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Critical Thinking Elements

Defining the purpose of critical thinking

The first element of critical thinking is purpose. All thinking has a purpose; this is what you’re trying to accomplish, and may be a goal or objective.

There are several purposes of thinking:

  • answer a question,
  • solve a problem,
  • resolve an issue, and
  • examine a belief.

Make sure you’re being clear and precise by asking yourself questions that further clarify your main question:

  • is this question clear? — Asking “Is this question clear?” will help make sure the question is stated clearly.
  • are there other ways to express the question? — Stating the question in various ways, while maintaining the same meaning, will help clarify the question. A question like “Are there other ways to express the question?” can be helpful.
  • are there any subquestions? — Refining the question will help to make sure all relevant aspects of the question are explored. Do this by asking “Are there any subquestions that should also be asked and answered to properly address the main question?”

As you identify your main question, distinguish questions with definitive answers from those that may involve opinion or that require multiple viewpoints be considered. You’ll need to be extra careful when analyzing nondefinitive questions because they’ll be more susceptible to subjectivity, bias, assumption, and prejudice.