Defining critical thinking
Critical thinking is an intellectual, methodical, and disciplined method of interpreting and evaluating information about any subject, content, problem, or issue. It results in well-reasoned judgments and decisions about what to think, believe, or do.
Critical thinking is an open-minded approach that encourages individuals to think for themselves. Users of this approach need to be willing to question information and beliefs, and to adapt their thoughts, positions, or beliefs based on what they discover. Independent thought requires a particular skill set.
Conscious effort is made to ensure the reasoning process is free of unreasoned assumptions, biases, or prejudice. Emphasis is also placed on making sure information is reliable, relevant, clear, and accurate, and that the interpretation of that information is logical, objective, reasonable, and fair.
Guiding elements of critical thinking
To begin thinking critically, you need to change the way you perceive concepts and information. Moving from a largely unstructured and undisciplined way of thinking to a systematic process will take time. The process relies on the exploration of certain elements or activities inherent in all thought. Together, these elements will guide your thoughts and help you learn to think critically.
The interrelated elements of the critical thinking process include:
- purpose — Typically, the purpose of all thinking is to resolve an issue or answer a question.
- information — Information includes the facts, data, evidence, and experiences gathered and used to address the question or issue.
- predispositions — Predispositions are the thoughts or opinions already formed about a subject. They generally include assumptions, beliefs, and points of view.
- framing concepts — Framing concepts are the existing theories, laws, principles, or models that need to be used to interpret the information accurately and truly understand the question or issue.
- inferences — Inferences are the interpretations or conclusions reached through the reasoning process. They give the information meaning and flow logically from the evidence.
- implications — All reasoning has implications and consequences — they are what’s learned from the reasoned analysis.
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