Such measures provide both feedback to learners on their achievement and a basis for experimental research on the effectiveness of various strategies for educating people to think critically. Let us begin, then, by distinguishing the kinds of mental acts and mental events that can occur in a critical thinking process.

  • Observing : One notices something in one’s immediate environment (sudden cooling of temperature in Weather , bubbles forming outside a glass and then going inside in Bubbles , a moving blur in the distance in Blur , a rash in Rash ). Or one notes the results of an experiment or systematic observation (valuables missing in Disorder , no suction without air pressure in Suction pump )
  • Feeling : One feels puzzled or uncertain about something (how to get to an appointment on time in Transit , why the diamonds vary in spacing in Diamond ). One wants to resolve this perplexity. One feels satisfaction once one has worked out an answer (to take the subway express in Transit , diamonds closer when needed as a warning in Diamond ).
  • Wondering : One formulates a question to be addressed (why bubbles form outside a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , how suction pumps work in Suction pump , what caused the rash in Rash ).
  • Imagining : One thinks of possible answers (bus or subway or elevated in Transit , flagpole or ornament or wireless communication aid or direction indicator in Ferryboat , allergic reaction or heat rash in Rash ).
  • Inferring : One works out what would be the case if a possible answer were assumed (valuables missing if there has been a burglary in Disorder , earlier start to the rash if it is an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug in Rash ). Or one draws a conclusion once sufficient relevant evidence is gathered (take the subway in Transit , burglary in Disorder , discontinue blood pressure medication and new cream in Rash ).
  • Knowledge : One uses stored knowledge of the subject-matter to generate possible answers or to infer what would be expected on the assumption of a particular answer (knowledge of a city’s public transit system in Transit , of the requirements for a flagpole in Ferryboat , of Boyle’s law in Bubbles , of allergic reactions in Rash ).
  • Experimenting : One designs and carries out an experiment or a systematic observation to find out whether the results deduced from a possible answer will occur (looking at the location of the flagpole in relation to the pilot’s position in Ferryboat , putting an ice cube on top of a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , measuring the height to which a suction pump will draw water at different elevations in Suction pump , noticing the spacing of diamonds when movement to or from a diamond lane is allowed in Diamond ).
  • Consulting : One finds a source of information, gets the information from the source, and makes a judgment on whether to accept it. None of our 11 examples include searching for sources of information. In this respect they are unrepresentative, since most people nowadays have almost instant access to information relevant to answering any question, including many of those illustrated by the examples. However, Candidate includes the activities of extracting information from sources and evaluating its credibility.
  • Identifying and analyzing arguments : One notices an argument and works out its structure and content as a preliminary to evaluating its strength. This activity is central to Candidate . It is an important part of a critical thinking process in which one surveys arguments for various positions on an issue.
  • Judging : One makes a judgment on the basis of accumulated evidence and reasoning, such as the judgment in Ferryboat that the purpose of the pole is to provide direction to the pilot.
  • Deciding : One makes a decision on what to do or on what policy to adopt, as in the decision in Transit to take the subway.

By definition, a person who does something voluntarily is both willing and able to do that thing at that time. Both the willingness and the ability contribute causally to the person’s action, in the sense that the voluntary action would not occur if either (or both) of these were lacking. For example, suppose that one is standing with one’s arms at one’s sides and one voluntarily lifts one’s right arm to an extended horizontal position. One would not do so if one were unable to lift one’s arm, if for example one’s right side was paralyzed as the result of a stroke. Nor would one do so if one were unwilling to lift one’s arm, if for example one were participating in a street demonstration at which a white supremacist was urging the crowd to lift their right arm in a Nazi salute and one were unwilling to express support in this way for the racist Nazi ideology. The same analysis applies to a voluntary mental process of thinking critically. It requires both willingness and ability to think critically, including willingness and ability to perform each of the mental acts that compose the process and to coordinate those acts in a sequence that is directed at resolving the initiating perplexity.

Consider willingness first. We can identify causal contributors to willingness to think critically by considering factors that would cause a person who was able to think critically about an issue nevertheless not to do so (Hamby 2014). For each factor, the opposite condition thus contributes causally to willingness to think critically on a particular occasion. For example, people who habitually jump to conclusions without considering alternatives will not think critically about issues that arise, even if they have the required abilities. The contrary condition of willingness to suspend judgment is thus a causal contributor to thinking critically.

Now consider ability. In contrast to the ability to move one’s arm, which can be completely absent because a stroke has left the arm paralyzed, the ability to think critically is a developed ability, whose absence is not a complete absence of ability to think but absence of ability to think well. We can identify the ability to think well directly, in terms of the norms and standards for good thinking. In general, to be able do well the thinking activities that can be components of a critical thinking process, one needs to know the concepts and principles that characterize their good performance, to recognize in particular cases that the concepts and principles apply, and to apply them. The knowledge, recognition and application may be procedural rather than declarative. It may be domain-specific rather than widely applicable, and in either case may need subject-matter knowledge, sometimes of a deep kind.

Reflections of the sort illustrated by the previous two paragraphs have led scholars to identify the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a “critical thinker”, i.e., someone who thinks critically whenever it is appropriate to do so. We turn now to these three types of causal contributors to thinking critically. We start with dispositions, since arguably these are the most powerful contributors to being a critical thinker, can be fostered at an early stage of a child’s development, and are susceptible to general improvement (Glaser 1941: 175)

8. Critical Thinking Dispositions

Educational researchers use the term ‘dispositions’ broadly for the habits of mind and attitudes that contribute causally to being a critical thinker. Some writers (e.g., Paul & Elder 2006; Hamby 2014; Bailin & Battersby 2016a) propose to use the term ‘virtues’ for this dimension of a critical thinker. The virtues in question, although they are virtues of character, concern the person’s ways of thinking rather than the person’s ways of behaving towards others. They are not moral virtues but intellectual virtues, of the sort articulated by Zagzebski (1996) and discussed by Turri, Alfano, and Greco (2017).

On a realistic conception, thinking dispositions or intellectual virtues are real properties of thinkers. They are general tendencies, propensities, or inclinations to think in particular ways in particular circumstances, and can be genuinely explanatory (Siegel 1999). Sceptics argue that there is no evidence for a specific mental basis for the habits of mind that contribute to thinking critically, and that it is pedagogically misleading to posit such a basis (Bailin et al. 1999a). Whatever their status, critical thinking dispositions need motivation for their initial formation in a child—motivation that may be external or internal. As children develop, the force of habit will gradually become important in sustaining the disposition (Nieto & Valenzuela 2012). Mere force of habit, however, is unlikely to sustain critical thinking dispositions. Critical thinkers must value and enjoy using their knowledge and abilities to think things through for themselves. They must be committed to, and lovers of, inquiry.

A person may have a critical thinking disposition with respect to only some kinds of issues. For example, one could be open-minded about scientific issues but not about religious issues. Similarly, one could be confident in one’s ability to reason about the theological implications of the existence of evil in the world but not in one’s ability to reason about the best design for a guided ballistic missile.

Facione (1990a: 25) divides “affective dispositions” of critical thinking into approaches to life and living in general and approaches to specific issues, questions or problems. Adapting this distinction, one can usefully divide critical thinking dispositions into initiating dispositions (those that contribute causally to starting to think critically about an issue) and internal dispositions (those that contribute causally to doing a good job of thinking critically once one has started). The two categories are not mutually exclusive. For example, open-mindedness, in the sense of willingness to consider alternative points of view to one’s own, is both an initiating and an internal disposition.

Using the strategy of considering factors that would block people with the ability to think critically from doing so, we can identify as initiating dispositions for thinking critically attentiveness, a habit of inquiry, self-confidence, courage, open-mindedness, willingness to suspend judgment, trust in reason, wanting evidence for one’s beliefs, and seeking the truth. We consider briefly what each of these dispositions amounts to, in each case citing sources that acknowledge them.

