How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay: Examples & Outline
Critical thinking is the process of evaluating and analyzing information. People who use it in everyday life are open to different opinions. They rely on reason and logic when making conclusions about certain issues.
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A critical thinking essay shows how your thoughts change as you research your topic. This type of assignment encourages you to learn rather than prove what you already know. In this article, our custom writing team will:
- explain how to write an excellent critical essay;
- introduce 30 great essay topics;
- provide a critical thinking essay example in MLA format.
- 🤔 Critical Thinking Essay Definition
- 💡 Topics & Questions
- ✅ Step-by-Step Guide
- 📑 Essay Example & Formatting Tips
- ✍️ Bonus Tips
🤔 what is a critical thinking essay.
A critical thinking essay is a paper that analyses an issue and reflects on it in order to develop an action plan. Unlike other essay types, it starts with a question instead of a thesis. It helps you develop a broader perspective on a specific issue. Critical writing aims at improving your analytical skills and encourages asking questions.
Critical Thinking in Writing: Importance
When we talk about critical thinking and writing, the word “critical” doesn’t have any negative connotation. It simply implies thorough investigation, evaluation, and analysis of information. Critical thinking allows students to make objective conclusions and present their ideas logically. It also helps them avoid errors in reasoning.
The Basics: 8 Steps of Critical Thinking Psychology
Did you know that the critical thinking process consists of 8 steps? We’ve listed them below. You can try to implement them in your everyday life:
It’s possible that fallacies will occur during the process of critical thinking. Fallacies are errors in reasoning that fail to provide a reasonable conclusion. Here are some common types of fallacies:
- Generalization . It happens when you apply generally factual statements to a specific case.
- Ambiguity . It occurs when the arguments are not clear and are not supported by evidence.
- Appeal to authority . This mistake happens when you claim the statement is valid only because a respected person made it.
- Appeal to emotion . It occurs when you use highly emotive language to convince the audience. Try to stay sensible and rely on the evidence.
- Bifurcation . This mistake occurs when you choose only between two alternatives when more than two exist.
- False analogy . It happens when the examples are poorly connected.
If you want to avoid these mistakes, do the following:
- try not to draw conclusions too quickly,
- be attentive,
- carefully read through all the sources,
- avoid generalizations.
How to Demonstrate Your Critical Thinking in Writing
Critical thinking encourages you to go beyond what you know and study new perspectives. When it comes to demonstrating your critical thinking skills in writing, you can try these strategies:
- Read . Before you start writing an essay, read everything you can find on the subject you are about to cover. Focus on the critical points of your assignment.
- Research . Look up several scholarly sources and study the information in-depth.
- Evaluate . Analyze the sources and the information you’ve gathered. See whether you can disagree with the authors.
- Prove . Explain why you agree or disagree with the authors’ conclusions. Back it up with evidence.
According to Purdue University, logical essay writing is essential when you deal with academic essays. It helps you demonstrate and prove the arguments. Make sure that your paper reaches a logical conclusion.
There are several main concepts related to logic:
If you want your essay to be logical, it’s better to avoid syllogistic fallacies, which happen with certain invalid deductions. If syllogisms are used carelessly, they can lead to false statements and ruin the credibility of your paper.
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💡 Critical Thinking Topics & Questions
An excellent critical thinking essay starts with a question. But how do you formulate it properly? Keep reading to find out.
How to Write Critical Thinking Questions: Examples with Answers
Asking the right questions is at the core of critical thinking. They challenge our beliefs and encourage our interest to learn more.
Here are some examples of model questions that prompt critical thinking:
- What does… mean?
- What would happen if…?
- What are the principles of…?
- Why is… important?
- How does… affect…?
- What do you think causes…?
- How are… and… similar/different?
- How do you explain….?
- What are the implications of…?
- What do we already know about…?
Now, let’s look at some critical thinking questions with the answers. You can use these as a model for your own questions:
Question: What would happen if people with higher income paid more taxes?
- Answer: It would help society to prosper and function better. It would also help people out of poverty. This way, everyone can contribute to the economy.
Question: How does eating healthy benefit you?
- Answer: Healthy eating affects people’s lives in many positive ways. It reduces cancer risk, improves your mood and memory, helps with weight loss and diabetes management, and improves your night sleep.
Critical Thinking Essay Topics
Have you already decided what your essay will be about? If not, feel free to use these essay topic examples as titles for your paper or as inspiration. Make sure to choose a theme that interests you personally:
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- What are the reasons for racism in healthcare ?
- Why is accepting your appearance important?
- Concepts of critical thinking and logical reasoning .
- Nature and spirit in Ralf Waldo Emerson ’s poetry.
- How does technological development affect communication in the modern world?
- Social media effect on adolescents.
- Is the representation of children in popular fiction accurate?
- Domestic violence and its consequences.
- Why is mutual aid important in society?
- How do stereotypes affect the way people think?
- The concept of happiness in different cultures.
- The purpose of environmental art .
- Why do people have the need to be praised ?
- How did antibiotics change medicine and its development?
- Is there a way to combat inequality in sports ?
- Is gun control an effective way of crime prevention?
- How our understanding of love changes through time.
- The use of social media by the older generation.
- Graffiti as a form of modern art .
- Negative health effects of high sugar consumption.
- Why are reality TV shows so popular?
- Why should we eat healthily ?
- How effective and fair is the US judicial system ?
- Reasons of Cirque du Soleil phenomenon.
- How can police brutality be stopped?
- Freedom of speech : does it exist?
- The effects of vaccination misconceptions .
- How to eliminate New Brunswick’s demographic deficit: action plan .
- What makes a good movie ?
- Critical analysis of your favorite book.
- The connection between fashion and identity .
- Taboo topics and how they are discussed in gothic literature .
- Critical thinking essay on the problem of overpopulation .
- Does our lifestyle affect our mental health ?
- The role of self-esteem in preventing eating disorders in children .
- Drug abuse among teenagers.
- Rhetoric on assisted suicide .
- Effects of violent video games on children’s mental health.
- Analyze the effect stress has on the productivity of a team member.
- Discuss the importance of the environmental studies .
- Critical thinking and ethics of happy life.
- The effects of human dignity on the promotion of justice.
- Examine the ethics of advertising the tobacco industry.
- Reasons and possible solutions of research misconduct.
- Implication of parental deployment for children.
- Cultural impact of superheroes on the US culture.
- Examine the positive and negative impact of technology on modern society.
- Critical thinking in literature: examples.
- Analyze the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on economic transformation.
- Benefits and drawbacks of mandatory vaccination .
Haven’t found a suitable essay idea? Try using our topic generator !
✅ How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay Step by Step
Now, let’s focus on planning and writing your critical thinking essay. In this section, you will find an essay outline, examples of thesis statements, and a brief overview of each essay part.
Critical Thinking Essay Outline
In a critical thinking essay, there are two main things to consider: a premise and a conclusion :
- A premise is a statement in the argument that explains the reason or supports a conclusion.
- A conclusion indicates what the argument is trying to prove. Each argument can have only one conclusion.
When it comes to structuring, a critical thinking essay is very similar to any other type of essay. Before you start writing it, make sure you know what to include in it. An outline is very helpful when it comes to structuring a paper.
How to Start a Critical Essay Introduction
An introduction gives readers a general idea of an essay’s contents. When you work on the introduction, imagine that you are drawing a map for the reader. It not only marks the final destination but also explains the route.
An introduction usually has 4 functions:
- It catches the reader’s attention;
- It states the essay’s main argument;
- It provides some general information about the topic;
- It shows the importance of the issue in question.
Here are some strategies that can make the introduction writing easier:
- Give an overview of the essay’s topic.
- Express the main idea.
- Define the main terms.
- Outline the issues that you are going to explore or argue about.
- Explain the methodology and why you used it.
- Write a hook to attract the reader’s attention.
Critical Analysis Thesis Statement & Examples
A thesis statement is an integral part of every essay. It keeps the paper organized and guides both the reader and the writer. A good thesis:
- expresses the conclusion or position on a topic;
- justifies your position or opinion with reasoning;
- conveys one idea;
- serves as the essay’s map.
To have a clearer understanding of what a good thesis is, let’s have a look at these examples.
The statement on the left is too general and doesn’t provide any reasoning. The one on the right narrows down the group of people to office workers and specifies the benefits of exercising.
Critical Thinking Essay Body Paragraphs: How to Write
Body paragraphs are the part of the essay where you discuss all the ideas and arguments. In a critical thinking essay, arguments are especially important. When you develop them, make sure that they:
- reflect the key theme;
- are supported by the sources/citations/examples.
Using counter-arguments is also effective. It shows that you acknowledge different points of view and are not easily persuaded.
In addition to your arguments, it’s essential to present the evidence . Demonstrate your critical thinking skills by analyzing each source and stating whether the author’s position is valid.
To make your essay logically flow, you may use transitions such as:
- For instance,
- On the contrary,
- In conclusion,
- Not only… but also,
How to Write a Critical Thinking Conclusion
In a critical thinking essay, the notion of “conclusion” is tightly connected to the one used in logic. A logical conclusion is a statement that specifies the author’s point of view or what the essay argues about. Each argument can have only one logical conclusion.
Sometimes they can be confused with premises. Remember that premises serve as a support for the conclusion. Unlike the conclusion, there can be several premises in a single argument. You can learn more about these concepts from the article on a logical consequence by Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Keeping this in mind, have a look at these tips for finishing your essay:
- Briefly sum up the main points.
- Provide a final thought on the issue.
- Suggest some results or consequences.
- Finish up with a call for action.
📑 Critical Thinking Essays Examples & Formatting Tips
Formatting is another crucial aspect of every formal paper. MLA and APA are two popular formats when it comes to academic writing. They share some similarities but overall are still two different styles. Here are critical essay format guidelines that you can use as a reference:
Finally, you’re welcome to check out a full critical essay sample in MLA format. Download the PDF file below:
Currently, the importance of critical thinking has grown rapidly because technological progress has led to expanded access to various content-making platforms: websites, online news agencies, and podcasts with, often, low-quality information. Fake news is used to achieve political and financial aims, targeting people with low news literacy. However, individuals can stop spreading fallacies by detecting false agendas with the help of a skeptical attitude.
✍️ Bonus Tips: Critical Thinking and Writing Exercises
Critical thinking is a process different from our regular thinking. When we think in everyday life, we do it automatically. However, when we’re thinking critically, we do it deliberately.
So how do we get better at this type of thinking and make it a habit? These useful tips will help you do it:
- Ask basic questions. Sometimes, while we are doing research, the explanation becomes too complicated. To avoid it, always go back to your topic.
- Question basic assumptions. When thinking through a problem, ask yourself whether your beliefs can be wrong. Keep an open mind while researching your question.
- Think for yourself. Avoid getting carried away in the research and buying into other people’s opinions.
- Reverse things. Sometimes it seems obvious that one thing causes another, but what if it’s the other way around?
- Evaluate existing evidence. If you work with sources, it’s crucial to evaluate and question them.
Another way to improve your reasoning skills is to do critical thinking exercises. Here are some of them:
Thanks for reading through our article! We hope that you found it helpful and learned some new information. If you liked it, feel free to share it with your friends.
