Critical thinking is an invaluable tool for objective analysis and understanding of a topic, and facilitates the process of accurate decision-making
Though generally associated with critics, analysts or academics, critical thinking is an invaluable skill for anyone, in any role, but is also one which is often incredibly difficult to truly master. It relies on a capacity for analytical thinking, and an ability to remain entirely objective throughout the critical thinking process. It is this latter quality which we, as humans, often lack. Too often do individuals allow emotions and prior assumptions to cloud their judgment and analysis of what should be only considered as facts, though sometimes without knowing.
With a strong grasp of critical thinking, one can start to fully understand the depth of issues, including the potential biases and weaknesses in an argument. Critical thinking is all about seeing behind the letters on the page, or the words being spoken – it is about understanding the deeper meaning of things, how they have come to the conclusion that they’re presenting, and whether that logic is correct or whether it is fundamentally flawed. The aim of this understanding is to leave you with the best opportunity to make the correct decision as you possibly can.
The process of critical thinking comes much easier if the topic at hand is one that you are familiar with. However, the general framework for it can be applied to a wide variety of topics, regardless of your understanding. Though you may not be able to isolate or identify weaknesses in evidence, you can pick out flaws in their logic itself, which is universal across all arguments and opinions. It doesn’t matter if someone is more of an expert than you in the field, that doesn’t make it any less appropriate to challenge their logic and points of view. If you consider all the steps in the process below, then you still take into account that they may have come to a different view than you.
Formulate your question. Consider what it is you are actually trying to address. What is the real crux of the matter?
Gather the necessary information. Think about the necessary information you require to make an educated decision. This usually comes in a number of different mediums, so you’re spoilt for choice.
Challenge your interpretation. Now you have an initial interpretation or decision, challenge it. How have you come to that conclusion? Is there anything you haven’t considered? Were you biased by anything?
Consider any implications. This decision may seem like the logical one right now, but are there any long-lasting implications that you may not have thought of? Will there be any roadblocks?
Explore different points of view. Consider others who hold a different viewpoint to yourself. How have they reached that opinion? What information led them to that? Do they have any biases?
This is just a simple framework for critical thinking, and it is important that as you get used to these steps, you sculpt the process to one which works best for you. You will become more familiar with the questions that you need to ask to gain a true understanding of the subject. Hopefully, once all the answers to these questions have been considered, you will be able to work your way towards an objective, accurate and well-supported understanding or opinion on the matter.