  • Attentiveness : One will not think critically if one fails to recognize an issue that needs to be thought through. For example, the pedestrian in Weather would not have looked up if he had not noticed that the air was suddenly cooler. To be a critical thinker, then, one needs to be habitually attentive to one’s surroundings, noticing not only what one senses but also sources of perplexity in messages received and in one’s own beliefs and attitudes (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Habit of inquiry : Inquiry is effortful, and one needs an internal push to engage in it. For example, the student in Bubbles could easily have stopped at idle wondering about the cause of the bubbles rather than reasoning to a hypothesis, then designing and executing an experiment to test it. Thus willingness to think critically needs mental energy and initiative. What can supply that energy? Love of inquiry, or perhaps just a habit of inquiry. Hamby (2015) has argued that willingness to inquire is the central critical thinking virtue, one that encompasses all the others. It is recognized as a critical thinking disposition by Dewey (1910: 29; 1933: 35), Glaser (1941: 5), Ennis (1987: 12; 1991: 8), Facione (1990a: 25), Bailin et al. (1999b: 294), Halpern (1998: 452), and Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo (2001).
  • Self-confidence : Lack of confidence in one’s abilities can block critical thinking. For example, if the woman in Rash lacked confidence in her ability to figure things out for herself, she might just have assumed that the rash on her chest was the allergic reaction to her medication against which the pharmacist had warned her. Thus willingness to think critically requires confidence in one’s ability to inquire (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Courage : Fear of thinking for oneself can stop one from doing it. Thus willingness to think critically requires intellectual courage (Paul & Elder 2006: 16).
  • Open-mindedness : A dogmatic attitude will impede thinking critically. For example, a person who adheres rigidly to a “pro-choice” position on the issue of the legal status of induced abortion is likely to be unwilling to consider seriously the issue of when in its development an unborn child acquires a moral right to life. Thus willingness to think critically requires open-mindedness, in the sense of a willingness to examine questions to which one already accepts an answer but which further evidence or reasoning might cause one to answer differently (Dewey 1933; Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b; Halpern 1998, Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). Paul (1981) emphasizes open-mindedness about alternative world-views, and recommends a dialectical approach to integrating such views as central to what he calls “strong sense” critical thinking. In three studies, Haran, Ritov, & Mellers (2013) found that actively open-minded thinking, including “the tendency to weigh new evidence against a favored belief, to spend sufficient time on a problem before giving up, and to consider carefully the opinions of others in forming one’s own”, led study participants to acquire information and thus to make accurate estimations.
  • Willingness to suspend judgment : Premature closure on an initial solution will block critical thinking. Thus willingness to think critically requires a willingness to suspend judgment while alternatives are explored (Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Halpern 1998).
  • Trust in reason : Since distrust in the processes of reasoned inquiry will dissuade one from engaging in it, trust in them is an initiating critical thinking disposition (Facione 1990a, 25; Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001; Paul & Elder 2006). In reaction to an allegedly exclusive emphasis on reason in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, Thayer-Bacon (2000) argues that intuition, imagination, and emotion have important roles to play in an adequate conception of critical thinking that she calls “constructive thinking”. From her point of view, critical thinking requires trust not only in reason but also in intuition, imagination, and emotion.
  • Seeking the truth : If one does not care about the truth but is content to stick with one’s initial bias on an issue, then one will not think critically about it. Seeking the truth is thus an initiating critical thinking disposition (Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). A disposition to seek the truth is implicit in more specific critical thinking dispositions, such as trying to be well-informed, considering seriously points of view other than one’s own, looking for alternatives, suspending judgment when the evidence is insufficient, and adopting a position when the evidence supporting it is sufficient.

Some of the initiating dispositions, such as open-mindedness and willingness to suspend judgment, are also internal critical thinking dispositions, in the sense of mental habits or attitudes that contribute causally to doing a good job of critical thinking once one starts the process. But there are many other internal critical thinking dispositions. Some of them are parasitic on one’s conception of good thinking. For example, it is constitutive of good thinking about an issue to formulate the issue clearly and to maintain focus on it. For this purpose, one needs not only the corresponding ability but also the corresponding disposition. Ennis (1991: 8) describes it as the disposition “to determine and maintain focus on the conclusion or question”, Facione (1990a: 25) as “clarity in stating the question or concern”. Other internal dispositions are motivators to continue or adjust the critical thinking process, such as willingness to persist in a complex task and willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies in an attempt to self-correct (Halpern 1998: 452). For a list of identified internal critical thinking dispositions, see the Supplement on Internal Critical Thinking Dispositions .

Some theorists postulate skills, i.e., acquired abilities, as operative in critical thinking. It is not obvious, however, that a good mental act is the exercise of a generic acquired skill. Inferring an expected time of arrival, as in Transit , has some generic components but also uses non-generic subject-matter knowledge. Bailin et al. (1999a) argue against viewing critical thinking skills as generic and discrete, on the ground that skilled performance at a critical thinking task cannot be separated from knowledge of concepts and from domain-specific principles of good thinking. Talk of skills, they concede, is unproblematic if it means merely that a person with critical thinking skills is capable of intelligent performance.

Despite such scepticism, theorists of critical thinking have listed as general contributors to critical thinking what they variously call abilities (Glaser 1941; Ennis 1962, 1991), skills (Facione 1990a; Halpern 1998) or competencies (Fisher & Scriven 1997). Amalgamating these lists would produce a confusing and chaotic cornucopia of more than 50 possible educational objectives, with only partial overlap among them. It makes sense instead to try to understand the reasons for the multiplicity and diversity, and to make a selection according to one’s own reasons for singling out abilities to be developed in a critical thinking curriculum. Two reasons for diversity among lists of critical thinking abilities are the underlying conception of critical thinking and the envisaged educational level. Appraisal-only conceptions, for example, involve a different suite of abilities than constructive-only conceptions. Some lists, such as those in (Glaser 1941), are put forward as educational objectives for secondary school students, whereas others are proposed as objectives for college students (e.g., Facione 1990a).

The abilities described in the remaining paragraphs of this section emerge from reflection on the general abilities needed to do well the thinking activities identified in section 6 as components of the critical thinking process described in section 5 . The derivation of each collection of abilities is accompanied by citation of sources that list such abilities and of standardized tests that claim to test them.

Observational abilities : Careful and accurate observation sometimes requires specialist expertise and practice, as in the case of observing birds and observing accident scenes. However, there are general abilities of noticing what one’s senses are picking up from one’s environment and of being able to articulate clearly and accurately to oneself and others what one has observed. It helps in exercising them to be able to recognize and take into account factors that make one’s observation less trustworthy, such as prior framing of the situation, inadequate time, deficient senses, poor observation conditions, and the like. It helps as well to be skilled at taking steps to make one’s observation more trustworthy, such as moving closer to get a better look, measuring something three times and taking the average, and checking what one thinks one is observing with someone else who is in a good position to observe it. It also helps to be skilled at recognizing respects in which one’s report of one’s observation involves inference rather than direct observation, so that one can then consider whether the inference is justified. These abilities come into play as well when one thinks about whether and with what degree of confidence to accept an observation report, for example in the study of history or in a criminal investigation or in assessing news reports. Observational abilities show up in some lists of critical thinking abilities (Ennis 1962: 90; Facione 1990a: 16; Ennis 1991: 9). There are items testing a person’s ability to judge the credibility of observation reports in the Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, Levels X and Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). Norris and King (1983, 1985, 1990a, 1990b) is a test of ability to appraise observation reports.

Emotional abilities : The emotions that drive a critical thinking process are perplexity or puzzlement, a wish to resolve it, and satisfaction at achieving the desired resolution. Children experience these emotions at an early age, without being trained to do so. Education that takes critical thinking as a goal needs only to channel these emotions and to make sure not to stifle them. Collaborative critical thinking benefits from ability to recognize one’s own and others’ emotional commitments and reactions.

Questioning abilities : A critical thinking process needs transformation of an inchoate sense of perplexity into a clear question. Formulating a question well requires not building in questionable assumptions, not prejudging the issue, and using language that in context is unambiguous and precise enough (Ennis 1962: 97; 1991: 9).

Imaginative abilities : Thinking directed at finding the correct causal explanation of a general phenomenon or particular event requires an ability to imagine possible explanations. Thinking about what policy or plan of action to adopt requires generation of options and consideration of possible consequences of each option. Domain knowledge is required for such creative activity, but a general ability to imagine alternatives is helpful and can be nurtured so as to become easier, quicker, more extensive, and deeper (Dewey 1910: 34–39; 1933: 40–47). Facione (1990a) and Halpern (1998) include the ability to imagine alternatives as a critical thinking ability.

Inferential abilities : The ability to draw conclusions from given information, and to recognize with what degree of certainty one’s own or others’ conclusions follow, is universally recognized as a general critical thinking ability. All 11 examples in section 2 of this article include inferences, some from hypotheses or options (as in Transit , Ferryboat and Disorder ), others from something observed (as in Weather and Rash ). None of these inferences is formally valid. Rather, they are licensed by general, sometimes qualified substantive rules of inference (Toulmin 1958) that rest on domain knowledge—that a bus trip takes about the same time in each direction, that the terminal of a wireless telegraph would be located on the highest possible place, that sudden cooling is often followed by rain, that an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug generally shows up soon after one starts taking it. It is a matter of controversy to what extent the specialized ability to deduce conclusions from premisses using formal rules of inference is needed for critical thinking. Dewey (1933) locates logical forms in setting out the products of reflection rather than in the process of reflection. Ennis (1981a), on the other hand, maintains that a liberally-educated person should have the following abilities: to translate natural-language statements into statements using the standard logical operators, to use appropriately the language of necessary and sufficient conditions, to deal with argument forms and arguments containing symbols, to determine whether in virtue of an argument’s form its conclusion follows necessarily from its premisses, to reason with logically complex propositions, and to apply the rules and procedures of deductive logic. Inferential abilities are recognized as critical thinking abilities by Glaser (1941: 6), Facione (1990a: 9), Ennis (1991: 9), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 99, 111), and Halpern (1998: 452). Items testing inferential abilities constitute two of the five subtests of the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (Watson & Glaser 1980a, 1980b, 1994), two of the four sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), three of the seven sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), 11 of the 34 items on Forms A and B of the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992), and a high but variable proportion of the 25 selected-response questions in the Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Experimenting abilities : Knowing how to design and execute an experiment is important not just in scientific research but also in everyday life, as in Rash . Dewey devoted a whole chapter of his How We Think (1910: 145–156; 1933: 190–202) to the superiority of experimentation over observation in advancing knowledge. Experimenting abilities come into play at one remove in appraising reports of scientific studies. Skill in designing and executing experiments includes the acknowledged abilities to appraise evidence (Glaser 1941: 6), to carry out experiments and to apply appropriate statistical inference techniques (Facione 1990a: 9), to judge inductions to an explanatory hypothesis (Ennis 1991: 9), and to recognize the need for an adequately large sample size (Halpern 1998). The Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) includes four items (out of 52) on experimental design. The Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) makes room for appraisal of study design in both its performance task and its selected-response questions.