- Critical Writing: Examples & Brilliant Tips 
- How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Outline, Steps, & Examples
- How to Write an Analysis Essay: Examples + Writing Guide
- How to Write a Critique Paper: Tips + Critique Essay Examples
- How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay Step by Step
- Critical Thinking and Writing: University of Kent
- Steps to Critical Thinking: Rasmussen University
- 3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking: Harvard Business Review
- In-Class Writing Exercises: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Demonstrating Critical Thinking in Writing: University of South Australia
- 15 Questions that Teachers and Parents Can Ask Kids to Encourage Critical Thinking: The Hun School
- Questions to Provoke Critical Thinking: Brown University
- How to Write a College Critical Thinking Essay: Seattle PI
- Introductions: What They Do: Royal Literary Fund
- Thesis Statements: Arizona State University
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75 Critical Thinking Essay Topics
Critical thinking requires students to think for themselves, question everything, and look at both sides of an issue before coming to a conclusion. In critical thinking essay writing, these same skills are applied to examine a topic more closely. In this type of essay, the writer must not only present their own opinion on the subject but must also back it up with evidence and reasoning.
Critical thinking essays can be challenging to write depending on the topic, course, and length of the assignment. However, there are some tips and tricks that can make the process a little bit easier. Take a look at our detailed guide breaking down the components of an excellent critical thinking essay, and consider using any of our 75 critical thinking essay topics at the end to get started.
Essential Things to Consider When Writing a Critical Thinking Essay
When writing a critical thinking essay, students must look past surface-level information and delve deeper into the subject matter. This requires a lot of research and analysis, which can be tough for some students. However, if you take the time to plan your essay and follow these tips, you should be able to write a great critical thinking essay that will impress your instructor.
1. Do Your Research
Before you can start writing your essay, you need to make sure that you have enough evidence to support your claims. This means doing a lot of research on your topic. Try to find reliable sources from experts in the field that you can use to back up your points. Once you have gathered all of your evidence, you can plan out your essay.
2. Create An Outline
An outline will help keep your thoughts organized and ensure that you don’t forget any vital information. Your outline should include a thesis, an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each part of your outline should also have a few key details that you want to discuss to help make the writing process go smoothly.
3. Write A Thesis Statement
Your thesis statement is the most essential part of your essay. It should be a clear and concise statement that presents your argument. Your thesis statement should be included in your introduction and reaffirmed in your conclusion.
It is important to note that because this is a critical thinking essay, your thesis should be more than just a statement of fact. Instead, it should be an arguable claim that you will be defending throughout your essay.
For example, if you are writing about the death penalty, your thesis statement needs to be more than, “The death penalty is wrong.” This thesis doesn’t leave room for discussion or debate. A better thesis statement would be, “The death penalty is a violation of human rights and it should be abolished.” This thesis statement presents an argument that can be debated and discussed.
4. Write The Introduction
Your introduction should start with a hook that grabs the reader’s attention. You can use a surprising statistic, a quote, or a rhetorical question. After the hook, you should provide some background information on your topic. This will help orient the reader and give them context for your argument. Finally, you should end your introduction with your thesis statement.
5. Write The Body Paragraphs
Each body paragraph should start with a topic sentence that introduces the paragraph’s main point. The rest of the paragraph should be used to support this point with evidence and reasoning. You should have at least three body paragraphs in your essay, but you can have more if needed.
Pro Tip: Critical thinking essays examine and analyze – they don’t just restate facts. When presenting your evidence, be sure to discuss it critically. What are the implications of this evidence? How does it support your argument?
6. Write The Conclusion
The conclusion of a critical thinking essay should be just as strong as the introduction. You should start by restating your thesis statement. Then, you should provide a brief summary of the main points of your essay. Finally, you should end with a strong closing statement that leaves the reader thinking about your argument long after they finish reading, such as a call to action or a final thought-provoking question.
Citing Sources in a Critical Thinking Essay
Since this type of essay will rely on evidence and reasoning, it is important to use credible sources. Be sure to only use reliable sources from experts in the field. When you do use sources, be sure to cite them properly. This will show that you are using other people’s work ethically, and it will also help strengthen your argument by showing that you have looked at the issue from multiple perspectives.
Citing sources has many different rules that you will need to follow depending on the formatting style that you are using. The most common formatting styles are MLA, APA, and Chicago. Be sure to check with your professor to see which style they prefer before you start writing your essay.
When citing in MLA format, you’ll need to use in-text citations. These are brief citations included in the body of your essay whenever you use a source. The full citation for each source is listed in the Works Cited section at the end of your paper.
When citing in APA format, you’ll need to use in-text citations and a reference list. The in-text citations are brief citations included in the body of your essay whenever you use a source. The reference list is a list of all the sources that you used – usually included at the end of your paper.
When citing in Chicago style, you’ll need to use footnotes or endnotes. These are brief citations at the bottom of each page (footnotes) or the end of your paper (endnotes).
Any of these 75 critical thinking essay topics will help students struggling to find an arguable and interesting topic.
Critical Thinking Essay Topics About Social Issues
- Is democracy the best form of government?
- Is capitalism good or bad?
- Is socialism a viable alternative to capitalism?
- Does religion do more harm than good?
- Should creationism be taught in schools?
- Is the death penalty ethical?
- Are zoos cruel?
- Is it ethical to eat meat?
- Is climate change real?
- Who is responsible for climate change?
- Should wealthy nations do more to help developing nations?
- Is immigration a good or bad thing?
- What are the root causes of terrorism?
- Is terrorism ever justified?
- Are gun laws too strict or not strict enough?
- Is healthcare a human right?
- Should abortion be legal?
- What are the ethical implications of stem cell research?
- What should be done about the global water crisis?
- How can we best help refugees?
Critical Thinking Essay Topics About General Issues
- Should people be judged by their looks?
- Is it better to be single or in a relationship?
- Are men and women equal?
- Should parents be held responsible for their children’s actions?
- Is it better to grow up with siblings or as an only child?
- Should the drinking age be lowered?
- Is drug legalization a good or bad idea?
- What are the best ways to deal with stress?
- How can we prevent bullying?
- Are social media and technology making us more or less connected?
- Should parents monitor their children’s internet use?
- Should schools ban cell phones?
- How can we reduce the number of teenage pregnancies?
- What is the best way to deal with teenage rebellion?
- Is homeschooling a good or bad idea?
- Should all students be required to learn a foreign language?
- Should schools start later in the morning?
- Are there better alternatives to traditional schooling?
- Is college tuition too high?
- Should student loans be forgiven?
- Should colleges be free to attend?
- What are the best ways to prepare for a job interview?
- How can we better retain employees?
- What are the best ways to motivate employees?
- How can we reduce workplace stress?
- Should remote working be encouraged?
- What are the pros and cons of globalization?
- Is consumerism a good or bad thing?
- How can we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels?
Critical Thinking Essay Topics About The Environment and Conservation
- What are the best ways to reduce pollution?
- Should we be doing more to conserve water?
- How can we reduce food waste?
- Is nuclear energy a good or bad thing?
- What are the best ways to deal with climate change?
- Is overpopulation a real problem?
- What can we do to reduce our reliance on plastic?
- Should we be doing more to protect endangered species?
- How can we best preserve our natural resources?
- What is the best way to deal with hazardous waste?
- What are the best ways to reduce deforestation?
Critical Thinking Essay Topics About Technology
- Should we be doing more to regulate the internet?
- How can we best protect our privacy online?
- What are the best ways to deal with cyberbullying?
- Is social media a good or bad thing?
- Are we too reliant on technology?
- What are the best ways to deal with data breaches?
- Should we be worried about artificial intelligence?
- What are the best ways to deal with tech monopolies?
Critical Thinking Essay Topics About American Classics
- Explore the theme of capitalism in Fight Club.
- What is the significance of the title The Great Gatsby?
- Is Atticus Finch a good father?
- What is the significance of the title To Kill a Mockingbird?
- Is Holden Caulfield a sympathetic character?
- How does Steinbeck portray the American dream in The Grapes of Wrath?
- How does Fitzgerald use symbolism in The Great Gatsby?
When writing on any of these 75 critical thinking essay topics, be sure to support your position with solid reasoning, examples, and evidence.
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- What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples
What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples
Published on May 30, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.
Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment .
To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources .
Critical thinking skills help you to:
- Identify credible sources
- Evaluate and respond to arguments
- Assess alternative viewpoints
- Test hypotheses against relevant criteria
Table of contents
Why is critical thinking important, critical thinking examples, how to think critically, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about critical thinking.
Critical thinking is important for making judgments about sources of information and forming your own arguments. It emphasizes a rational, objective, and self-aware approach that can help you to identify credible sources and strengthen your conclusions.
Critical thinking is important in all disciplines and throughout all stages of the research process . The types of evidence used in the sciences and in the humanities may differ, but critical thinking skills are relevant to both.
In academic writing , critical thinking can help you to determine whether a source:
- Is free from research bias
- Provides evidence to support its research findings
- Considers alternative viewpoints
Outside of academia, critical thinking goes hand in hand with information literacy to help you form opinions rationally and engage independently and critically with popular media.
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Critical thinking can help you to identify reliable sources of information that you can cite in your research paper . It can also guide your own research methods and inform your own arguments.
Outside of academia, critical thinking can help you to be aware of both your own and others’ biases and assumptions.
However, when you compare the findings of the study with other current research, you determine that the results seem improbable. You analyze the paper again, consulting the sources it cites.
You notice that the research was funded by the pharmaceutical company that created the treatment. Because of this, you view its results skeptically and determine that more independent research is necessary to confirm or refute them. Example: Poor critical thinking in an academic context You’re researching a paper on the impact wireless technology has had on developing countries that previously did not have large-scale communications infrastructure. You read an article that seems to confirm your hypothesis: the impact is mainly positive. Rather than evaluating the research methodology, you accept the findings uncritically.
However, you decide to compare this review article with consumer reviews on a different site. You find that these reviews are not as positive. Some customers have had problems installing the alarm, and some have noted that it activates for no apparent reason.
You revisit the original review article. You notice that the words “sponsored content” appear in small print under the article title. Based on this, you conclude that the review is advertising and is therefore not an unbiased source. Example: Poor critical thinking in a nonacademic context You support a candidate in an upcoming election. You visit an online news site affiliated with their political party and read an article that criticizes their opponent. The article claims that the opponent is inexperienced in politics. You accept this without evidence, because it fits your preconceptions about the opponent.
There is no single way to think critically. How you engage with information will depend on the type of source you’re using and the information you need.
However, you can engage with sources in a systematic and critical way by asking certain questions when you encounter information. Like the CRAAP test , these questions focus on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.
When encountering information, ask:
- Who is the author? Are they an expert in their field?
- What do they say? Is their argument clear? Can you summarize it?
- When did they say this? Is the source current?
- Where is the information published? Is it an academic article? Is it peer-reviewed ?
- Why did the author publish it? What is their motivation?
- How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence? Does it rely on opinion, speculation, or appeals to emotion ? Do they address alternative arguments?
Critical thinking also involves being aware of your own biases, not only those of others. When you make an argument or draw your own conclusions, you can ask similar questions about your own writing:
- Am I only considering evidence that supports my preconceptions?
- Is my argument expressed clearly and backed up with credible sources?
- Would I be convinced by this argument coming from someone else?
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Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.
Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.
Critical thinking skills include the ability to:
You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test , focusing on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.
Ask questions such as:
- Who is the author? Are they an expert?
- How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence?
A credible source should pass the CRAAP test and follow these guidelines:
- The information should be up to date and current.
- The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
- The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
- For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.
Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.
Being information literate means that you:
- Know how to find credible sources
- Use relevant sources to inform your research
- Understand what constitutes plagiarism
- Know how to cite your sources correctly
Confirmation bias is the tendency to search, interpret, and recall information in a way that aligns with our pre-existing values, opinions, or beliefs. It refers to the ability to recollect information best when it amplifies what we already believe. Relatedly, we tend to forget information that contradicts our opinions.
