Critical thinking involves looking closely at a question or problem in order to arrive at a logical solution. As a process, critical thinking forces individuals to acknowledge their assumptions and biases related to the question; gather information; evaluate that information; and then form an answer. As such, it is led by objectivity and reason, rather than emotion.
1) Select the problem or question you want to answer.
2) Identify assumptions. An assumption—meaning something that you automatically accept as true, based on your upbringing, values, or beliefs—can be immediately apparent to you or hidden. To determine what these assumptions are, talk to others, view video programs, read texts, and freewrite in a journal on the problem or question. How you respond reveals your assumptions.
3) Check accuracy and validity. At this stage in the process, conduct research to see if your assumptions are correct. The type of research depends on the type of problem you want to solve. For example, if you are completing an academic assignment, the “check accuracy and validity” step would involve searching in the Walden Library for journal articles addressing the problem. On the other hand, if you are making a decision about a career change, this step might include interviewing professionals in the new career, searching online for the current salary range, and meeting with a career counselor. No matter the type of research you are using, consider whether the source is trustworthy.
4) Find alternative perspectives. This step is an extension of Step 3. Part of critical thinking is discovering perspectives that contradict or clash with your own. These perspectives can show how your original thinking was flawed or incomplete. To discover a true solution, it is important to investigate many different viewpoints during the research phase.
5) Take informed action. The next step in the process is to make a decision or pursue a solution, based on the thorough research you conducted.
6) Analyze the action. After any decision or solution has been applied, it is a good idea to analyze that action to determine if it had the desired effect.
*Adapted from Brookfield, S. (2007). Developing critical thinkers. Retrieved from https://www.mnsu.edu/grants/ipesl/Stephen%20Brookfield%20Mankato%20Pkt.pdf