Consulting abilities : Skill at consulting sources of information comes into play when one seeks information to help resolve a problem, as in Candidate . Ability to find and appraise information includes ability to gather and marshal pertinent information (Glaser 1941: 6), to judge whether a statement made by an alleged authority is acceptable (Ennis 1962: 84), to plan a search for desired information (Facione 1990a: 9), and to judge the credibility of a source (Ennis 1991: 9). Ability to judge the credibility of statements is tested by 24 items (out of 76) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) and by four items (out of 52) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). The College Learning Assessment’s performance task requires evaluation of whether information in documents is credible or unreliable (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Argument analysis abilities : The ability to identify and analyze arguments contributes to the process of surveying arguments on an issue in order to form one’s own reasoned judgment, as in Candidate . The ability to detect and analyze arguments is recognized as a critical thinking skill by Facione (1990a: 7–8), Ennis (1991: 9) and Halpern (1998). Five items (out of 34) on the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992) test skill at argument analysis. The College Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) incorporates argument analysis in its selected-response tests of critical reading and evaluation and of critiquing an argument.

Judging skills and deciding skills : Skill at judging and deciding is skill at recognizing what judgment or decision the available evidence and argument supports, and with what degree of confidence. It is thus a component of the inferential skills already discussed.

Lists and tests of critical thinking abilities often include two more abilities: identifying assumptions and constructing and evaluating definitions.

In addition to dispositions and abilities, critical thinking needs knowledge: of critical thinking concepts, of critical thinking principles, and of the subject-matter of the thinking.

We can derive a short list of concepts whose understanding contributes to critical thinking from the critical thinking abilities described in the preceding section. Observational abilities require an understanding of the difference between observation and inference. Questioning abilities require an understanding of the concepts of ambiguity and vagueness. Inferential abilities require an understanding of the difference between conclusive and defeasible inference (traditionally, between deduction and induction), as well as of the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Experimenting abilities require an understanding of the concepts of hypothesis, null hypothesis, assumption and prediction, as well as of the concept of statistical significance and of its difference from importance. They also require an understanding of the difference between an experiment and an observational study, and in particular of the difference between a randomized controlled trial, a prospective correlational study and a retrospective (case-control) study. Argument analysis abilities require an understanding of the concepts of argument, premiss, assumption, conclusion and counter-consideration. Additional critical thinking concepts are proposed by Bailin et al. (1999b: 293), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 105–106), Black (2012), and Blair (2021).

According to Glaser (1941: 25), ability to think critically requires knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning. If we review the list of abilities in the preceding section, however, we can see that some of them can be acquired and exercised merely through practice, possibly guided in an educational setting, followed by feedback. Searching intelligently for a causal explanation of some phenomenon or event requires that one consider a full range of possible causal contributors, but it seems more important that one implements this principle in one’s practice than that one is able to articulate it. What is important is “operational knowledge” of the standards and principles of good thinking (Bailin et al. 1999b: 291–293). But the development of such critical thinking abilities as designing an experiment or constructing an operational definition can benefit from learning their underlying theory. Further, explicit knowledge of quirks of human thinking seems useful as a cautionary guide. Human memory is not just fallible about details, as people learn from their own experiences of misremembering, but is so malleable that a detailed, clear and vivid recollection of an event can be a total fabrication (Loftus 2017). People seek or interpret evidence in ways that are partial to their existing beliefs and expectations, often unconscious of their “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998). Not only are people subject to this and other cognitive biases (Kahneman 2011), of which they are typically unaware, but it may be counter-productive for one to make oneself aware of them and try consciously to counteract them or to counteract social biases such as racial or sexual stereotypes (Kenyon & Beaulac 2014). It is helpful to be aware of these facts and of the superior effectiveness of blocking the operation of biases—for example, by making an immediate record of one’s observations, refraining from forming a preliminary explanatory hypothesis, blind refereeing, double-blind randomized trials, and blind grading of students’ work. It is also helpful to be aware of the prevalence of “noise” (unwanted unsystematic variability of judgments), of how to detect noise (through a noise audit), and of how to reduce noise: make accuracy the goal, think statistically, break a process of arriving at a judgment into independent tasks, resist premature intuitions, in a group get independent judgments first, favour comparative judgments and scales (Kahneman, Sibony, & Sunstein 2021). It is helpful as well to be aware of the concept of “bounded rationality” in decision-making and of the related distinction between “satisficing” and optimizing (Simon 1956; Gigerenzer 2001).

Critical thinking about an issue requires substantive knowledge of the domain to which the issue belongs. Critical thinking abilities are not a magic elixir that can be applied to any issue whatever by somebody who has no knowledge of the facts relevant to exploring that issue. For example, the student in Bubbles needed to know that gases do not penetrate solid objects like a glass, that air expands when heated, that the volume of an enclosed gas varies directly with its temperature and inversely with its pressure, and that hot objects will spontaneously cool down to the ambient temperature of their surroundings unless kept hot by insulation or a source of heat. Critical thinkers thus need a rich fund of subject-matter knowledge relevant to the variety of situations they encounter. This fact is recognized in the inclusion among critical thinking dispositions of a concern to become and remain generally well informed.

Experimental educational interventions, with control groups, have shown that education can improve critical thinking skills and dispositions, as measured by standardized tests. For information about these tests, see the Supplement on Assessment .

What educational methods are most effective at developing the dispositions, abilities and knowledge of a critical thinker? In a comprehensive meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies of strategies for teaching students to think critically, Abrami et al. (2015) found that dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring each increased the effectiveness of the educational intervention, and that they were most effective when combined. They also found that in these studies a combination of separate instruction in critical thinking with subject-matter instruction in which students are encouraged to think critically was more effective than either by itself. However, the difference was not statistically significant; that is, it might have arisen by chance.

Most of these studies lack the longitudinal follow-up required to determine whether the observed differential improvements in critical thinking abilities or dispositions continue over time, for example until high school or college graduation. For details on studies of methods of developing critical thinking skills and dispositions, see the Supplement on Educational Methods .

12. Controversies

Scholars have denied the generalizability of critical thinking abilities across subject domains, have alleged bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, and have investigated the relationship of critical thinking to other kinds of thinking.

McPeck (1981) attacked the thinking skills movement of the 1970s, including the critical thinking movement. He argued that there are no general thinking skills, since thinking is always thinking about some subject-matter. It is futile, he claimed, for schools and colleges to teach thinking as if it were a separate subject. Rather, teachers should lead their pupils to become autonomous thinkers by teaching school subjects in a way that brings out their cognitive structure and that encourages and rewards discussion and argument. As some of his critics (e.g., Paul 1985; Siegel 1985) pointed out, McPeck’s central argument needs elaboration, since it has obvious counter-examples in writing and speaking, for which (up to a certain level of complexity) there are teachable general abilities even though they are always about some subject-matter. To make his argument convincing, McPeck needs to explain how thinking differs from writing and speaking in a way that does not permit useful abstraction of its components from the subject-matters with which it deals. He has not done so. Nevertheless, his position that the dispositions and abilities of a critical thinker are best developed in the context of subject-matter instruction is shared by many theorists of critical thinking, including Dewey (1910, 1933), Glaser (1941), Passmore (1980), Weinstein (1990), Bailin et al. (1999b), and Willingham (2019).

McPeck’s challenge prompted reflection on the extent to which critical thinking is subject-specific. McPeck argued for a strong subject-specificity thesis, according to which it is a conceptual truth that all critical thinking abilities are specific to a subject. (He did not however extend his subject-specificity thesis to critical thinking dispositions. In particular, he took the disposition to suspend judgment in situations of cognitive dissonance to be a general disposition.) Conceptual subject-specificity is subject to obvious counter-examples, such as the general ability to recognize confusion of necessary and sufficient conditions. A more modest thesis, also endorsed by McPeck, is epistemological subject-specificity, according to which the norms of good thinking vary from one field to another. Epistemological subject-specificity clearly holds to a certain extent; for example, the principles in accordance with which one solves a differential equation are quite different from the principles in accordance with which one determines whether a painting is a genuine Picasso. But the thesis suffers, as Ennis (1989) points out, from vagueness of the concept of a field or subject and from the obvious existence of inter-field principles, however broadly the concept of a field is construed. For example, the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning hold for all the varied fields in which such reasoning occurs. A third kind of subject-specificity is empirical subject-specificity, according to which as a matter of empirically observable fact a person with the abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker in one area of investigation will not necessarily have them in another area of investigation.