Although selective recall is a component of confirmation bias, it should not be confused with recall bias.
On the other hand, recall bias refers to the differences in the ability between study participants to recall past events when self-reporting is used. This difference in accuracy or completeness of recollection is not related to beliefs or opinions. Rather, recall bias relates to other factors, such as the length of the recall period, age, and the characteristics of the disease under investigation.
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Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms for thinking carefully, and the thinking components on which they focus. Its adoption as an educational goal has been recommended on the basis of respect for students’ autonomy and preparing students for success in life and for democratic citizenship. “Critical thinkers” have the dispositions and abilities that lead them to think critically when appropriate. The abilities can be identified directly; the dispositions indirectly, by considering what factors contribute to or impede exercise of the abilities. Standardized tests have been developed to assess the degree to which a person possesses such dispositions and abilities. Educational intervention has been shown experimentally to improve them, particularly when it includes dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring. Controversies have arisen over the generalizability of critical thinking across domains, over alleged bias in critical thinking theories and instruction, and over the relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking.
2.1 Dewey’s Three Main Examples
2.2 dewey’s other examples, 2.3 further examples, 2.4 non-examples, 3. the definition of critical thinking, 4. its value, 5. the process of thinking critically, 6. components of the process, 7. contributory dispositions and abilities, 8.1 initiating dispositions, 8.2 internal dispositions, 9. critical thinking abilities, 10. required knowledge, 11. educational methods, 12.1 the generalizability of critical thinking, 12.2 bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, 12.3 relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking, other internet resources, related entries.
Use of the term ‘critical thinking’ to describe an educational goal goes back to the American philosopher John Dewey (1910), who more commonly called it ‘reflective thinking’. He defined it as
active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Dewey 1910: 6; 1933: 9)
and identified a habit of such consideration with a scientific attitude of mind. His lengthy quotations of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill indicate that he was not the first person to propose development of a scientific attitude of mind as an educational goal.
In the 1930s, many of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study of the Progressive Education Association (Aikin 1942) adopted critical thinking as an educational goal, for whose achievement the study’s Evaluation Staff developed tests (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942). Glaser (1941) showed experimentally that it was possible to improve the critical thinking of high school students. Bloom’s influential taxonomy of cognitive educational objectives (Bloom et al. 1956) incorporated critical thinking abilities. Ennis (1962) proposed 12 aspects of critical thinking as a basis for research on the teaching and evaluation of critical thinking ability.
Since 1980, an annual international conference in California on critical thinking and educational reform has attracted tens of thousands of educators from all levels of education and from many parts of the world. Also since 1980, the state university system in California has required all undergraduate students to take a critical thinking course. Since 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions in conjunction with the divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association (APA). In 1987, the APA’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy commissioned a consensus statement on critical thinking for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (Facione 1990a). Researchers have developed standardized tests of critical thinking abilities and dispositions; for details, see the Supplement on Assessment . Educational jurisdictions around the world now include critical thinking in guidelines for curriculum and assessment.
For details on this history, see the Supplement on History .
2. Examples and Non-Examples
Before considering the definition of critical thinking, it will be helpful to have in mind some examples of critical thinking, as well as some examples of kinds of thinking that would apparently not count as critical thinking.
Dewey (1910: 68–71; 1933: 91–94) takes as paradigms of reflective thinking three class papers of students in which they describe their thinking. The examples range from the everyday to the scientific.
Transit : “The other day, when I was down town on 16th Street, a clock caught my eye. I saw that the hands pointed to 12:20. This suggested that I had an engagement at 124th Street, at one o’clock. I reasoned that as it had taken me an hour to come down on a surface car, I should probably be twenty minutes late if I returned the same way. I might save twenty minutes by a subway express. But was there a station near? If not, I might lose more than twenty minutes in looking for one. Then I thought of the elevated, and I saw there was such a line within two blocks. But where was the station? If it were several blocks above or below the street I was on, I should lose time instead of gaining it. My mind went back to the subway express as quicker than the elevated; furthermore, I remembered that it went nearer than the elevated to the part of 124th Street I wished to reach, so that time would be saved at the end of the journey. I concluded in favor of the subway, and reached my destination by one o’clock.” (Dewey 1910: 68–69; 1933: 91–92)
Ferryboat : “Projecting nearly horizontally from the upper deck of the ferryboat on which I daily cross the river is a long white pole, having a gilded ball at its tip. It suggested a flagpole when I first saw it; its color, shape, and gilded ball agreed with this idea, and these reasons seemed to justify me in this belief. But soon difficulties presented themselves. The pole was nearly horizontal, an unusual position for a flagpole; in the next place, there was no pulley, ring, or cord by which to attach a flag; finally, there were elsewhere on the boat two vertical staffs from which flags were occasionally flown. It seemed probable that the pole was not there for flag-flying.
“I then tried to imagine all possible purposes of the pole, and to consider for which of these it was best suited: (a) Possibly it was an ornament. But as all the ferryboats and even the tugboats carried poles, this hypothesis was rejected. (b) Possibly it was the terminal of a wireless telegraph. But the same considerations made this improbable. Besides, the more natural place for such a terminal would be the highest part of the boat, on top of the pilot house. (c) Its purpose might be to point out the direction in which the boat is moving.
“In support of this conclusion, I discovered that the pole was lower than the pilot house, so that the steersman could easily see it. Moreover, the tip was enough higher than the base, so that, from the pilot’s position, it must appear to project far out in front of the boat. Moreover, the pilot being near the front of the boat, he would need some such guide as to its direction. Tugboats would also need poles for such a purpose. This hypothesis was so much more probable than the others that I accepted it. I formed the conclusion that the pole was set up for the purpose of showing the pilot the direction in which the boat pointed, to enable him to steer correctly.” (Dewey 1910: 69–70; 1933: 92–93)
Bubbles : “In washing tumblers in hot soapsuds and placing them mouth downward on a plate, bubbles appeared on the outside of the mouth of the tumblers and then went inside. Why? The presence of bubbles suggests air, which I note must come from inside the tumbler. I see that the soapy water on the plate prevents escape of the air save as it may be caught in bubbles. But why should air leave the tumbler? There was no substance entering to force it out. It must have expanded. It expands by increase of heat, or by decrease of pressure, or both. Could the air have become heated after the tumbler was taken from the hot suds? Clearly not the air that was already entangled in the water. If heated air was the cause, cold air must have entered in transferring the tumblers from the suds to the plate. I test to see if this supposition is true by taking several more tumblers out. Some I shake so as to make sure of entrapping cold air in them. Some I take out holding mouth downward in order to prevent cold air from entering. Bubbles appear on the outside of every one of the former and on none of the latter. I must be right in my inference. Air from the outside must have been expanded by the heat of the tumbler, which explains the appearance of the bubbles on the outside. But why do they then go inside? Cold contracts. The tumbler cooled and also the air inside it. Tension was removed, and hence bubbles appeared inside. To be sure of this, I test by placing a cup of ice on the tumbler while the bubbles are still forming outside. They soon reverse” (Dewey 1910: 70–71; 1933: 93–94).
Dewey (1910, 1933) sprinkles his book with other examples of critical thinking. We will refer to the following.
Weather : A man on a walk notices that it has suddenly become cool, thinks that it is probably going to rain, looks up and sees a dark cloud obscuring the sun, and quickens his steps (1910: 6–10; 1933: 9–13).
Disorder : A man finds his rooms on his return to them in disorder with his belongings thrown about, thinks at first of burglary as an explanation, then thinks of mischievous children as being an alternative explanation, then looks to see whether valuables are missing, and discovers that they are (1910: 82–83; 1933: 166–168).
Typhoid : A physician diagnosing a patient whose conspicuous symptoms suggest typhoid avoids drawing a conclusion until more data are gathered by questioning the patient and by making tests (1910: 85–86; 1933: 170).
Blur : A moving blur catches our eye in the distance, we ask ourselves whether it is a cloud of whirling dust or a tree moving its branches or a man signaling to us, we think of other traits that should be found on each of those possibilities, and we look and see if those traits are found (1910: 102, 108; 1933: 121, 133).
Suction pump : In thinking about the suction pump, the scientist first notes that it will draw water only to a maximum height of 33 feet at sea level and to a lesser maximum height at higher elevations, selects for attention the differing atmospheric pressure at these elevations, sets up experiments in which the air is removed from a vessel containing water (when suction no longer works) and in which the weight of air at various levels is calculated, compares the results of reasoning about the height to which a given weight of air will allow a suction pump to raise water with the observed maximum height at different elevations, and finally assimilates the suction pump to such apparently different phenomena as the siphon and the rising of a balloon (1910: 150–153; 1933: 195–198).
Diamond : A passenger in a car driving in a diamond lane reserved for vehicles with at least one passenger notices that the diamond marks on the pavement are far apart in some places and close together in others. Why? The driver suggests that the reason may be that the diamond marks are not needed where there is a solid double line separating the diamond lane from the adjoining lane, but are needed when there is a dotted single line permitting crossing into the diamond lane. Further observation confirms that the diamonds are close together when a dotted line separates the diamond lane from its neighbour, but otherwise far apart.
Rash : A woman suddenly develops a very itchy red rash on her throat and upper chest. She recently noticed a mark on the back of her right hand, but was not sure whether the mark was a rash or a scrape. She lies down in bed and thinks about what might be causing the rash and what to do about it. About two weeks before, she began taking blood pressure medication that contained a sulfa drug, and the pharmacist had warned her, in view of a previous allergic reaction to a medication containing a sulfa drug, to be on the alert for an allergic reaction; however, she had been taking the medication for two weeks with no such effect. The day before, she began using a new cream on her neck and upper chest; against the new cream as the cause was mark on the back of her hand, which had not been exposed to the cream. She began taking probiotics about a month before. She also recently started new eye drops, but she supposed that manufacturers of eye drops would be careful not to include allergy-causing components in the medication. The rash might be a heat rash, since she recently was sweating profusely from her upper body. Since she is about to go away on a short vacation, where she would not have access to her usual physician, she decides to keep taking the probiotics and using the new eye drops but to discontinue the blood pressure medication and to switch back to the old cream for her neck and upper chest. She forms a plan to consult her regular physician on her return about the blood pressure medication.
Candidate : Although Dewey included no examples of thinking directed at appraising the arguments of others, such thinking has come to be considered a kind of critical thinking. We find an example of such thinking in the performance task on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+), which its sponsoring organization describes as
a performance-based assessment that provides a measure of an institution’s contribution to the development of critical-thinking and written communication skills of its students. (Council for Aid to Education 2017)
A sample task posted on its website requires the test-taker to write a report for public distribution evaluating a fictional candidate’s policy proposals and their supporting arguments, using supplied background documents, with a recommendation on whether to endorse the candidate.
Immediate acceptance of an idea that suggests itself as a solution to a problem (e.g., a possible explanation of an event or phenomenon, an action that seems likely to produce a desired result) is “uncritical thinking, the minimum of reflection” (Dewey 1910: 13). On-going suspension of judgment in the light of doubt about a possible solution is not critical thinking (Dewey 1910: 108). Critique driven by a dogmatically held political or religious ideology is not critical thinking; thus Paulo Freire (1968 ) is using the term (e.g., at 1970: 71, 81, 100, 146) in a more politically freighted sense that includes not only reflection but also revolutionary action against oppression. Derivation of a conclusion from given data using an algorithm is not critical thinking.
