Critical Thinking Skills

Use critical thinking skills in report writing

Use critical thinking skills
Use critical thinking skills

According to the American Management Association, critical thinking skills are an essential part of business success. Other important critical skills are effective communication, collaboration, and creativity.

  • Critical thinking and problem solving—the ability to make decisions, solve problems, and take action as appropriate
  • Effective communication—the ability to synthesize and transmit your ideas both in written and oral formats
  • Collaboration and team building—the ability to work effectively with others, including those from diverse groups and with opposing points of view
  • Creativity and innovation—the ability to see what’s NOT there and make something happen

Critical thinking skills

So you need to write a report or argue a position on a topic.

Let’s explore some key principal and strategies underlying critical thinking skills.

First, we will look at what it means to take an arguable stance or point of view.

Then, we will look at five principles to sharpen your critical thinking skills. For example, be aware of stereotypical thinking.

Finally, we’ll discuss six critical thinking strategies to lay the foundation.

Use critical thinking to take a stance
Use critical thinking skills to take a stance

Take a stance

When you take a stance, you need to come up with a thesis statement. This presents an issue – usually a controversial one – and shows your position on it.

You have to explain, defend or prove your point of view on the topic you’ve chosen.

Then you need to show consistent, verifiable sources of information in support of your thesis statement. The sources you use can be print or electronic documents, primary sources, and secondary sources.

In doing research, you will find experts who agree with you.
And you will come up with facts and evidence as well as reasons to support your argument.

As you do your research, you should also pay attention to opposing viewpoints. By being aware of counter arguments, you show that you:

  • understand all aspects of the topic you have chosen to analyze
  • are not biased (prejudiced or slanted in one way or another)
  • want to build trust with the reader because you come across as being fair
  • wish to strengthen your argument by counterattacking your opponent’s point of view.

Understand critical thinking skills

Critical thinking skills
Critical thinking skills

In her book, Fact and Artifact, Bloom identifies five principles to sharpen your critical thinking (277-281).

Principle 1

You need to be aware of stereotypical thinking and how to deal with it.

Stereotypes are fixed and oversimplified images of a particular person or thing. They are preconceived notions based on automatic and unreflective thinking.

Often these notions are racist or sexist. For example, when we talk about a nurse or a primary school teacher, we usually think of a woman.

Warning: be aware that stereotypical thinking hides differences and individual features.

Principle 2

You need to look for contradictions: ideas or statements that are contrary to each other. Open yourself up to new possibilities and meanings.

Niels Bohr, the Nobel prize-winning Danish physicist once said (Bloom 275):

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of the profound truth may well be another profound truth.

Principal 3

You need to be aware of alternative or multiple points of view. It’s easy to approach problems or issues with generalizations. For example, most wealthy business people are men.

Multiple viewpoints in critical thinking
Multiple viewpoints in critical thinking

Bloom recommends the mnemonic device “Persians” to expand your thinking by viewing multiple points of view (278):
P = political
E = economic
R = religious
S = social
I = intellectual
A = aesthetic (artistic)
N = national
S = sexual

This is a marvelous tool to get you thinking about a topic from different angles.

Warning: when you come to a snap decision in your thinking, pause and think of “Persians.”

Principle 4

Be aware that the way you approach a new subject or topic is influenced by your previous knowledge and experience.

This is only normal; however, it’s important to realize that your thinking is limited.

Don’t close your mind to new, alternative ways of looking at things.

Principle 5

You need to question authority – the powers that be. All current principles, assumptions, definitions, and ways of doing things are not necessarily valid or true.

Don’t necessarily accept the status quo because it’s always been that way.

Critical thinking strategies: questions

Here are six critical thinking strategies that summarize what we been talking about (Bloom 282-283).

  1. Did you choose a narrow subject?Thinking critcally
    Think of as many related sub issues as you can to narrow the subject into a manageable topic.
  2. Did you determine your attitude toward the issue? If you’re passionate about a subject, you’ll have stronger arguments to support your thesis.
  3. Did you define clearly the key terms you use in your analysis?
    Often people approach a topic in personal or idiosyncratic ways. This takes away your credibility and objectivity.
  4. Did you choose an issue or topic that is debatable or arguable?
  5. Did you get your facts right?
    Use consistent, verifiable primary and secondary sources.
  6. Did you use sources of information carefully? You need to properly paraphrase, summarize, and quote to avoid plagiarizing.
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