The thesis of empirical subject-specificity raises the general problem of transfer. If critical thinking abilities and dispositions have to be developed independently in each school subject, how are they of any use in dealing with the problems of everyday life and the political and social issues of contemporary society, most of which do not fit into the framework of a traditional school subject? Proponents of empirical subject-specificity tend to argue that transfer is more likely to occur if there is critical thinking instruction in a variety of domains, with explicit attention to dispositions and abilities that cut across domains. But evidence for this claim is scanty. There is a need for well-designed empirical studies that investigate the conditions that make transfer more likely.

It is common ground in debates about the generality or subject-specificity of critical thinking dispositions and abilities that critical thinking about any topic requires background knowledge about the topic. For example, the most sophisticated understanding of the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning is of no help unless accompanied by some knowledge of what might be plausible explanations of some phenomenon under investigation.

Critics have objected to bias in the theory, pedagogy and practice of critical thinking. Commentators (e.g., Alston 1995; Ennis 1998) have noted that anyone who takes a position has a bias in the neutral sense of being inclined in one direction rather than others. The critics, however, are objecting to bias in the pejorative sense of an unjustified favoring of certain ways of knowing over others, frequently alleging that the unjustly favoured ways are those of a dominant sex or culture (Bailin 1995). These ways favour:

  • reinforcement of egocentric and sociocentric biases over dialectical engagement with opposing world-views (Paul 1981, 1984; Warren 1998)
  • distancing from the object of inquiry over closeness to it (Martin 1992; Thayer-Bacon 1992)
  • indifference to the situation of others over care for them (Martin 1992)
  • orientation to thought over orientation to action (Martin 1992)
  • being reasonable over caring to understand people’s ideas (Thayer-Bacon 1993)
  • being neutral and objective over being embodied and situated (Thayer-Bacon 1995a)
  • doubting over believing (Thayer-Bacon 1995b)
  • reason over emotion, imagination and intuition (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • solitary thinking over collaborative thinking (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • written and spoken assignments over other forms of expression (Alston 2001)
  • attention to written and spoken communications over attention to human problems (Alston 2001)
  • winning debates in the public sphere over making and understanding meaning (Alston 2001)

A common thread in this smorgasbord of accusations is dissatisfaction with focusing on the logical analysis and evaluation of reasoning and arguments. While these authors acknowledge that such analysis and evaluation is part of critical thinking and should be part of its conceptualization and pedagogy, they insist that it is only a part. Paul (1981), for example, bemoans the tendency of atomistic teaching of methods of analyzing and evaluating arguments to turn students into more able sophists, adept at finding fault with positions and arguments with which they disagree but even more entrenched in the egocentric and sociocentric biases with which they began. Martin (1992) and Thayer-Bacon (1992) cite with approval the self-reported intimacy with their subject-matter of leading researchers in biology and medicine, an intimacy that conflicts with the distancing allegedly recommended in standard conceptions and pedagogy of critical thinking. Thayer-Bacon (2000) contrasts the embodied and socially embedded learning of her elementary school students in a Montessori school, who used their imagination, intuition and emotions as well as their reason, with conceptions of critical thinking as

thinking that is used to critique arguments, offer justifications, and make judgments about what are the good reasons, or the right answers. (Thayer-Bacon 2000: 127–128)

Alston (2001) reports that her students in a women’s studies class were able to see the flaws in the Cinderella myth that pervades much romantic fiction but in their own romantic relationships still acted as if all failures were the woman’s fault and still accepted the notions of love at first sight and living happily ever after. Students, she writes, should

be able to connect their intellectual critique to a more affective, somatic, and ethical account of making risky choices that have sexist, racist, classist, familial, sexual, or other consequences for themselves and those both near and far… critical thinking that reads arguments, texts, or practices merely on the surface without connections to feeling/desiring/doing or action lacks an ethical depth that should infuse the difference between mere cognitive activity and something we want to call critical thinking. (Alston 2001: 34)

Some critics portray such biases as unfair to women. Thayer-Bacon (1992), for example, has charged modern critical thinking theory with being sexist, on the ground that it separates the self from the object and causes one to lose touch with one’s inner voice, and thus stigmatizes women, who (she asserts) link self to object and listen to their inner voice. Her charge does not imply that women as a group are on average less able than men to analyze and evaluate arguments. Facione (1990c) found no difference by sex in performance on his California Critical Thinking Skills Test. Kuhn (1991: 280–281) found no difference by sex in either the disposition or the competence to engage in argumentative thinking.

The critics propose a variety of remedies for the biases that they allege. In general, they do not propose to eliminate or downplay critical thinking as an educational goal. Rather, they propose to conceptualize critical thinking differently and to change its pedagogy accordingly. Their pedagogical proposals arise logically from their objections. They can be summarized as follows:

  • Focus on argument networks with dialectical exchanges reflecting contesting points of view rather than on atomic arguments, so as to develop “strong sense” critical thinking that transcends egocentric and sociocentric biases (Paul 1981, 1984).
  • Foster closeness to the subject-matter and feeling connected to others in order to inform a humane democracy (Martin 1992).
  • Develop “constructive thinking” as a social activity in a community of physically embodied and socially embedded inquirers with personal voices who value not only reason but also imagination, intuition and emotion (Thayer-Bacon 2000).
  • In developing critical thinking in school subjects, treat as important neither skills nor dispositions but opening worlds of meaning (Alston 2001).
  • Attend to the development of critical thinking dispositions as well as skills, and adopt the “critical pedagogy” practised and advocated by Freire (1968 [1970]) and hooks (1994) (Dalgleish, Girard, & Davies 2017).

A common thread in these proposals is treatment of critical thinking as a social, interactive, personally engaged activity like that of a quilting bee or a barn-raising (Thayer-Bacon 2000) rather than as an individual, solitary, distanced activity symbolized by Rodin’s The Thinker . One can get a vivid description of education with the former type of goal from the writings of bell hooks (1994, 2010). Critical thinking for her is open-minded dialectical exchange across opposing standpoints and from multiple perspectives, a conception similar to Paul’s “strong sense” critical thinking (Paul 1981). She abandons the structure of domination in the traditional classroom. In an introductory course on black women writers, for example, she assigns students to write an autobiographical paragraph about an early racial memory, then to read it aloud as the others listen, thus affirming the uniqueness and value of each voice and creating a communal awareness of the diversity of the group’s experiences (hooks 1994: 84). Her “engaged pedagogy” is thus similar to the “freedom under guidance” implemented in John Dewey’s Laboratory School of Chicago in the late 1890s and early 1900s. It incorporates the dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring that Abrami (2015) found to be most effective in improving critical thinking skills and dispositions.

What is the relationship of critical thinking to problem solving, decision-making, higher-order thinking, creative thinking, and other recognized types of thinking? One’s answer to this question obviously depends on how one defines the terms used in the question. If critical thinking is conceived broadly to cover any careful thinking about any topic for any purpose, then problem solving and decision making will be kinds of critical thinking, if they are done carefully. Historically, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’ were two names for the same thing. If critical thinking is conceived more narrowly as consisting solely of appraisal of intellectual products, then it will be disjoint with problem solving and decision making, which are constructive.

Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives used the phrase “intellectual abilities and skills” for what had been labeled “critical thinking” by some, “reflective thinking” by Dewey and others, and “problem solving” by still others (Bloom et al. 1956: 38). Thus, the so-called “higher-order thinking skills” at the taxonomy’s top levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation are just critical thinking skills, although they do not come with general criteria for their assessment (Ennis 1981b). The revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2001) likewise treats critical thinking as cutting across those types of cognitive process that involve more than remembering (Anderson et al. 2001: 269–270). For details, see the Supplement on History .

As to creative thinking, it overlaps with critical thinking (Bailin 1987, 1988). Thinking about the explanation of some phenomenon or event, as in Ferryboat , requires creative imagination in constructing plausible explanatory hypotheses. Likewise, thinking about a policy question, as in Candidate , requires creativity in coming up with options. Conversely, creativity in any field needs to be balanced by critical appraisal of the draft painting or novel or mathematical theory.

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Evaluating a Text

Introduction: critical thinking.

what do we mean by reading and critical thinking skills

That’s where critical thinking comes in. The “critical” in critical thinking does not mean that you’re finding fault with a text.  On the other hand, it does mean that you evaluate a text to see how well it works, in order to decide the worthiness or quality of the author’s ideas.  Evaluation is based on objective (not subjective or emotional) criteria: the text’s main idea, the relevance and quality of the evidence supporting that main idea, and how the author presents that main idea. Since so many different things can be defined as text—an email, a television commercial, a blog post, an election campaign platform—in addition to a written article, the ability to evaluate a text is an important transferable skill.

The video below discusses critical thinking within the context of reading.