What is critical thinking? There are many definitions. Ennis (2016) lists 14 philosophically oriented scholarly definitions and three dictionary definitions. Following Rawls (1971), who distinguished his conception of justice from a utilitarian conception but regarded them as rival conceptions of the same concept, Ennis maintains that the 17 definitions are different conceptions of the same concept. Rawls articulated the shared concept of justice as
a characteristic set of principles for assigning basic rights and duties and for determining… the proper distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation. (Rawls 1971: 5)
Bailin et al. (1999b) claim that, if one considers what sorts of thinking an educator would take not to be critical thinking and what sorts to be critical thinking, one can conclude that educators typically understand critical thinking to have at least three features.
- It is done for the purpose of making up one’s mind about what to believe or do.
- The person engaging in the thinking is trying to fulfill standards of adequacy and accuracy appropriate to the thinking.
- The thinking fulfills the relevant standards to some threshold level.
One could sum up the core concept that involves these three features by saying that critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking. This core concept seems to apply to all the examples of critical thinking described in the previous section. As for the non-examples, their exclusion depends on construing careful thinking as excluding jumping immediately to conclusions, suspending judgment no matter how strong the evidence, reasoning from an unquestioned ideological or religious perspective, and routinely using an algorithm to answer a question.
If the core of critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking, conceptions of it can vary according to its presumed scope, its presumed goal, one’s criteria and threshold for being careful, and the thinking component on which one focuses. As to its scope, some conceptions (e.g., Dewey 1910, 1933) restrict it to constructive thinking on the basis of one’s own observations and experiments, others (e.g., Ennis 1962; Fisher & Scriven 1997; Johnson 1992) to appraisal of the products of such thinking. Ennis (1991) and Bailin et al. (1999b) take it to cover both construction and appraisal. As to its goal, some conceptions restrict it to forming a judgment (Dewey 1910, 1933; Lipman 1987; Facione 1990a). Others allow for actions as well as beliefs as the end point of a process of critical thinking (Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b). As to the criteria and threshold for being careful, definitions vary in the term used to indicate that critical thinking satisfies certain norms: “intellectually disciplined” (Scriven & Paul 1987), “reasonable” (Ennis 1991), “skillful” (Lipman 1987), “skilled” (Fisher & Scriven 1997), “careful” (Bailin & Battersby 2009). Some definitions specify these norms, referring variously to “consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends” (Dewey 1910, 1933); “the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning” (Glaser 1941); “conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication” (Scriven & Paul 1987); the requirement that “it is sensitive to context, relies on criteria, and is self-correcting” (Lipman 1987); “evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations” (Facione 1990a); and “plus-minus considerations of the product in terms of appropriate standards (or criteria)” (Johnson 1992). Stanovich and Stanovich (2010) propose to ground the concept of critical thinking in the concept of rationality, which they understand as combining epistemic rationality (fitting one’s beliefs to the world) and instrumental rationality (optimizing goal fulfillment); a critical thinker, in their view, is someone with “a propensity to override suboptimal responses from the autonomous mind” (2010: 227). These variant specifications of norms for critical thinking are not necessarily incompatible with one another, and in any case presuppose the core notion of thinking carefully. As to the thinking component singled out, some definitions focus on suspension of judgment during the thinking (Dewey 1910; McPeck 1981), others on inquiry while judgment is suspended (Bailin & Battersby 2009, 2021), others on the resulting judgment (Facione 1990a), and still others on responsiveness to reasons (Siegel 1988). Kuhn (2019) takes critical thinking to be more a dialogic practice of advancing and responding to arguments than an individual ability.
In educational contexts, a definition of critical thinking is a “programmatic definition” (Scheffler 1960: 19). It expresses a practical program for achieving an educational goal. For this purpose, a one-sentence formulaic definition is much less useful than articulation of a critical thinking process, with criteria and standards for the kinds of thinking that the process may involve. The real educational goal is recognition, adoption and implementation by students of those criteria and standards. That adoption and implementation in turn consists in acquiring the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker.
Conceptions of critical thinking generally do not include moral integrity as part of the concept. Dewey, for example, took critical thinking to be the ultimate intellectual goal of education, but distinguished it from the development of social cooperation among school children, which he took to be the central moral goal. Ennis (1996, 2011) added to his previous list of critical thinking dispositions a group of dispositions to care about the dignity and worth of every person, which he described as a “correlative” (1996) disposition without which critical thinking would be less valuable and perhaps harmful. An educational program that aimed at developing critical thinking but not the correlative disposition to care about the dignity and worth of every person, he asserted, “would be deficient and perhaps dangerous” (Ennis 1996: 172).
Dewey thought that education for reflective thinking would be of value to both the individual and society; recognition in educational practice of the kinship to the scientific attitude of children’s native curiosity, fertile imagination and love of experimental inquiry “would make for individual happiness and the reduction of social waste” (Dewey 1910: iii). Schools participating in the Eight-Year Study took development of the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems as a means to leading young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States (Aikin 1942: 17–18, 81). Harvey Siegel (1988: 55–61) has offered four considerations in support of adopting critical thinking as an educational ideal. (1) Respect for persons requires that schools and teachers honour students’ demands for reasons and explanations, deal with students honestly, and recognize the need to confront students’ independent judgment; these requirements concern the manner in which teachers treat students. (2) Education has the task of preparing children to be successful adults, a task that requires development of their self-sufficiency. (3) Education should initiate children into the rational traditions in such fields as history, science and mathematics. (4) Education should prepare children to become democratic citizens, which requires reasoned procedures and critical talents and attitudes. To supplement these considerations, Siegel (1988: 62–90) responds to two objections: the ideology objection that adoption of any educational ideal requires a prior ideological commitment and the indoctrination objection that cultivation of critical thinking cannot escape being a form of indoctrination.
Despite the diversity of our 11 examples, one can recognize a common pattern. Dewey analyzed it as consisting of five phases:
- suggestions , in which the mind leaps forward to a possible solution;
- an intellectualization of the difficulty or perplexity into a problem to be solved, a question for which the answer must be sought;
- the use of one suggestion after another as a leading idea, or hypothesis , to initiate and guide observation and other operations in collection of factual material;
- the mental elaboration of the idea or supposition as an idea or supposition ( reasoning , in the sense on which reasoning is a part, not the whole, of inference); and
- testing the hypothesis by overt or imaginative action. (Dewey 1933: 106–107; italics in original)
The process of reflective thinking consisting of these phases would be preceded by a perplexed, troubled or confused situation and followed by a cleared-up, unified, resolved situation (Dewey 1933: 106). The term ‘phases’ replaced the term ‘steps’ (Dewey 1910: 72), thus removing the earlier suggestion of an invariant sequence. Variants of the above analysis appeared in (Dewey 1916: 177) and (Dewey 1938: 101–119).
The variant formulations indicate the difficulty of giving a single logical analysis of such a varied process. The process of critical thinking may have a spiral pattern, with the problem being redefined in the light of obstacles to solving it as originally formulated. For example, the person in Transit might have concluded that getting to the appointment at the scheduled time was impossible and have reformulated the problem as that of rescheduling the appointment for a mutually convenient time. Further, defining a problem does not always follow after or lead immediately to an idea of a suggested solution. Nor should it do so, as Dewey himself recognized in describing the physician in Typhoid as avoiding any strong preference for this or that conclusion before getting further information (Dewey 1910: 85; 1933: 170). People with a hypothesis in mind, even one to which they have a very weak commitment, have a so-called “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998): they are likely to pay attention to evidence that confirms the hypothesis and to ignore evidence that counts against it or for some competing hypothesis. Detectives, intelligence agencies, and investigators of airplane accidents are well advised to gather relevant evidence systematically and to postpone even tentative adoption of an explanatory hypothesis until the collected evidence rules out with the appropriate degree of certainty all but one explanation. Dewey’s analysis of the critical thinking process can be faulted as well for requiring acceptance or rejection of a possible solution to a defined problem, with no allowance for deciding in the light of the available evidence to suspend judgment. Further, given the great variety of kinds of problems for which reflection is appropriate, there is likely to be variation in its component events. Perhaps the best way to conceptualize the critical thinking process is as a checklist whose component events can occur in a variety of orders, selectively, and more than once. These component events might include (1) noticing a difficulty, (2) defining the problem, (3) dividing the problem into manageable sub-problems, (4) formulating a variety of possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (5) determining what evidence is relevant to deciding among possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (6) devising a plan of systematic observation or experiment that will uncover the relevant evidence, (7) carrying out the plan of systematic observation or experimentation, (8) noting the results of the systematic observation or experiment, (9) gathering relevant testimony and information from others, (10) judging the credibility of testimony and information gathered from others, (11) drawing conclusions from gathered evidence and accepted testimony, and (12) accepting a solution that the evidence adequately supports (cf. Hitchcock 2017: 485).
Checklist conceptions of the process of critical thinking are open to the objection that they are too mechanical and procedural to fit the multi-dimensional and emotionally charged issues for which critical thinking is urgently needed (Paul 1984). For such issues, a more dialectical process is advocated, in which competing relevant world views are identified, their implications explored, and some sort of creative synthesis attempted.
If one considers the critical thinking process illustrated by the 11 examples, one can identify distinct kinds of mental acts and mental states that form part of it. To distinguish, label and briefly characterize these components is a useful preliminary to identifying abilities, skills, dispositions, attitudes, habits and the like that contribute causally to thinking critically. Identifying such abilities and habits is in turn a useful preliminary to setting educational goals. Setting the goals is in its turn a useful preliminary to designing strategies for helping learners to achieve the goals and to designing ways of measuring the extent to which learners have done so. Such measures provide both feedback to learners on their achievement and a basis for experimental research on the effectiveness of various strategies for educating people to think critically. Let us begin, then, by distinguishing the kinds of mental acts and mental events that can occur in a critical thinking process.
- Observing : One notices something in one’s immediate environment (sudden cooling of temperature in Weather , bubbles forming outside a glass and then going inside in Bubbles , a moving blur in the distance in Blur , a rash in Rash ). Or one notes the results of an experiment or systematic observation (valuables missing in Disorder , no suction without air pressure in Suction pump )
- Feeling : One feels puzzled or uncertain about something (how to get to an appointment on time in Transit , why the diamonds vary in spacing in Diamond ). One wants to resolve this perplexity. One feels satisfaction once one has worked out an answer (to take the subway express in Transit , diamonds closer when needed as a warning in Diamond ).
- Wondering : One formulates a question to be addressed (why bubbles form outside a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , how suction pumps work in Suction pump , what caused the rash in Rash ).
- Imagining : One thinks of possible answers (bus or subway or elevated in Transit , flagpole or ornament or wireless communication aid or direction indicator in Ferryboat , allergic reaction or heat rash in Rash ).
- Inferring : One works out what would be the case if a possible answer were assumed (valuables missing if there has been a burglary in Disorder , earlier start to the rash if it is an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug in Rash ). Or one draws a conclusion once sufficient relevant evidence is gathered (take the subway in Transit , burglary in Disorder , discontinue blood pressure medication and new cream in Rash ).
- Knowledge : One uses stored knowledge of the subject-matter to generate possible answers or to infer what would be expected on the assumption of a particular answer (knowledge of a city’s public transit system in Transit , of the requirements for a flagpole in Ferryboat , of Boyle’s law in Bubbles , of allergic reactions in Rash ).
