Find out why critical thinking is such a valued and in-demand skill and how you can improve your own critical thinking abilities.
The ability to analyse arguments, evaluate evidence, and distinguish between fact and opinion is a valuable skill. As a result, critical thinking is a highly sought after ability that can benefit you at work and in your personal life. But what is critical thinking? And how do you think critically?
We explore some of the key concepts behind critical thinking, examine some examples, and outline how you can improve your own skills in this area. We’ll also highlight some useful courses and resources that can help you think critically.
What is critical thinking?
Let’s start things off with a critical thinking definition. Depending on where you look, you might find differences between definitions. First, we’ll rely on a simple definition: critical thinking is the analysis of factual evidence to form a judgement.
However, a closer inspection of the term and its meaning shows that there are many aspects to critical thinking. What’s more, studies have highlighted a broad range of definitions. A thorough way of defining critical thinking is made by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. They summarise the core concepts of critical thinking as the process of ‘careful goal-directed thinking.’
We can also turn to our open step on critical thinking at university, which features this definition:
“Good critical thinking includes recognising good arguments even when we disagree with them, and poor arguments even when these support our own point of view.”
The open step goes on to outline some of the critical thinking processes that tie into the definitions we’ve seen. These critical thinking skills include:
- Analysing and weighing up arguments
- Evaluating evidence that has been presented
- Distinguishing between fact and opinion
- Reviewing the research methods used (how the data has been gathered)
- Considering the potential for bias
- Analysing different interpretations, viewpoints and perspectives
- Reaching conclusions based on your own reasoning.
As you can see, the characteristics of critical thinking are numerous, and it’s a skill made up of many other abilities.
Thinking critically and creatively
Creative thinking is often contrasted with critical thinking. However, the two certainly have their overlaps. Thinking creatively often requires exploring new possibilities, finding unique angles, and using unconventional solutions.