Critical thinking depends on analysis. According to The American Heritage Dictionary , analysis is “the separation of an intellectual or material whole into its constituents parts for individual study.”  [2]   Analytical reading starts with finding and understanding a main idea, but then considers the validity of that main idea by studying its parts, to see how logically they fit together. The parts of a text fall into those two main categories, content and language, and include things such as the author’s main idea, supporting ideas/evidence, purpose, assumptions, point of view, and tone—the devices or tools that authors use. You’ll ask and answer many questions based on the parts of a text, such as the following:

  • Is the text’s main idea or assertion reasonable and logical?
  • Are there underlying assumptions or perspectives that affect the text’s content and language?
  • How does the language influence the way a reader understands the text?
  • and more…

For example, if you examine the text of an ad for clothing detergent, you may find that the author an author manipulates language and content to persuade you to accept a certain point of view that may not be fully supported or logically valid. The ad may provide an opinion from a “real” parent, speaking emotionally in a sincere tone, that Brand X gets his kids’ clothes cleaner than other brands. The ad may provide statistics to back up its claim: “four out of five parents prefer Brand X.” Yet how valid and valuable is this content?  How believable is the text’s claim?  Analyzing the parts of the ad’s text will help you determine its value.

It’s even more important to think critically and analytically to evaluate a text when an author manipulates the parts of a text in a less obvious way, in a magazine article, a political speech, a source for a research paper, or an appeal for funds. As a critical reader, you need to be able to identify the author’s techniques so you can decide whether to accept or question the message in the text. Understanding critically and analytically how a text works will help you determine its value.

[1] Wording of the evaluation question quoted from Duncan, Jennifer, modified by Michael O’Connor. Reading Critically handout. The Writing Centre, University of Toronto Scarborough. https://www.stetson.edu/other/writing-program/media/CRITICAL%20READING.pdf

[2] The American Heritage Dictionary. https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=analysis

  • Introduction: Critical Thinking. Authored by : Susan Oaks. Project : Introduction to College Reading & Writing. License : CC BY-NC: Attribution-NonCommercial
  • image of a woman with question marks superimposed. Authored by : Gerd Altmann. Provided by : Pixabay. Located at : https://pixabay.com/photos/question-mark-question-student-girl-4009695/ . License : CC0: No Rights Reserved
  • video Critical Thinking and Reading. Authored by : Marc Franco. Provided by : Snap Language. Located at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOGvwPmKOqQ&t=36s . License : Other . License Terms : YouTube video

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Reading Skills Part 1: Set Yourself Up for Success

"While - like many of us - I enjoy reading what I want to read, I still struggle to get through a dense research article or textbook chapter. I have noticed, however, that if I take steps to prepare, I am much more likely to persist through a challenging reading. "

Reading Skills Part 2: Alternatives to Highlighting

"It starts with the best of intentions: trusty highlighter in hand or (for the tech-savvy crowd) highlighting tool hovering on-screen, you work your way through an assigned reading, marking only the most important information—or so you think."

Reading Skills Part 3: Read to Remember

"It’s happened to the best of us: on Monday evening, you congratulate yourself on making it though an especially challenging reading. What a productive start to the week!"

Reading a Research Article Assigned as Coursework

"Reading skills are vital to your success at Walden. The kind of reading you do during your degree program will vary, but most of it will involve reading journal articles based on primary research."

Critical Reading for Evaluation

"Whereas analysis involves noticing, evaluation requires the reader to make a judgment about the text’s strengths and weaknesses. Many students are not confident in their ability to assess what they are reading."

Critical Reading for Analysis and Comparison

"Critical reading generally refers to reading in a scholarly context, with an eye toward identifying a text or author’s viewpoints, arguments, evidence, potential biases, and conclusions."

Pre-Reading Strategies

Triple entry notebook, critical thinking.

Use this checklist to practice critical thinking while reading an article, watching an advertisement, or making an important purchase or voting decision.

Critical Reading Checklist (Word) Critical Reading Checklist (PDF) Critical Thinking Bookmark (PDF)

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1.3: Critical Thinking

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Learning Objectives

  • Define critical thinking
  • Identify the role that logic plays in critical thinking
  • Apply critical thinking skills to problem-solving scenarios
  • Apply critical thinking skills to evaluation of information

Woman lying on her back outdoors, in a reflective posture

Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)

Consider these thoughts about the critical thinking process, and how it applies not just to our school lives but also our personal and professional lives.

“THINKING CRITICALLY AND CREATIVELY” Critical thinking skills are perhaps the most fundamental skills involved in making judgments and solving problems. You use them every day, and you can continue improving them. The ability to think critically about a matter—to analyze a question, situation, or problem down to its most basic parts—is what helps us evaluate the accuracy and truthfulness of statements, claims, and information we read and hear. It is the sharp knife that, when honed, separates fact from fiction, honesty from lies, and the accurate from the misleading. We all use this skill to one degree or another almost every day. For example, we use critical thinking every day as we consider the latest consumer products and why one particular product is the best among its peers. Is it a quality product because a celebrity endorses it? Because a lot of other people may have used it? Because it is made by one company versus another? Or perhaps because it is made in one country or another? These are questions representative of critical thinking. The academic setting demands more of us in terms of critical thinking than everyday life. It demands that we evaluate information and analyze myriad issues. It is the environment where our critical thinking skills can be the difference between success and failure. In this environment we must consider information in an analytical, critical manner. We must ask questions—What is the source of this information? Is this source an expert one and what makes it so? Are there multiple perspectives to consider on an issue? Do multiple sources agree or disagree on an issue? Does quality research substantiate information or opinion? Do I have any personal biases that may affect my consideration of this information? It is only through purposeful, frequent, intentional questioning such as this that we can sharpen our critical thinking skills and improve as students, learners and researchers. —Dr. Andrew Robert Baker, Foundations of Academic Success: Words of Wisdom

Defining Critical Thinking

Thinking comes naturally. You don’t have to make it happen—it just does. But you can make it happen in different ways. For example, you can think positively or negatively. You can think with “heart” and you can think with rational judgment. You can also think strategically and analytically, and mathematically and scientifically. These are a few of multiple ways in which the mind can process thought.

What are some forms of thinking you use? When do you use them, and why?

As a college student, you are tasked with engaging and expanding your thinking skills. One of the most important of these skills is critical thinking. Critical thinking is important because it relates to nearly all tasks, situations, topics, careers, environments, challenges, and opportunities. It’s not restricted to a particular subject area.

Handwritten poster. Guidelines for Critical Thinking when…talking/ reading/ blogging/ writing/ living. 4: justify your answers with text evidence (…because…) and examples from your life/world; agree and disagree with others and authors; ask questions of others and authors; complete sentences, correct punctuation/ capitols. 3: agree and disagree with others and authors; justify your opinions, tell why you agree and disagree; speak and write in complete sentences. 2: answers questions but not justify them; agree and disagree but you can’t tell why; incomplete sentences, incorrect punctuation. 1: does not contribute to the conversation; does not share your thinking; does not agree or disagree with others. Justify: to defend your thinking by showing and telling with examples and evidence.

Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\)

Critical thinking is clear, reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do. It means asking probing questions like, “How do we know?” or “Is this true in every case or just in this instance?” It involves being skeptical and challenging assumptions, rather than simply memorizing facts or blindly accepting what you hear or read.

Imagine, for example, that you’re reading a history textbook. You wonder who wrote it and why, because you detect certain assumptions in the writing. You find that the author has a limited scope of research focused only on a particular group within a population. In this case, your critical thinking reveals that there are “other sides to the story.”

Who are critical thinkers, and what characteristics do they have in common? Critical thinkers are usually curious and reflective people. They like to explore and probe new areas and seek knowledge, clarification, and new solutions. They ask pertinent questions, evaluate statements and arguments, and they distinguish between facts and opinion. They are also willing to examine their own beliefs, possessing a manner of humility that allows them to admit lack of knowledge or understanding when needed. They are open to changing their mind. Perhaps most of all, they actively enjoy learning, and seeking new knowledge is a lifelong pursuit.

This may well be you!

No matter where you are on the road to being a critical thinker, you can always more fully develop your skills. Doing so will help you develop more balanced arguments, express yourself clearly, read critically, and absorb important information efficiently. Critical thinking skills will help you in any profession or any circumstance of life, from science to art to business to teaching.

Critical Thinking in Action

The following video, from Lawrence Bland, presents the major concepts and benefits of critical thinking.

Critical Thinking and Logic

Critical thinking is fundamentally a process of questioning information and data. You may question the information you read in a textbook, or you may question what a politician or a professor or a classmate says. You can also question a commonly-held belief or a new idea. With critical thinking, anything and everything is subject to question and examination.

Logic’s Relationship to Critical Thinking

The word logic comes from the Ancient Greek logike , referring to the science or art of reasoning. Using logic, a person evaluates arguments and strives to distinguish between good and bad reasoning, or between truth and falsehood. Using logic, you can evaluate ideas or claims people make, make good decisions, and form sound beliefs about the world. [1]

Questions of Logic in Critical Thinking

Let’s use a simple example of applying logic to a critical-thinking situation. In this hypothetical scenario, a man has a PhD in political science, and he works as a professor at a local college. His wife works at the college, too. They have three young children in the local school system, and their family is well known in the community.