- Experimenting : One designs and carries out an experiment or a systematic observation to find out whether the results deduced from a possible answer will occur (looking at the location of the flagpole in relation to the pilot’s position in Ferryboat , putting an ice cube on top of a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , measuring the height to which a suction pump will draw water at different elevations in Suction pump , noticing the spacing of diamonds when movement to or from a diamond lane is allowed in Diamond ).
- Consulting : One finds a source of information, gets the information from the source, and makes a judgment on whether to accept it. None of our 11 examples include searching for sources of information. In this respect they are unrepresentative, since most people nowadays have almost instant access to information relevant to answering any question, including many of those illustrated by the examples. However, Candidate includes the activities of extracting information from sources and evaluating its credibility.
- Identifying and analyzing arguments : One notices an argument and works out its structure and content as a preliminary to evaluating its strength. This activity is central to Candidate . It is an important part of a critical thinking process in which one surveys arguments for various positions on an issue.
- Judging : One makes a judgment on the basis of accumulated evidence and reasoning, such as the judgment in Ferryboat that the purpose of the pole is to provide direction to the pilot.
- Deciding : One makes a decision on what to do or on what policy to adopt, as in the decision in Transit to take the subway.
By definition, a person who does something voluntarily is both willing and able to do that thing at that time. Both the willingness and the ability contribute causally to the person’s action, in the sense that the voluntary action would not occur if either (or both) of these were lacking. For example, suppose that one is standing with one’s arms at one’s sides and one voluntarily lifts one’s right arm to an extended horizontal position. One would not do so if one were unable to lift one’s arm, if for example one’s right side was paralyzed as the result of a stroke. Nor would one do so if one were unwilling to lift one’s arm, if for example one were participating in a street demonstration at which a white supremacist was urging the crowd to lift their right arm in a Nazi salute and one were unwilling to express support in this way for the racist Nazi ideology. The same analysis applies to a voluntary mental process of thinking critically. It requires both willingness and ability to think critically, including willingness and ability to perform each of the mental acts that compose the process and to coordinate those acts in a sequence that is directed at resolving the initiating perplexity.
Consider willingness first. We can identify causal contributors to willingness to think critically by considering factors that would cause a person who was able to think critically about an issue nevertheless not to do so (Hamby 2014). For each factor, the opposite condition thus contributes causally to willingness to think critically on a particular occasion. For example, people who habitually jump to conclusions without considering alternatives will not think critically about issues that arise, even if they have the required abilities. The contrary condition of willingness to suspend judgment is thus a causal contributor to thinking critically.
Now consider ability. In contrast to the ability to move one’s arm, which can be completely absent because a stroke has left the arm paralyzed, the ability to think critically is a developed ability, whose absence is not a complete absence of ability to think but absence of ability to think well. We can identify the ability to think well directly, in terms of the norms and standards for good thinking. In general, to be able do well the thinking activities that can be components of a critical thinking process, one needs to know the concepts and principles that characterize their good performance, to recognize in particular cases that the concepts and principles apply, and to apply them. The knowledge, recognition and application may be procedural rather than declarative. It may be domain-specific rather than widely applicable, and in either case may need subject-matter knowledge, sometimes of a deep kind.
Reflections of the sort illustrated by the previous two paragraphs have led scholars to identify the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a “critical thinker”, i.e., someone who thinks critically whenever it is appropriate to do so. We turn now to these three types of causal contributors to thinking critically. We start with dispositions, since arguably these are the most powerful contributors to being a critical thinker, can be fostered at an early stage of a child’s development, and are susceptible to general improvement (Glaser 1941: 175)
8. Critical Thinking Dispositions
Educational researchers use the term ‘dispositions’ broadly for the habits of mind and attitudes that contribute causally to being a critical thinker. Some writers (e.g., Paul & Elder 2006; Hamby 2014; Bailin & Battersby 2016a) propose to use the term ‘virtues’ for this dimension of a critical thinker. The virtues in question, although they are virtues of character, concern the person’s ways of thinking rather than the person’s ways of behaving towards others. They are not moral virtues but intellectual virtues, of the sort articulated by Zagzebski (1996) and discussed by Turri, Alfano, and Greco (2017).
On a realistic conception, thinking dispositions or intellectual virtues are real properties of thinkers. They are general tendencies, propensities, or inclinations to think in particular ways in particular circumstances, and can be genuinely explanatory (Siegel 1999). Sceptics argue that there is no evidence for a specific mental basis for the habits of mind that contribute to thinking critically, and that it is pedagogically misleading to posit such a basis (Bailin et al. 1999a). Whatever their status, critical thinking dispositions need motivation for their initial formation in a child—motivation that may be external or internal. As children develop, the force of habit will gradually become important in sustaining the disposition (Nieto & Valenzuela 2012). Mere force of habit, however, is unlikely to sustain critical thinking dispositions. Critical thinkers must value and enjoy using their knowledge and abilities to think things through for themselves. They must be committed to, and lovers of, inquiry.
A person may have a critical thinking disposition with respect to only some kinds of issues. For example, one could be open-minded about scientific issues but not about religious issues. Similarly, one could be confident in one’s ability to reason about the theological implications of the existence of evil in the world but not in one’s ability to reason about the best design for a guided ballistic missile.
Facione (1990a: 25) divides “affective dispositions” of critical thinking into approaches to life and living in general and approaches to specific issues, questions or problems. Adapting this distinction, one can usefully divide critical thinking dispositions into initiating dispositions (those that contribute causally to starting to think critically about an issue) and internal dispositions (those that contribute causally to doing a good job of thinking critically once one has started). The two categories are not mutually exclusive. For example, open-mindedness, in the sense of willingness to consider alternative points of view to one’s own, is both an initiating and an internal disposition.
Using the strategy of considering factors that would block people with the ability to think critically from doing so, we can identify as initiating dispositions for thinking critically attentiveness, a habit of inquiry, self-confidence, courage, open-mindedness, willingness to suspend judgment, trust in reason, wanting evidence for one’s beliefs, and seeking the truth. We consider briefly what each of these dispositions amounts to, in each case citing sources that acknowledge them.
- Attentiveness : One will not think critically if one fails to recognize an issue that needs to be thought through. For example, the pedestrian in Weather would not have looked up if he had not noticed that the air was suddenly cooler. To be a critical thinker, then, one needs to be habitually attentive to one’s surroundings, noticing not only what one senses but also sources of perplexity in messages received and in one’s own beliefs and attitudes (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
- Habit of inquiry : Inquiry is effortful, and one needs an internal push to engage in it. For example, the student in Bubbles could easily have stopped at idle wondering about the cause of the bubbles rather than reasoning to a hypothesis, then designing and executing an experiment to test it. Thus willingness to think critically needs mental energy and initiative. What can supply that energy? Love of inquiry, or perhaps just a habit of inquiry. Hamby (2015) has argued that willingness to inquire is the central critical thinking virtue, one that encompasses all the others. It is recognized as a critical thinking disposition by Dewey (1910: 29; 1933: 35), Glaser (1941: 5), Ennis (1987: 12; 1991: 8), Facione (1990a: 25), Bailin et al. (1999b: 294), Halpern (1998: 452), and Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo (2001).
- Self-confidence : Lack of confidence in one’s abilities can block critical thinking. For example, if the woman in Rash lacked confidence in her ability to figure things out for herself, she might just have assumed that the rash on her chest was the allergic reaction to her medication against which the pharmacist had warned her. Thus willingness to think critically requires confidence in one’s ability to inquire (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
- Courage : Fear of thinking for oneself can stop one from doing it. Thus willingness to think critically requires intellectual courage (Paul & Elder 2006: 16).
- Open-mindedness : A dogmatic attitude will impede thinking critically. For example, a person who adheres rigidly to a “pro-choice” position on the issue of the legal status of induced abortion is likely to be unwilling to consider seriously the issue of when in its development an unborn child acquires a moral right to life. Thus willingness to think critically requires open-mindedness, in the sense of a willingness to examine questions to which one already accepts an answer but which further evidence or reasoning might cause one to answer differently (Dewey 1933; Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b; Halpern 1998, Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). Paul (1981) emphasizes open-mindedness about alternative world-views, and recommends a dialectical approach to integrating such views as central to what he calls “strong sense” critical thinking. In three studies, Haran, Ritov, & Mellers (2013) found that actively open-minded thinking, including “the tendency to weigh new evidence against a favored belief, to spend sufficient time on a problem before giving up, and to consider carefully the opinions of others in forming one’s own”, led study participants to acquire information and thus to make accurate estimations.
- Willingness to suspend judgment : Premature closure on an initial solution will block critical thinking. Thus willingness to think critically requires a willingness to suspend judgment while alternatives are explored (Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Halpern 1998).
- Trust in reason : Since distrust in the processes of reasoned inquiry will dissuade one from engaging in it, trust in them is an initiating critical thinking disposition (Facione 1990a, 25; Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001; Paul & Elder 2006). In reaction to an allegedly exclusive emphasis on reason in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, Thayer-Bacon (2000) argues that intuition, imagination, and emotion have important roles to play in an adequate conception of critical thinking that she calls “constructive thinking”. From her point of view, critical thinking requires trust not only in reason but also in intuition, imagination, and emotion.
- Seeking the truth : If one does not care about the truth but is content to stick with one’s initial bias on an issue, then one will not think critically about it. Seeking the truth is thus an initiating critical thinking disposition (Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). A disposition to seek the truth is implicit in more specific critical thinking dispositions, such as trying to be well-informed, considering seriously points of view other than one’s own, looking for alternatives, suspending judgment when the evidence is insufficient, and adopting a position when the evidence supporting it is sufficient.
Some of the initiating dispositions, such as open-mindedness and willingness to suspend judgment, are also internal critical thinking dispositions, in the sense of mental habits or attitudes that contribute causally to doing a good job of critical thinking once one starts the process. But there are many other internal critical thinking dispositions. Some of them are parasitic on one’s conception of good thinking. For example, it is constitutive of good thinking about an issue to formulate the issue clearly and to maintain focus on it. For this purpose, one needs not only the corresponding ability but also the corresponding disposition. Ennis (1991: 8) describes it as the disposition “to determine and maintain focus on the conclusion or question”, Facione (1990a: 25) as “clarity in stating the question or concern”. Other internal dispositions are motivators to continue or adjust the critical thinking process, such as willingness to persist in a complex task and willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies in an attempt to self-correct (Halpern 1998: 452). For a list of identified internal critical thinking dispositions, see the Supplement on Internal Critical Thinking Dispositions .
Some theorists postulate skills, i.e., acquired abilities, as operative in critical thinking. It is not obvious, however, that a good mental act is the exercise of a generic acquired skill. Inferring an expected time of arrival, as in Transit , has some generic components but also uses non-generic subject-matter knowledge. Bailin et al. (1999a) argue against viewing critical thinking skills as generic and discrete, on the ground that skilled performance at a critical thinking task cannot be separated from knowledge of concepts and from domain-specific principles of good thinking. Talk of skills, they concede, is unproblematic if it means merely that a person with critical thinking skills is capable of intelligent performance.
Despite such scepticism, theorists of critical thinking have listed as general contributors to critical thinking what they variously call abilities (Glaser 1941; Ennis 1962, 1991), skills (Facione 1990a; Halpern 1998) or competencies (Fisher & Scriven 1997). Amalgamating these lists would produce a confusing and chaotic cornucopia of more than 50 possible educational objectives, with only partial overlap among them. It makes sense instead to try to understand the reasons for the multiplicity and diversity, and to make a selection according to one’s own reasons for singling out abilities to be developed in a critical thinking curriculum. Two reasons for diversity among lists of critical thinking abilities are the underlying conception of critical thinking and the envisaged educational level. Appraisal-only conceptions, for example, involve a different suite of abilities than constructive-only conceptions. Some lists, such as those in (Glaser 1941), are put forward as educational objectives for secondary school students, whereas others are proposed as objectives for college students (e.g., Facione 1990a).
