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Critical Thinking Skills

As students, we all have heard the term 'critical thinking' at some point or another, but I think the question really is, do we understand what it is and how it affects us every day? Indeed, I have seen many different ways that critical thinking can be used every day and not just in our academic papers or assignments. 

But before getting to those everyday encounters with critical thinking, I think it is only fitting to define what critical thinking is. According to UniLearning, critical thinking is as the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generalized by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning or communication as a guide to belief or action (UniLearning).

Critical thinkers ask basic questions like:

So what?

Here the idea is to ask questions about the evidence or claims one is presented with. For example, say you are given a sales pitch for a new cell phone, let's say the iphone 5 and you are told by the sales rep that it has been rated by a technology company as the best smart phone on the market. 

After digesting that information, it’s important to ask yourself, how this claim made by the sales rep is relevant to my consumer needs because say I’m not in the market for the best smartphone, then the sales rep sales pitch will fall on deaf ears. However, if I am in the market for the best smartphone, then I need to ask the sales rep a follow up question, how or in what way is this smartphone the best one out?

If the best smartphone out means having the most features, then I may not be persuaded because the number of features a phone has could be irrelevant or not important to me. Or perhaps, being the best smartphone out may mean that it has the most memory, but again having large amounts of memory or storage space may be unimportant to me. By asking the question ‘so what?’ one is critically thinking about the sales rep’s claim. This thinking process can influence one’s decision-making.

Says whom? 

Along with asking ‘so what?’ it’s also important to ask ‘says whom?’ In the above example, one can also ask themselves, just because this technology company says it’s the best, does that mean it is the best? How much credibility does the technology company have? What if the company does not specialize in smartphone technology but rather specializes in smart televisions? If this is the case, then the technology company’s claim must be taken with a grain of salt so to speak.

Takeaway Message

As we write our papers and complete our assignments, it’s important to ask ourselves these two important critical thinking questions. This will help our thinking, reading, and writing processes as we go forward.

Reference:

Critical Thinking: So what exactly is critical thinking? Retrieved December 17, 2013 from 
 
http://unilearning.uow.edu.au/critical/1a.html