The man is now running for political office. Are his credentials and experience sufficient for entering public office? Will he be effective in the political office? Some voters might believe that his personal life and current job, on the surface, suggest he will do well in the position, and they will vote for him.

In truth, the characteristics described don’t guarantee that the man will do a good job. The information is somewhat irrelevant. What else might you want to know? How about whether the man had already held a political office and done a good job? In this case, we want to ask, How much information is adequate in order to make a decision based on logic instead of assumptions?

The following questions, presented in Figure 1, below, are ones you may apply to formulating a logical, reasoned perspective in the above scenario or any other situation:

  • What’s happening? Gather the basic information and begin to think of questions.
  • Why is it important? Ask yourself why it’s significant and whether or not you agree.
  • What don’t I see? Is there anything important missing?
  • How do I know? Ask yourself where the information came from and how it was constructed.
  • Who is saying it? What’s the position of the speaker and what is influencing them?
  • What else? What if? What other ideas exist and are there other possibilities?

Infographic titled "Questions a Critical Thinker Asks." From the top, text reads: What's Happening? Gather the basic information and begin to think of questions (image of two stick figures talking to each other). Why is it Important? Ask yourself why it's significant and whether or not you agree. (Image of bearded stick figure sitting on a rock.) What Don't I See? Is there anything important missing? (Image of stick figure wearing a blindfold, whistling, walking away from a sign labeled Answers.) How Do I Know? Ask yourself where the information came from and how it was constructed. (Image of stick figure in a lab coat, glasses, holding a beaker.) Who is Saying It? What's the position of the speaker and what is influencing them? (Image of stick figure reading a newspaper.) What Else? What If? What other ideas exist and are there other possibilities? (Stick figure version of Albert Einstein with a thought bubble saying "If only time were relative...".

Problem-Solving With Critical Thinking

For most people, a typical day is filled with critical thinking and problem-solving challenges. In fact, critical thinking and problem-solving go hand-in-hand. They both refer to using knowledge, facts, and data to solve problems effectively. But with problem-solving, you are specifically identifying, selecting, and defending your solution. Below are some examples of using critical thinking to problem-solve:

  • Your roommate was upset and said some unkind words to you, which put a crimp in your relationship. You try to see through the angry behaviors to determine how you might best support your roommate and help bring your relationship back to a comfortable spot.

Young man in black jacket looking deep in thought, in foreground of busy street scene

Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\)

  • Your campus club has been languishing on account of lack of participation and funds. The new club president, though, is a marketing major and has identified some strategies to interest students in joining and supporting the club. Implementation is forthcoming.
  • Your final art class project challenges you to conceptualize form in new ways. On the last day of class when students present their projects, you describe the techniques you used to fulfill the assignment. You explain why and how you selected that approach.
  • Your math teacher sees that the class is not quite grasping a concept. She uses clever questioning to dispel anxiety and guide you to new understanding of the concept.
  • You have a job interview for a position that you feel you are only partially qualified for, although you really want the job and you are excited about the prospects. You analyze how you will explain your skills and experiences in a way to show that you are a good match for the prospective employer.
  • You are doing well in college, and most of your college and living expenses are covered. But there are some gaps between what you want and what you feel you can afford. You analyze your income, savings, and budget to better calculate what you will need to stay in college and maintain your desired level of spending.

Problem-Solving Action Checklist

Problem-solving can be an efficient and rewarding process, especially if you are organized and mindful of critical steps and strategies. Remember, too, to assume the attributes of a good critical thinker. If you are curious, reflective, knowledge-seeking, open to change, probing, organized, and ethical, your challenge or problem will be less of a hurdle, and you’ll be in a good position to find intelligent solutions.

Evaluating Information With Critical Thinking

Evaluating information can be one of the most complex tasks you will be faced with in college. But if you utilize the following four strategies, you will be well on your way to success:

  • Read for understanding by using text coding
  • Examine arguments
  • Clarify thinking
  • Cultivate “habits of mind”

Photo of a group of students standing around a poster on the wall, where they're adding post-it notes with handwriting on them

Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\)

1. Read for Understanding Using Text Coding

When you read and take notes, use the text coding strategy . Text coding is a way of tracking your thinking while reading. It entails marking the text and recording what you are thinking either in the margins or perhaps on Post-it notes. As you make connections and ask questions in response to what you read, you monitor your comprehension and enhance your long-term understanding of the material.

With text coding, mark important arguments and key facts. Indicate where you agree and disagree or have further questions. You don’t necessarily need to read every word, but make sure you understand the concepts or the intentions behind what is written. Feel free to develop your own shorthand style when reading or taking notes. The following are a few options to consider using while coding text.

See more text coding from PBWorks and Collaborative for Teaching and Learning .

2. Examine Arguments

When you examine arguments or claims that an author, speaker, or other source is making, your goal is to identify and examine the hard facts. You can use the spectrum of authority strategy for this purpose. The spectrum of authority strategy assists you in identifying the “hot” end of an argument—feelings, beliefs, cultural influences, and societal influences—and the “cold” end of an argument—scientific influences. The following video explains this strategy.

3. Clarify Thinking

When you use critical thinking to evaluate information, you need to clarify your thinking to yourself and likely to others. Doing this well is mainly a process of asking and answering probing questions, such as the logic questions discussed earlier. Design your questions to fit your needs, but be sure to cover adequate ground. What is the purpose? What question are we trying to answer? What point of view is being expressed? What assumptions are we or others making? What are the facts and data we know, and how do we know them? What are the concepts we’re working with? What are the conclusions, and do they make sense? What are the implications?

4. Cultivate “Habits of Mind”

“Habits of mind” are the personal commitments, values, and standards you have about the principle of good thinking. Consider your intellectual commitments, values, and standards. Do you approach problems with an open mind, a respect for truth, and an inquiring attitude? Some good habits to have when thinking critically are being receptive to having your opinions changed, having respect for others, being independent and not accepting something is true until you’ve had the time to examine the available evidence, being fair-minded, having respect for a reason, having an inquiring mind, not making assumptions, and always, especially, questioning your own conclusions—in other words, developing an intellectual work ethic. Try to work these qualities into your daily life.

  • "logic." Wordnik . n.d. Web. 16 Feb 2016 . ↵
  • "Student Success-Thinking Critically In Class and Online." Critical Thinking Gateway . St Petersburg College, n.d. Web. 16 Feb 2016. ↵

What Does Critical Reading Really Mean?

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The definition of critical reading means reading with the goal of finding a deep understanding of the material, whether it is fiction or nonfiction . It is the act of analyzing and evaluating what you are reading as you make your way through the text or as you reflect back upon your reading.

Using Your Head

When you read a piece of fiction critically, you use your common sense to determine what the writer means, as opposed to what the written words actually say. The following passage appears in " The Red Badge of Courage ", the classic Civil War-era work by Stephen Crane. In this passage, the main character, Henry Fleming, has just returned from battle and is now receiving treatment for a nasty head wound.

"Yeh don't holler ner say nothin'... an' yeh never squeaked. Yer a good un, Henry. Most 'a men would a' been in th' hospital long ago. A shot in th' head ain't foolin' business..."

The point seems clear enough. Henry is receiving praise for his apparent fortitude and bravery. But what is really happening in this scene?

During the confusion and terror of the battle, Henry Fleming had actually panicked and run away, abandoning his fellow soldiers in the process. He had received the blow in the chaos of retreat; not the frenzy of battle. In this scene, he was feeling ashamed of himself.

When you read this passage critically, you actually read between the lines. By doing so, you determine the message that the author is really conveying. The words speak of bravery, but the real message of this scene is concerned feelings of cowardice that tormented Henry.

Shortly after the scene above, Fleming realizes that nobody in the entire regiment knows the truth about his wound. They all believe that the wound was the result of fighting in the battle:

His self-pride was now entirely restored....He had performed his mistakes in the dark, so he was still a man.

Despite the claim that Henry feels relieved, we know by reflecting and thinking critically that Henry isn't really comforted. By reading between the lines, we know he is deeply bothered by the sham.

What's the Lesson?

One way to read a novel critically is to be aware of the lessons or messages that a writer is sending in a subtle way.

After reading "The Red Badge of Courage", a critical reader would reflect back on the many scenes and look for a lesson or a message. What is the writer trying to say about courage and war?

The good news is, there isn't a right or wrong answer. It's the act of forming a question and offering your own opinion that counts.

Nonfiction writing can be just as tricky to evaluate as fiction, although there are differences. Nonfiction writing normally involves a series of statements that are backed by evidence.

As a critical reader, you will need to be mindful of this process. The goal of critical thinking is to evaluate information in an unbiased way. This includes being open to changing your mind about a subject if the good evidence exists. However, you should also try not to be influenced by unsound evidence.

The trick to critical reading in nonfiction is to know how to separate the good evidence from the bad.

There are signs to look out for when it comes to misleading or bad evidence.