The abilities described in the remaining paragraphs of this section emerge from reflection on the general abilities needed to do well the thinking activities identified in section 6 as components of the critical thinking process described in section 5 . The derivation of each collection of abilities is accompanied by citation of sources that list such abilities and of standardized tests that claim to test them.
Observational abilities : Careful and accurate observation sometimes requires specialist expertise and practice, as in the case of observing birds and observing accident scenes. However, there are general abilities of noticing what one’s senses are picking up from one’s environment and of being able to articulate clearly and accurately to oneself and others what one has observed. It helps in exercising them to be able to recognize and take into account factors that make one’s observation less trustworthy, such as prior framing of the situation, inadequate time, deficient senses, poor observation conditions, and the like. It helps as well to be skilled at taking steps to make one’s observation more trustworthy, such as moving closer to get a better look, measuring something three times and taking the average, and checking what one thinks one is observing with someone else who is in a good position to observe it. It also helps to be skilled at recognizing respects in which one’s report of one’s observation involves inference rather than direct observation, so that one can then consider whether the inference is justified. These abilities come into play as well when one thinks about whether and with what degree of confidence to accept an observation report, for example in the study of history or in a criminal investigation or in assessing news reports. Observational abilities show up in some lists of critical thinking abilities (Ennis 1962: 90; Facione 1990a: 16; Ennis 1991: 9). There are items testing a person’s ability to judge the credibility of observation reports in the Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, Levels X and Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). Norris and King (1983, 1985, 1990a, 1990b) is a test of ability to appraise observation reports.
Emotional abilities : The emotions that drive a critical thinking process are perplexity or puzzlement, a wish to resolve it, and satisfaction at achieving the desired resolution. Children experience these emotions at an early age, without being trained to do so. Education that takes critical thinking as a goal needs only to channel these emotions and to make sure not to stifle them. Collaborative critical thinking benefits from ability to recognize one’s own and others’ emotional commitments and reactions.
Questioning abilities : A critical thinking process needs transformation of an inchoate sense of perplexity into a clear question. Formulating a question well requires not building in questionable assumptions, not prejudging the issue, and using language that in context is unambiguous and precise enough (Ennis 1962: 97; 1991: 9).
Imaginative abilities : Thinking directed at finding the correct causal explanation of a general phenomenon or particular event requires an ability to imagine possible explanations. Thinking about what policy or plan of action to adopt requires generation of options and consideration of possible consequences of each option. Domain knowledge is required for such creative activity, but a general ability to imagine alternatives is helpful and can be nurtured so as to become easier, quicker, more extensive, and deeper (Dewey 1910: 34–39; 1933: 40–47). Facione (1990a) and Halpern (1998) include the ability to imagine alternatives as a critical thinking ability.
Inferential abilities : The ability to draw conclusions from given information, and to recognize with what degree of certainty one’s own or others’ conclusions follow, is universally recognized as a general critical thinking ability. All 11 examples in section 2 of this article include inferences, some from hypotheses or options (as in Transit , Ferryboat and Disorder ), others from something observed (as in Weather and Rash ). None of these inferences is formally valid. Rather, they are licensed by general, sometimes qualified substantive rules of inference (Toulmin 1958) that rest on domain knowledge—that a bus trip takes about the same time in each direction, that the terminal of a wireless telegraph would be located on the highest possible place, that sudden cooling is often followed by rain, that an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug generally shows up soon after one starts taking it. It is a matter of controversy to what extent the specialized ability to deduce conclusions from premisses using formal rules of inference is needed for critical thinking. Dewey (1933) locates logical forms in setting out the products of reflection rather than in the process of reflection. Ennis (1981a), on the other hand, maintains that a liberally-educated person should have the following abilities: to translate natural-language statements into statements using the standard logical operators, to use appropriately the language of necessary and sufficient conditions, to deal with argument forms and arguments containing symbols, to determine whether in virtue of an argument’s form its conclusion follows necessarily from its premisses, to reason with logically complex propositions, and to apply the rules and procedures of deductive logic. Inferential abilities are recognized as critical thinking abilities by Glaser (1941: 6), Facione (1990a: 9), Ennis (1991: 9), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 99, 111), and Halpern (1998: 452). Items testing inferential abilities constitute two of the five subtests of the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (Watson & Glaser 1980a, 1980b, 1994), two of the four sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), three of the seven sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), 11 of the 34 items on Forms A and B of the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992), and a high but variable proportion of the 25 selected-response questions in the Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017).
Experimenting abilities : Knowing how to design and execute an experiment is important not just in scientific research but also in everyday life, as in Rash . Dewey devoted a whole chapter of his How We Think (1910: 145–156; 1933: 190–202) to the superiority of experimentation over observation in advancing knowledge. Experimenting abilities come into play at one remove in appraising reports of scientific studies. Skill in designing and executing experiments includes the acknowledged abilities to appraise evidence (Glaser 1941: 6), to carry out experiments and to apply appropriate statistical inference techniques (Facione 1990a: 9), to judge inductions to an explanatory hypothesis (Ennis 1991: 9), and to recognize the need for an adequately large sample size (Halpern 1998). The Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) includes four items (out of 52) on experimental design. The Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) makes room for appraisal of study design in both its performance task and its selected-response questions.
Consulting abilities : Skill at consulting sources of information comes into play when one seeks information to help resolve a problem, as in Candidate . Ability to find and appraise information includes ability to gather and marshal pertinent information (Glaser 1941: 6), to judge whether a statement made by an alleged authority is acceptable (Ennis 1962: 84), to plan a search for desired information (Facione 1990a: 9), and to judge the credibility of a source (Ennis 1991: 9). Ability to judge the credibility of statements is tested by 24 items (out of 76) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) and by four items (out of 52) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). The College Learning Assessment’s performance task requires evaluation of whether information in documents is credible or unreliable (Council for Aid to Education 2017).
Argument analysis abilities : The ability to identify and analyze arguments contributes to the process of surveying arguments on an issue in order to form one’s own reasoned judgment, as in Candidate . The ability to detect and analyze arguments is recognized as a critical thinking skill by Facione (1990a: 7–8), Ennis (1991: 9) and Halpern (1998). Five items (out of 34) on the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992) test skill at argument analysis. The College Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) incorporates argument analysis in its selected-response tests of critical reading and evaluation and of critiquing an argument.
Judging skills and deciding skills : Skill at judging and deciding is skill at recognizing what judgment or decision the available evidence and argument supports, and with what degree of confidence. It is thus a component of the inferential skills already discussed.
Lists and tests of critical thinking abilities often include two more abilities: identifying assumptions and constructing and evaluating definitions.
In addition to dispositions and abilities, critical thinking needs knowledge: of critical thinking concepts, of critical thinking principles, and of the subject-matter of the thinking.
We can derive a short list of concepts whose understanding contributes to critical thinking from the critical thinking abilities described in the preceding section. Observational abilities require an understanding of the difference between observation and inference. Questioning abilities require an understanding of the concepts of ambiguity and vagueness. Inferential abilities require an understanding of the difference between conclusive and defeasible inference (traditionally, between deduction and induction), as well as of the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Experimenting abilities require an understanding of the concepts of hypothesis, null hypothesis, assumption and prediction, as well as of the concept of statistical significance and of its difference from importance. They also require an understanding of the difference between an experiment and an observational study, and in particular of the difference between a randomized controlled trial, a prospective correlational study and a retrospective (case-control) study. Argument analysis abilities require an understanding of the concepts of argument, premiss, assumption, conclusion and counter-consideration. Additional critical thinking concepts are proposed by Bailin et al. (1999b: 293), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 105–106), Black (2012), and Blair (2021).
According to Glaser (1941: 25), ability to think critically requires knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning. If we review the list of abilities in the preceding section, however, we can see that some of them can be acquired and exercised merely through practice, possibly guided in an educational setting, followed by feedback. Searching intelligently for a causal explanation of some phenomenon or event requires that one consider a full range of possible causal contributors, but it seems more important that one implements this principle in one’s practice than that one is able to articulate it. What is important is “operational knowledge” of the standards and principles of good thinking (Bailin et al. 1999b: 291–293). But the development of such critical thinking abilities as designing an experiment or constructing an operational definition can benefit from learning their underlying theory. Further, explicit knowledge of quirks of human thinking seems useful as a cautionary guide. Human memory is not just fallible about details, as people learn from their own experiences of misremembering, but is so malleable that a detailed, clear and vivid recollection of an event can be a total fabrication (Loftus 2017). People seek or interpret evidence in ways that are partial to their existing beliefs and expectations, often unconscious of their “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998). Not only are people subject to this and other cognitive biases (Kahneman 2011), of which they are typically unaware, but it may be counter-productive for one to make oneself aware of them and try consciously to counteract them or to counteract social biases such as racial or sexual stereotypes (Kenyon & Beaulac 2014). It is helpful to be aware of these facts and of the superior effectiveness of blocking the operation of biases—for example, by making an immediate record of one’s observations, refraining from forming a preliminary explanatory hypothesis, blind refereeing, double-blind randomized trials, and blind grading of students’ work. It is also helpful to be aware of the prevalence of “noise” (unwanted unsystematic variability of judgments), of how to detect noise (through a noise audit), and of how to reduce noise: make accuracy the goal, think statistically, break a process of arriving at a judgment into independent tasks, resist premature intuitions, in a group get independent judgments first, favour comparative judgments and scales (Kahneman, Sibony, & Sunstein 2021). It is helpful as well to be aware of the concept of “bounded rationality” in decision-making and of the related distinction between “satisficing” and optimizing (Simon 1956; Gigerenzer 2001).
Critical thinking about an issue requires substantive knowledge of the domain to which the issue belongs. Critical thinking abilities are not a magic elixir that can be applied to any issue whatever by somebody who has no knowledge of the facts relevant to exploring that issue. For example, the student in Bubbles needed to know that gases do not penetrate solid objects like a glass, that air expands when heated, that the volume of an enclosed gas varies directly with its temperature and inversely with its pressure, and that hot objects will spontaneously cool down to the ambient temperature of their surroundings unless kept hot by insulation or a source of heat. Critical thinkers thus need a rich fund of subject-matter knowledge relevant to the variety of situations they encounter. This fact is recognized in the inclusion among critical thinking dispositions of a concern to become and remain generally well informed.
Experimental educational interventions, with control groups, have shown that education can improve critical thinking skills and dispositions, as measured by standardized tests. For information about these tests, see the Supplement on Assessment .
What educational methods are most effective at developing the dispositions, abilities and knowledge of a critical thinker? In a comprehensive meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies of strategies for teaching students to think critically, Abrami et al. (2015) found that dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring each increased the effectiveness of the educational intervention, and that they were most effective when combined. They also found that in these studies a combination of separate instruction in critical thinking with subject-matter instruction in which students are encouraged to think critically was more effective than either by itself. However, the difference was not statistically significant; that is, it might have arisen by chance.
Most of these studies lack the longitudinal follow-up required to determine whether the observed differential improvements in critical thinking abilities or dispositions continue over time, for example until high school or college graduation. For details on studies of methods of developing critical thinking skills and dispositions, see the Supplement on Educational Methods .
