Critical Thinking

Critical thinking describes the process of analyzing and evaluating information using certain cognitive skills to reach a specific goal or achieve a specific result. Definitions of critical thinking vary, but all of them involve words such as reasoning, reflection, judgment and evaluation. Based on a study conducted in 1995, Jones, Dougherty, Fantaske et al describe critical thinking as "reasoning in an open-ended manner and with an unlimited number of solutions," that "involves constructing a situation and supporting the reasoning that went into a conclusion." Another definition explains the term as "the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome." A definition published in 1960 explains critical thinking as ?the process of evaluation or categorization in terms of some previously accepted standards," that involve ?attitude plus knowledge of facts plus some thinking skills."

Edward Glaser defines critical thinking as the "ability to think critically," which incorporates: ?(1) an attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one's experiences, (2) knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, and (3) some skill in applying those methods." According to the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, critical thinking has two main components, namely "a set of information and belief generating and processing skills," and "the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behavior." Furthermore, critical thinking differs depending on the motives that prompted it. It could be either manipulative and selfish or intellectual, but is never generally true or standard for all people. Critical thinking is always individual, subject to experience among other conditions.

Critical thinking is reasoned and made for a specific purpose. It is used to solve problems, make decisions, calculate likelihoods. Critical thinking is not only thinking about thinking or making judgments and solving problems, but also the use of certain skills and strategies to achieve a specific purpose.

Critical thinking is self-focused, self-corrective and self-disciplined. It uses concepts to analyze and evaluate thinking. Critical thinking is never perfect and complete. Thinking is part of the human nature, though it is usually biased and prejudiced, based on the individual?s experience. Excellence in thinking, however, could be achieved with hard work and longpractice. Critical thinking appeals for continuous attempts to explore certain belief or knowledge on the basis of evidence that supports it.

The word ?critical,? suggests that the process involves evaluation, or "a constructive reflection of positive and negative attributes." Critical thinking enables individuals to assess the outcome of the process of thinking. At the same time, this process involves evaluation of the thinking process itself.

The roots of critical thinking can be found in analytic philosophy, pragmatist constructivism, Buddhism and Greek philosophy. Critical thinking sets goals, makes assumptions, assesses evidence and conclusions. It has numerous positive uses. For example, critical thinking can help solve a problem or help an individual decide what to do, how to act in certain circumstances or what to believe. Reading, writing and speaking can also be made in a critical way. The structure of thinking comprises various elements. First is purpose. Reasoning is generally made to achieve a certain goal. This goal has to be set clearly and has to be distinguished from similar purposes.

Then comes the question, or the problem, as thinking usually tries to solve a problem or to a answer a question. To do this an individual needs to gather information. After collecting data, facts and evidence an individual starts interpreting them and making conclusions. Based on these conclusions, the individual forms theories, concepts and definitions. He or she uses certain assumptions or predefined beliefs and reaches to specific implications and consequences. The entire thinking process is made from an individual point of view.

Generally, critical thinking helps individuals improve the quality of their lives and makes them more rational and reasonable, while reducing egocentrism and sociocentrism and accelerating intellect development.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Thought & Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking
Diane F. Halpern.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003 (4th edition)
Thinking Your Way to Freedom: A Guide to Owning Your Own Practical Reasoning
Susan T. Gardner.
Temple University Press, 2009
Thinking Critically about Critical Thinking
Diane F. Halpern.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996
Critical Reasoning: A Practical Introduction
Anne Thomson.
Routledge, 2002 (2nd edition)
50 Things You Can Do to Encourage Critical Thinking: Think Skeptically, Act Locally
Mayne, Andrew.
Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Vol. 11, No. 1, Spring 2004
Critical Thinking and Logical Argument
Duplass, James A.; Ziedler, Dana L.
Social Education, Vol. 66, No. 5, September 2002
Critical Thinking: An Extended Definition
Petress, Ken.
Education, Vol. 124, No. 3, Spring 2004
Evidence on the Relationship between Economics and Critical Thinking Skills
Borg, Mary O.; Stranahan, Harriet A.
Contemporary Economic Policy, Vol. 28, No. 1, January 2010
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Critical Thinking Skills: A Comparison of Doctoral- and Master's-Level Students
Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J.
College Student Journal, Vol. 35, No. 3, September 2001
Critical Reasoning in Ethics: A Practical Introduction
Anne Thomson.
Routledge, 1999
Ethical Argument: Critical Thinking in Ethics
Hugh Mercer Curtler.
Oxford University Press, 2004
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