Assumptions

Watch for broad, unsupported statements like "most people in the pre-war South approved of enslavement ." Every time you see a statement, ask yourself if the author provides any evidence to back up his point.

Implications

Be mindful of subtle statements such as "Statistics support those who argue that boys are better at math than girls, so why should this be such a controversial issue?"

Don't become distracted by the fact that some people do believe that males are naturally better at math, and address that issue. When you do this, you are accepting the implication and, therefore, falling for bad evidence.

The point is, in critical reading, that the author has not provided statistics ; he merely implied that statistics exist.

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  • What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

Published on 25 September 2022 by Eoghan Ryan .

Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyse information and form a judgement.

To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources .

Critical thinking skills help you to:

  • Identify credible sources
  • Evaluate and respond to arguments
  • Assess alternative viewpoints
  • Test hypotheses against relevant criteria

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Table of contents

Why is critical thinking important, critical thinking examples, how to think critically, frequently asked questions.

Critical thinking is important for making judgements about sources of information and forming your own arguments. It emphasises a rational, objective, and self-aware approach that can help you to identify credible sources and strengthen your conclusions.

Critical thinking is important in all disciplines and throughout all stages of the research process . The types of evidence used in the sciences and in the humanities may differ, but critical thinking skills are relevant to both.

In an academic context, critical thinking can help you to determine whether a source:

  • Is free from research bias
  • Provides evidence to support its findings
  • Considers alternative viewpoints

Outside of academia, critical thinking goes hand in hand with information literacy to help you form opinions rationally and engage independently and critically with popular media.

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Critical thinking can help you to identify reliable sources of information that you can cite in your research paper . It can also guide your own research methods and inform your own arguments.

Outside of academia, critical thinking can help you to be aware of both your own and others’ biases and assumptions.

Academic examples

However, when you compare the findings of the study with other current research, you determine that the results seem improbable. You analyse the paper again, consulting the sources it cites.

You notice that the research was funded by the pharmaceutical company that created the treatment. Because of this, you view its results skeptically and determine that more independent research is necessary to confirm or refute them. Example: Poor critical thinking in an academic context You’re researching a paper on the impact wireless technology has had on developing countries that previously did not have large-scale communications infrastructure. You read an article that seems to confirm your hypothesis: the impact is mainly positive. Rather than evaluating the research methodology, you accept the findings uncritically.

Nonacademic examples

However, you decide to compare this review article with consumer reviews on a different site. You find that these reviews are not as positive. Some customers have had problems installing the alarm, and some have noted that it activates for no apparent reason.

You revisit the original review article. You notice that the words ‘sponsored content’ appear in small print under the article title. Based on this, you conclude that the review is advertising and is therefore not an unbiased source. Example: Poor critical thinking in a nonacademic context You support a candidate in an upcoming election. You visit an online news site affiliated with their political party and read an article that criticizes their opponent. The article claims that the opponent is inexperienced in politics. You accept this without evidence, because it fits your preconceptions about the opponent.

There is no single way to think critically. How you engage with information will depend on the type of source you’re using and the information you need.

However, you can engage with sources in a systematic and critical way by asking certain questions when you encounter information. Like the CRAAP test , these questions focus on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

When encountering information, ask:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert in their field?
  • What do they say? Is their argument clear? Can you summarise it?
  • When did they say this? Is the source current?
  • Where is the information published? Is it an academic article? Is it a blog? A newspaper article?
  • Why did the author publish it? What is their motivation?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence? Does it rely on opinion, speculation, or appeals to emotion ? Do they address alternative arguments?

Critical thinking also involves being aware of your own biases, not only those of others. When you make an argument or draw your own conclusions, you can ask similar questions about your own writing:

  • Am I only considering evidence that supports my preconceptions?
  • Is my argument expressed clearly and backed up with credible sources?
  • Would I be convinced by this argument coming from someone else?

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

Critical thinking skills include the ability to:

You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test , focusing on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

Ask questions such as:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence?

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.

Being information literate means that you:

  • Know how to find credible sources
  • Use relevant sources to inform your research
  • Understand what constitutes plagiarism
  • Know how to cite your sources correctly

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How to Encourage Critical Thinking Skills While Reading: Effective Strategies

what do we mean by reading and critical thinking skills

Encouraging critical thinking skills while reading is essential to children’s cognitive development. Critical thinking enables them to engage deeply with a topic or a book, fostering a better understanding of the material. It is a skill that does not develop overnight but can be nurtured through various strategies and experiences.

One effective way to cultivate critical thinking in children is by sharing quality books with them and participating in discussions that facilitate an exchange of ideas and opinions. Through these conversations, children can draw on their existing knowledge, problem-solving abilities, and experiences to expand their understanding of a subject.

Parents and teachers help kids think more deeply about things. They can do this by answering questions that help kids compare different ideas, look at things from different angles, guess what might happen, and develop new solutions.

Importance of Critical Thinking Skills in Reading

Critical thinking helps us understand what we read better. It helps us ask questions and think more deeply about the text. Critical thinking skills can help us analyze, evaluate, and understand what we read.

By incorporating critical thinking, readers can differentiate between facts and opinions, forming their views based on logical reasoning and evidence. This ability is particularly crucial in today’s information abundance, where readers are often exposed to biased or unreliable content. According to Critical Thinking Secrets , using critical thinking in reading allows learners to exercise their judgment in assessing the credibility of the information.

Furthermore, critical thinking promotes creativity and problem-solving skills. Practicing critical thinking allows learners to devise new and innovative ideas to address various challenges. This skill improves academic performance and prepares young minds for future professional endeavors.

Engaging with quality books and participating in thought-provoking discussions can nurture critical thinking abilities in children. Reading Rockets emphasizes the importance of exposing children to texts that challenge their thinking and encourage them to ask questions, fostering the development of critical thinking skills over time.

Teachers also play a significant role in promoting critical thinking in the classroom. Employing various instructional strategies, such as problem-based learning, asking open-ended questions, and providing opportunities for group discussions, can help students cultivate critical thinking habits.

Developing a Reading Environment That Fosters Critical Thinking

Creating a reading environment that promotes critical thinking enables students to engage with texts more deeply and develop essential analytical skills. The following sub-sections outline strategies for choosing thought-provoking materials and encouraging open discussions.

Choosing Thought-Provoking Materials

Selecting suitable reading materials is critical to stimulating critical thinking among students. Teachers should look for texts that:

  • Are relevant and relatable to students’ lives and interests
  • Present various perspectives and diverse characters
  • Pose challenging questions and open-ended problems

By incorporating such texts into the classroom, students can be exposed to new ideas and viewpoints, promoting critical thinking and engagement with the material. For instance, in Eight Instructional Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking , teachers are advised to choose compelling topics and maintain relevance to foster critical thinking

Encouraging Open Discussions

Fostering an environment where open discussions occur is essential to promoting critical thinking skills while reading. Teachers should:

  • Create a culture of inquiry by posing open-ended questions and encouraging students to form opinions and debates
  • Facilitate discussions by asking students to explain their thinking processes and share their interpretations of the text
  • Respect all opinions and viewpoints, emphasizing that the goal is to learn from each other rather than reach a “correct” answer

Students who feel comfortable participating in discussions are more likely to develop critical thinking skills. The Reading Rockets emphasizes the importance of reading together and engaging in conversations to nurture critical thinking in children.

Active Reading Strategies

Active reading is an essential skill for encouraging critical thinking skills while reading. This involves consciously engaging with the material and connecting with what you know or have read before. This section discusses key strategies that can help you become an active reader.

Annotating and Note-Taking

Annotating the text and taking notes as you read allows you to engage with the material on a deeper level. This process of actively engaging with the text helps you to analyze and retain information more effectively. As you read, it is important to make marginal notes or comments to highlight key points and draw connections between different sections of the material.

Asking Questions While Reading

One important aspect of critical reading is questioning the material. This means not taking everything you read at face value and considering the author’s interpretation and opinion . As you read, develop the habit of asking questions throughout the process, such as:

  • What is the author’s main argument?
  • What evidence supports this argument?
  • How is the information presented in a logical manner?
  • What are the possible opposing viewpoints?

By asking questions, you can better understand the author’s viewpoint and the evidence presented, which helps to develop your critical thinking skills.

Summarizing and Paraphrasing

Summarizing and paraphrasing are essential skills for critical reading. Summarizing the material allows you to condense key points and process the information more easily. Paraphrasing, or rephrasing the ideas in your own words, not only helps you better understand the material, but also ensures that you’re accurately interpreting the author’s ideas.

Both summarizing and paraphrasing can enhance your critical thinking skills by compelling you to analyze the text and identify the main ideas and supporting evidence. This way, you can make informed judgments about the content, making your reading more purposeful and engaging.

Developing critical thinking skills while reading literature involves a comprehensive understanding of various literary devices. This section highlights three primary aspects of literary analysis: Recognizing Themes and Patterns, Analyzing Characters and Their Motivations, and Evaluating the Author’s Intent and Perspective.