Scholars have denied the generalizability of critical thinking abilities across subject domains, have alleged bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, and have investigated the relationship of critical thinking to other kinds of thinking.
McPeck (1981) attacked the thinking skills movement of the 1970s, including the critical thinking movement. He argued that there are no general thinking skills, since thinking is always thinking about some subject-matter. It is futile, he claimed, for schools and colleges to teach thinking as if it were a separate subject. Rather, teachers should lead their pupils to become autonomous thinkers by teaching school subjects in a way that brings out their cognitive structure and that encourages and rewards discussion and argument. As some of his critics (e.g., Paul 1985; Siegel 1985) pointed out, McPeck’s central argument needs elaboration, since it has obvious counter-examples in writing and speaking, for which (up to a certain level of complexity) there are teachable general abilities even though they are always about some subject-matter. To make his argument convincing, McPeck needs to explain how thinking differs from writing and speaking in a way that does not permit useful abstraction of its components from the subject-matters with which it deals. He has not done so. Nevertheless, his position that the dispositions and abilities of a critical thinker are best developed in the context of subject-matter instruction is shared by many theorists of critical thinking, including Dewey (1910, 1933), Glaser (1941), Passmore (1980), Weinstein (1990), Bailin et al. (1999b), and Willingham (2019).
McPeck’s challenge prompted reflection on the extent to which critical thinking is subject-specific. McPeck argued for a strong subject-specificity thesis, according to which it is a conceptual truth that all critical thinking abilities are specific to a subject. (He did not however extend his subject-specificity thesis to critical thinking dispositions. In particular, he took the disposition to suspend judgment in situations of cognitive dissonance to be a general disposition.) Conceptual subject-specificity is subject to obvious counter-examples, such as the general ability to recognize confusion of necessary and sufficient conditions. A more modest thesis, also endorsed by McPeck, is epistemological subject-specificity, according to which the norms of good thinking vary from one field to another. Epistemological subject-specificity clearly holds to a certain extent; for example, the principles in accordance with which one solves a differential equation are quite different from the principles in accordance with which one determines whether a painting is a genuine Picasso. But the thesis suffers, as Ennis (1989) points out, from vagueness of the concept of a field or subject and from the obvious existence of inter-field principles, however broadly the concept of a field is construed. For example, the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning hold for all the varied fields in which such reasoning occurs. A third kind of subject-specificity is empirical subject-specificity, according to which as a matter of empirically observable fact a person with the abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker in one area of investigation will not necessarily have them in another area of investigation.
The thesis of empirical subject-specificity raises the general problem of transfer. If critical thinking abilities and dispositions have to be developed independently in each school subject, how are they of any use in dealing with the problems of everyday life and the political and social issues of contemporary society, most of which do not fit into the framework of a traditional school subject? Proponents of empirical subject-specificity tend to argue that transfer is more likely to occur if there is critical thinking instruction in a variety of domains, with explicit attention to dispositions and abilities that cut across domains. But evidence for this claim is scanty. There is a need for well-designed empirical studies that investigate the conditions that make transfer more likely.
It is common ground in debates about the generality or subject-specificity of critical thinking dispositions and abilities that critical thinking about any topic requires background knowledge about the topic. For example, the most sophisticated understanding of the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning is of no help unless accompanied by some knowledge of what might be plausible explanations of some phenomenon under investigation.
Critics have objected to bias in the theory, pedagogy and practice of critical thinking. Commentators (e.g., Alston 1995; Ennis 1998) have noted that anyone who takes a position has a bias in the neutral sense of being inclined in one direction rather than others. The critics, however, are objecting to bias in the pejorative sense of an unjustified favoring of certain ways of knowing over others, frequently alleging that the unjustly favoured ways are those of a dominant sex or culture (Bailin 1995). These ways favour:
- reinforcement of egocentric and sociocentric biases over dialectical engagement with opposing world-views (Paul 1981, 1984; Warren 1998)
- distancing from the object of inquiry over closeness to it (Martin 1992; Thayer-Bacon 1992)
- indifference to the situation of others over care for them (Martin 1992)
- orientation to thought over orientation to action (Martin 1992)
- being reasonable over caring to understand people’s ideas (Thayer-Bacon 1993)
- being neutral and objective over being embodied and situated (Thayer-Bacon 1995a)
- doubting over believing (Thayer-Bacon 1995b)
- reason over emotion, imagination and intuition (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
- solitary thinking over collaborative thinking (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
- written and spoken assignments over other forms of expression (Alston 2001)
- attention to written and spoken communications over attention to human problems (Alston 2001)
- winning debates in the public sphere over making and understanding meaning (Alston 2001)
A common thread in this smorgasbord of accusations is dissatisfaction with focusing on the logical analysis and evaluation of reasoning and arguments. While these authors acknowledge that such analysis and evaluation is part of critical thinking and should be part of its conceptualization and pedagogy, they insist that it is only a part. Paul (1981), for example, bemoans the tendency of atomistic teaching of methods of analyzing and evaluating arguments to turn students into more able sophists, adept at finding fault with positions and arguments with which they disagree but even more entrenched in the egocentric and sociocentric biases with which they began. Martin (1992) and Thayer-Bacon (1992) cite with approval the self-reported intimacy with their subject-matter of leading researchers in biology and medicine, an intimacy that conflicts with the distancing allegedly recommended in standard conceptions and pedagogy of critical thinking. Thayer-Bacon (2000) contrasts the embodied and socially embedded learning of her elementary school students in a Montessori school, who used their imagination, intuition and emotions as well as their reason, with conceptions of critical thinking as
thinking that is used to critique arguments, offer justifications, and make judgments about what are the good reasons, or the right answers. (Thayer-Bacon 2000: 127–128)
Alston (2001) reports that her students in a women’s studies class were able to see the flaws in the Cinderella myth that pervades much romantic fiction but in their own romantic relationships still acted as if all failures were the woman’s fault and still accepted the notions of love at first sight and living happily ever after. Students, she writes, should
be able to connect their intellectual critique to a more affective, somatic, and ethical account of making risky choices that have sexist, racist, classist, familial, sexual, or other consequences for themselves and those both near and far… critical thinking that reads arguments, texts, or practices merely on the surface without connections to feeling/desiring/doing or action lacks an ethical depth that should infuse the difference between mere cognitive activity and something we want to call critical thinking. (Alston 2001: 34)
Some critics portray such biases as unfair to women. Thayer-Bacon (1992), for example, has charged modern critical thinking theory with being sexist, on the ground that it separates the self from the object and causes one to lose touch with one’s inner voice, and thus stigmatizes women, who (she asserts) link self to object and listen to their inner voice. Her charge does not imply that women as a group are on average less able than men to analyze and evaluate arguments. Facione (1990c) found no difference by sex in performance on his California Critical Thinking Skills Test. Kuhn (1991: 280–281) found no difference by sex in either the disposition or the competence to engage in argumentative thinking.
The critics propose a variety of remedies for the biases that they allege. In general, they do not propose to eliminate or downplay critical thinking as an educational goal. Rather, they propose to conceptualize critical thinking differently and to change its pedagogy accordingly. Their pedagogical proposals arise logically from their objections. They can be summarized as follows:
- Focus on argument networks with dialectical exchanges reflecting contesting points of view rather than on atomic arguments, so as to develop “strong sense” critical thinking that transcends egocentric and sociocentric biases (Paul 1981, 1984).
- Foster closeness to the subject-matter and feeling connected to others in order to inform a humane democracy (Martin 1992).
- Develop “constructive thinking” as a social activity in a community of physically embodied and socially embedded inquirers with personal voices who value not only reason but also imagination, intuition and emotion (Thayer-Bacon 2000).
- In developing critical thinking in school subjects, treat as important neither skills nor dispositions but opening worlds of meaning (Alston 2001).
- Attend to the development of critical thinking dispositions as well as skills, and adopt the “critical pedagogy” practised and advocated by Freire (1968 ) and hooks (1994) (Dalgleish, Girard, & Davies 2017).
A common thread in these proposals is treatment of critical thinking as a social, interactive, personally engaged activity like that of a quilting bee or a barn-raising (Thayer-Bacon 2000) rather than as an individual, solitary, distanced activity symbolized by Rodin’s The Thinker . One can get a vivid description of education with the former type of goal from the writings of bell hooks (1994, 2010). Critical thinking for her is open-minded dialectical exchange across opposing standpoints and from multiple perspectives, a conception similar to Paul’s “strong sense” critical thinking (Paul 1981). She abandons the structure of domination in the traditional classroom. In an introductory course on black women writers, for example, she assigns students to write an autobiographical paragraph about an early racial memory, then to read it aloud as the others listen, thus affirming the uniqueness and value of each voice and creating a communal awareness of the diversity of the group’s experiences (hooks 1994: 84). Her “engaged pedagogy” is thus similar to the “freedom under guidance” implemented in John Dewey’s Laboratory School of Chicago in the late 1890s and early 1900s. It incorporates the dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring that Abrami (2015) found to be most effective in improving critical thinking skills and dispositions.
What is the relationship of critical thinking to problem solving, decision-making, higher-order thinking, creative thinking, and other recognized types of thinking? One’s answer to this question obviously depends on how one defines the terms used in the question. If critical thinking is conceived broadly to cover any careful thinking about any topic for any purpose, then problem solving and decision making will be kinds of critical thinking, if they are done carefully. Historically, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’ were two names for the same thing. If critical thinking is conceived more narrowly as consisting solely of appraisal of intellectual products, then it will be disjoint with problem solving and decision making, which are constructive.
Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives used the phrase “intellectual abilities and skills” for what had been labeled “critical thinking” by some, “reflective thinking” by Dewey and others, and “problem solving” by still others (Bloom et al. 1956: 38). Thus, the so-called “higher-order thinking skills” at the taxonomy’s top levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation are just critical thinking skills, although they do not come with general criteria for their assessment (Ennis 1981b). The revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2001) likewise treats critical thinking as cutting across those types of cognitive process that involve more than remembering (Anderson et al. 2001: 269–270). For details, see the Supplement on History .
As to creative thinking, it overlaps with critical thinking (Bailin 1987, 1988). Thinking about the explanation of some phenomenon or event, as in Ferryboat , requires creative imagination in constructing plausible explanatory hypotheses. Likewise, thinking about a policy question, as in Candidate , requires creativity in coming up with options. Conversely, creativity in any field needs to be balanced by critical appraisal of the draft painting or novel or mathematical theory.
- Abrami, Philip C., Robert M. Bernard, Eugene Borokhovski, David I. Waddington, C. Anne Wade, and Tonje Person, 2015, “Strategies for Teaching Students to Think Critically: A Meta-analysis”, Review of Educational Research , 85(2): 275–314. doi:10.3102/0034654314551063
- Aikin, Wilford M., 1942, The Story of the Eight-year Study, with Conclusions and Recommendations , Volume I of Adventure in American Education , New York and London: Harper & Brothers. [ Aikin 1942 available online ]
- Alston, Kal, 1995, “Begging the Question: Is Critical Thinking Biased?”, Educational Theory , 45(2): 225–233. doi:10.1111/j.1741-5446.1995.00225.x
- –––, 2001, “Re/Thinking Critical Thinking: The Seductions of Everyday Life”, Studies in Philosophy and Education , 20(1): 27–40. doi:10.1023/A:1005247128053
- American Educational Research Association, 2014, Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing / American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, National Council on Measurement in Education , Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.