Recognizing Themes and Patterns

One way to foster critical thinking is through recognizing themes and patterns in the text. Encourage students to identify recurring themes, symbols, and motifs as they read. Additionally, examining the relationships between different elements in the story can help create connections and analyze the overall meaning.

For example, in a story about the struggles of growing up, students might notice patterns in the protagonist’s journey, such as recurring conflicts or milestones. By contemplating these patterns, learners can engage in deeper analysis and interpretation of the text.

Analyzing Characters and Their Motivations

Character analysis is an essential aspect of literary analysis, as understanding characters’ motivations can lead to a thorough comprehension of the narrative. Encourage students to analyze the motives behind each character’s actions, focusing on the factors that drive their decisions.

For instance, in a novel where two characters have differing goals, have students consider why these goals differ and how the characters’ motivations impact the story’s outcome. This exploration can lead to thought-provoking discussions about human behavior, facilitating the development of critical thinking skills.

Evaluating the Author’s Intent and Perspective

Critical thinking is essential to evaluating the author’s intent and perspective. This process involves deciphering the underlying message or purpose of the text and analyzing how the author’s experiences or beliefs may have influenced their writing.

One strategy for accomplishing this is to examine the historical or cultural context in which the work was written. By considering the author’s background, students can better understand the ideas or arguments presented in the text.

For example, if reading a novel set during a significant historical period, like the Civil Rights Movement, understanding the author’s experience can help students analyze narrative elements, enhancing their critical thinking abilities.

Methods to Encourage Critical Thinking Beyond Reading

While reading is essential to developing critical thinking skills, it can be further enhanced by incorporating certain activities in daily routines that promote critical thinking.

Debates and Group Discussions

Debates and group discussions are excellent methods for encouraging critical thinking. By participating in debates or discussions, learners exchange diverse ideas, challenge each other’s reasoning, and evaluate the strength of their arguments. These activities require participants to think and respond quickly, synthesize information, and analyze multiple perspectives.

Teachers and parents can facilitate debates and group discussions by selecting topics that are relevant and related to the subject matter. Promoting respectful dialogue and modeling effective listening skills are also important aspects of setting up successful debates or discussions.

Exploring Other Media Formats

In addition to reading, exploring other media formats like documentaries, podcasts, and videos can help stimulate critical thinking in learners. Different mediums present information in unique ways, providing learners with various perspectives and fostering a more comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Using diverse media formats, individuals can compare and contrast information, question what they know, and further develop their analytical skills. It is essential that educators and parents encourage learners to explore these formats critically, assessing the credibility of the sources and ensuring accuracy in the information consumed.

Assessing Progress and Providing Feedback

Developing critical thinking skills while reading requires continuous assessment and feedback. Monitoring students’ progress in this area and providing constructive feedback can help ensure development and success.

Setting Measurable Goals

Establishing clear, measurable goals for critical thinking is vital for both students and educators. These goals should be specific, achievable, and time-bound. To effectively assess progress, consider using a variety of assessments, such as:

  • Classroom discussions
  • Reflective writing assignments
  • Group projects
  • Individual presentations

These different assessment methods can help determine if students are reaching their critical thinking goals and guide educators in adjusting their instruction as needed.

Providing Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback is essential for students to improve their critical thinking skills. When providing feedback, consider the following guidelines:

  • Be specific and focused on the critical thinking aspects of students’ work
  • Link feedback directly to the established goals and criteria
  • Encourage self-assessment and reflection
  • Highlight strengths and areas for improvement
  • Offer realistic suggestions for improvement

By implementing these strategies, educators can ensure that students receive the necessary support and guidance to develop their critical thinking skills while reading.

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  1. What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

    According to the University of the People in California, having critical thinking skills is important because they are [ 1 ]: Universal. Crucial for the economy. Essential for improving language and presentation skills. Very helpful in promoting creativity. Important for self-reflection.

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    Critical Thinking is an Extension of Critical Reading. Thinking critically, in the academic sense, involves being open-minded - using judgement and discipline to process what you are learning about without letting your personal bias or opinion detract from the arguments. Critical thinking involves being rational and aware of your own feelings ...

  3. What Is Critical Thinking?

    Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment. To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources. Critical thinking skills help you to: Identify credible sources. Evaluate and respond to arguments.

  4. Introduction: Critical Thinking, Reading, & Writing

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    Critical thinking is fundamentally a process of questioning information and data. You may question the information you read in a textbook, or you may question what a politician or a professor or a classmate says. You can also question a commonly-held belief or a new idea. With critical thinking, anything and everything is subject to question ...

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    That's what critical thinking is about: asking the right questions, and knowing how to find and evaluate the answers to those questions. Good critical thinkers do this sort of analysis every day, on all sorts of subjects. They seek out proven facts and trusted sources, weigh the options, and then make a choice and form their own opinions.

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    The Bundle of Skills We Call Reading. Most of the things we call "skills" are in fact big bundles of smaller skills. For example, to be a highly-skilled basketball player means that you have developed the following abilities: Spatial awareness, Hand-eye coordination, Vertical leap, Foot speed, Agility, Dribbling, Shooting, Rebounding ...

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    Definition of Critical Reading. Critical reading is a more ACTIVE way of reading. It is a deeper and more complex engagement with a text. Critical reading is a process of analyzing, interpreting and, sometimes, evaluating. When we read critically, we use our critical thinking skills to QUESTION both the text and our own reading of it.

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    What is critical thinking? Critical thinking is the art of making clear, reasoned judgements based on interpreting, understanding, applying and synthesising evidence gathered from observation, reading and experimentation. Burns, T., & Sinfield, S. (2016) Essential Study Skills: The Complete Guide to Success at University (4th ed.) London: SAGE ...

  13. Critical Thinking

    Critical Thinking. Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms ...

  14. Introduction: Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking depends on analysis. According to The American Heritage Dictionary, analysis is "the separation of an intellectual or material whole into its constituents parts for individual study." [2] Analytical reading starts with finding and understanding a main idea, but then considers the validity of that main idea by studying its parts, to see how logically they fit together.

  15. Academic Guides: Academic Skills Center: Critical Reading

    Use this checklist to practice critical thinking while reading an article, watching an advertisement, or making an important purchase or voting decision. Critical Reading Checklist (Word) Critical Reading Checklist (PDF) Critical Thinking Bookmark (PDF) Learn about the ways that active reading instead of passive reading is the key to growing ...

  16. 1.3: Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is important because it relates to nearly all tasks, situations, topics, careers, environments, challenges, and opportunities. It's not restricted to a particular subject area. Figure 1.3.2 1.3. 2. Critical thinking is clear, reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do.

  17. Critical Reading: What Does It Really Mean?

    Updated on January 27, 2020. The definition of critical reading means reading with the goal of finding a deep understanding of the material, whether it is fiction or nonfiction. It is the act of analyzing and evaluating what you are reading as you make your way through the text or as you reflect back upon your reading.

  18. PDF C READING AND CRITICAL THINKING

    These three steps or modes of analysis are reflected in three types of reading and discussion: What a text says - restatement. What a text does - description. What a text means - interpretation. You can distinguish each mode of analysis by the subject matter of the discussion: What a text says - restatement - talks about the same ...

  19. Mission Critical: Reading Together to Build Critical Thinking Skills

    Critical thinking, the ability to think deeply about a topic or a book, is an essential skill for children to develop. Critical thinking doesn't develop overnight. It's something that develops and builds through conversations and experiences. It's also something parents can nurture by sharing quality books with their children.

  20. What Is Critical Thinking?

    Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyse information and form a judgement. To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources. Critical thinking skills help you to: Identify credible sources.

  21. Critical thinking

    Critical thinking is characterized by a broad set of related skills usually including the abilities to. Theorists have noted that such skills are only valuable insofar as a person is inclined to use them. Consequently, they emphasize that certain habits of mind are necessary components of critical thinking.

  22. How to Encourage Critical Thinking Skills While Reading: Effective

    Encouraging critical thinking skills while reading is essential to children's cognitive development. Critical thinking enables them to engage deeply with a topic or a book, fostering a better understanding of the material. It is a skill that does not develop overnight but can be nurtured through various strategies and experiences.

  23. Education Sciences

    Critical thinking has been identified as an essential skill for the 21st century, yet little research has investigated its role in reading comprehension. Executive functions (EF) and critical thinking overlap, where the latter often rely on the proficient operation of EF and vice versa. Extending the simple view of reading, the active view of reading considers the contribution of language ...

  24. Leadership in Nursing: Qualities & Why It Matters

    Using critical thinking skills allows those in nursing leadership roles to analyze decisions impacting the organization. They then clearly explain the rationale in a manner that encourages staff support. Other nursing leadership skills, such as displaying compassion and empathy, can assist the nurse leader in developing interpersonal ...

  25. What Is Analytical Thinking and How Can You Improve Your ...

    3. Data scientist. Median annual US salary (BLS): $103,500 [] Job outlook: 35 percent job growth [] Job requirements: A data scientist usually holds a bachelor's degree but may hold a master's or PhD in data science, computer science, mathematics, or statistics.Skills that benefit a data scientist include analytical skills, logical reasoning, communication, computer skills, and proficiency in ...