- Anderson, Lorin W., David R. Krathwohl, Peter W. Airiasian, Kathleen A. Cruikshank, Richard E. Mayer, Paul R. Pintrich, James Raths, and Merlin C. Wittrock, 2001, A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives , New York: Longman, complete edition.
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How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay With Tips and Examples
31 July 2023
Essay writing is an integral academic exercise for students in higher educational institutions. As an example of different paper types, a critical thinking essay requires students to employ analytical and reflective writing skills. In essence, these skills underscore essential features of a critical thinking essay: analysis of information, reflection on key findings, a review of the relevance of the information, and an identification of any conclusions made by the author(s) or other scholars. Hence, a critical thinking essay is a specific type of writing that requires learners to read documents and make interpretations from their points of view. In turn, writers need to learn how to write a critical thinking essay to master their analytical, creative, and reflective skills.
General Guidelines for Writing a Critical Thinking Essay
Critical thinking is an essential skill, particularly for students who need to analyze and interpret data. In this case, the essence of this skill is that learners confront issues every day that require them to make prompt decisions. Moreover, critical thinking is the mechanism by which individuals arrive at these decisions. Therefore, a critical thinking essay is a document that allows students to address an issue holistically. Then, it means addressing issues in an essay format by using critical thinking skills from different perspectives, highlighting possible alternatives, and making well-thought-out decisions. To the audience, such a text makes it easy to understand the writer’s message and either agree or disagree with it. Besides, the decision to agree or disagree is based on the writer’s information regarding an issue in question. Hence, this is why authors of critical thinking essays need to provide details that make their arguments stronger and more palatable to the audience.
1. Defining Characteristics of a Critical Thinking Essay
When writing a critical thinking essay, students should address several essential features. Firstly, writers need to reflect on what they have read, meaning taking time to consider the relevance of the information. In this case, such an attitude helps them to make strong arguments in defense of their points of view. Secondly, learners need to analyze how the information is presented and state whether it is sufficient or needs improvement. Thirdly, writers need to review the information based on previous knowledge. Here, they should say whether the information advances a concept or theory or contradicts existing knowledge. Finally, scholars need to identify the conclusion reached by the author(s) of the information and support or challenge it.
2. How to Identify a Critical Thinking Essay
Based on the essential features described above, students can tell whether an essay that they are writing is a critical thinking paper. Ideally, learners can know that their papers are critical thinking essays if prompt requirements require them to read and analyze a text. Basically, the analysis process includes reflecting on the text, commenting on how information is presented and its relation to previous knowledge, and supporting or challenging the conclusion made. In principle, these requirements reflect the defining features of a critical thinking essay.
3. How Does a Critical Thinking Essay Differ From Other Papers
A critical thinking essay differs fundamentally from other types of essays because it requires a student to read a text, such as a book or a poem, and analyze it using the writer’s perspective. Moreover, some instructions need students to analyze a film. In other words, writing a critical thinking essay emphasizes the students’ understanding of information and the meaning of what they have read, watched, or heard. Indeed, it is a central point of difference from other types of papers that require students to refrain from personal viewpoints. Then, this feature means that instructors grade a critical thinking essay based on the writer’s ability to develop a coherent argument and use essential writing skills. In this light, one can argue that a critical thinking essay is a form of an argumentative essay .
Free Examples of 20 Topics for Writing a Critical Thinking Essay
1. identify communication differences between men and women.
Under this topic, the students’ task is to read texts that talk about how men and women communicate and identify the differences. In this case, writers should analyze what they have read and summarize it via concise statements or arguments.
2. Discuss Drug Use in Sports
Under this topic, the students’ task is to research texts, such as research journal articles and government reports, that address the problem of drug use in sports and summarize their findings.
3. Explore the Anti-Meth Campaign
Under this topic, the students’ task is to read widely about anti-meth campaigns and provide an in-depth analysis of their impacts. By reading a critical thinking essay, the audience should understand whether specific campaigns have been effective or ineffective.
4. Discuss Homelessness and Its Social Impacts
Under this topic, the students’ task is to read texts about homelessness, such as journal articles and reports by governments and other humanitarian organizations, and explain the root causes and social implications of homelessness.
5. Discuss the History of College Football in the United States
Under this topic, the students’ task is to read documents, such as books and media articles, narrating college football history in the US. After writing a critical thinking essay, the audience should identify specific challenges that college football has faced in its development in the country.
6. Explore Health Effects of Obesity
Under this topic, the students’ task is to read research studies and medical reports discussing obesity. In turn, a critical thinking essay should explain the specific causes of obesity and the risks that obese individuals face.
7. Discuss the Significance of Street Art and Graffiti
Under this topic, the students’ task is to read texts discussing the evolution of street art and graffiti and make compelling arguments as to why they are essential features of modern art.
8. Sports On Television: Is It Necessary?
Under this topic, the students’ task is to explain why television has become a critical platform for sports and how it undermines or helps advance its social and cultural significance.
9. What Is the Essence of Multicultural Identity?
Under this topic, the students’ task is to explore the phenomenon of multiculturalism that has become notable and acceptable in modern society and explain its significance.
10. The Relevance of Body Size in Modeling
Under this topic, the students’ task is to explore the modeling profession and explain why body size matters. In other words, a critical thinking essay should make a case as to why a model should have a particular body size.
11. Understanding Multicultural Families
Under this topic, the students’ task is to explore multicultural families by reading texts that address the issue from a research or commentary perspective and summarize the leading arguments.
12. Changing Gender Roles: What It Means for Traditionalists
Under this topic, the student’s task is to explore gender roles from a historical and present perspective and discuss how it threatens or cements traditional views about the roles of men and women.
13. What Is Ethnic Music, and Does It Matter in a Multicultural Society?
Under this topic, the students’ task is to study multiculturalism and identify how ethnic music is a significant characteristic.
14. American Society and the Latino Influence
Under this topic, the students’ task is to study contemporary American society’s characteristics and indicate the extent to which Latinos and their culture (Latin American) have become a significant part of the American identity.
15. Challenges of Single-Parent Households
Under this topic, the students’ task is to read research studies on single parenthood and identify its challenges.
16. What Are the Features of a Good Movie?
Under this topic, the students’ task is to watch movies they consider “good” and provide an analysis of what makes them so.
17. Describe a Poem With a First-Person Point of View
Under this topic, the students’ task is to select a poem, examine it, and describe its outstanding features, such as literary devices.
18. The Dynamics of Adoption in a Multicultural Society
Under this topic, the students’ task is to examine the aspect of adoption within the context of a multicultural society.
19. What Store Strategies Influence Consumers?
Under this topic, the students’ task is to study the phenomenon of retail stores and give an analysis of specific factors that lead to their growth or shut down.
20. Euthanasia: The Questions of Ethics, Morals, and Legality
Under this topic, the students’ task is to examine the aspect of euthanasia (mercy or assisted killing) and give an opinion on whether society should address it from a perspective of ethics, morals, or law.
How Students Can Understand if They Need to Write a Critical Thinking Essay by Looking at a Topic
When it comes to essay writing, the department’s requirements provide direction about a critical thinking topic. By reading such a topic, students get an idea of what kind of paper they are supposed to write. Regarding a critical thinking essay, a topic should require students to research a specific theme, reflect on what they have read, and comment on how the author(s) have presented information, the relevance of the information to existing knowledge, and the significance of the author’s conclusion. In turn, these five tasks underscore the essential features of a critical thinking essay.
Structure of a Critical Thinking Essay
When it comes to an essay structure , a critical thinking essay comprises three main sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. When writing each of these sections, students should capture essential features. Firstly, the introduction should provide a hook to capture the readers’ attention and formulate a thesis statement to guide the paper’s arguments and ideas. In the body, writers should use topic sentences to introduce paragraphs. Besides, students should follow a sandwich rule, where they make a claim, provide supporting facts, and explain the significance of cited evidence to the paper’s thesis. In the conclusion part, authors should restate a thesis statement, summarize the main body points, and make a concluding remark. Finally, other essential features that learners should use in the main text are transitions to give a critical thinking paper a natural and logical flow of ideas and arguments.
Sample Outline Template for Writing a Critical Thinking Essay
A. Start with a hook sentence that makes a critical thinking essay interesting. B. Cover brief information about a theme discussed in body paragraphs. C. End with a thesis statement of a critical thinking essay.
A. Background Information:
- introduce an issue for readers;
- provide examples that support this issue;
- explain how examples correlate with a theme;
- finish with defining an issue for readers.
B. Argument on an Issue
- begin with an argument on an issue;
- covers examples to support this argument;
- explain how examples and argument are related;
- conclude how an argument on this theme is relevant.
C. Importance of an Issue
- state why this issue is important;
- support this statement with examples from credible sources;
- explain how these examples underline the importance of an issue;
- end with a concluding sentence that supports this importance.
A. Restate a thesis claim. B. Cover the key points discussed in body paragraphs. C. Provide a final thought on an issue.
An Example of a Critical Thinking Essay
Topic: Roles of Critical Thinking Skills
I. Introduction Sample of a Critical Thinking Essay
Critical thinking is a requirement in higher education because it reflects the level of mental preparedness of students intending to join the labor industry. In this case, essay writing is one of the strategies that higher education institutions use to develop these critical thinking skills in students. Writing argumentative essays has profoundly shaped my critical thinking skills and made me more reflective and analytical in my texts.
II. Examples of Body Paragraphs in a Critical Thinking Essay
A. background information of an issue.
The advent of the Internet opened a new world of research as scholars found a platform to publish research findings. Besides scholars, public and private entities have turned to the online platform to spread information they perceive as critical and needful. Over time, I have come to see the Internet as a crucial reservoir of knowledge, and I always turn to it for personal enrichment. Moreover, Gilster (1997) perceives critical thinking as a critical skill for individuals who use online platforms for academic purposes. In this case, the author demonstrates that, since the Internet is full of falsehoods and incomplete and obsolete information, it is critical for those who depend on this technology to employ critical thinking. Hence, such thinking helps users distinguish between essential, relevant information, and what appears to be irrelevant and nonessential.
On the issue of critical thinking, examining and analyzing content are fundamental exercises. In essence, critical thinking entails reading a text and interpreting it by using an analytical lens. For example, when students read novels, they can use their critical thinking skills to analyze the plot and characters and provide arguments that indicate an in-depth understanding of both (Gilster, 1997). In most cases, such ideas go beyond what is written in the novel to include the student’s interpretation of events. In my case, I use the Internet to find research and media articles on different topics, such as homelessness, substance abuse, crime, and police and law enforcement. Moreover, I use these articles to reflect on the dynamics that shape life in contemporary society, using my critical thinking skills to relate the past, present, and future. Therefore, I can state confidently that this habit has made me a strong debater on contemporary issues.
By using critical thinking skills, readers make deductions, thereby showcasing their understanding levels. As the literature suggests, critical thinking serves as a basis for knowledge accumulation and advancement (Ku & Ho, 2010). In my academic journey, I have employed critical thinking to gain insight into several issues. Furthermore, one of these issues is the significance of politics to the life of ordinary citizens. Then, many documents I have read about politics have made me conclude that politicians are selfish by default and only develop consensus when their interests are accommodated. Hence, this understanding has made me have minimal expectations from local and national political figures.
III. Conclusion Sample of a Critical Thinking Essay
Critical thinking is a key skill that helps individuals to analyze and reflect on information from diverse sources. Over the years, I have used critical thinking to analyze research and media articles published on online platforms and make logical deductions. Moreover, these deductions point to my ability to take information, analyze, and interpret it. Thus, I can confidently state that my critical thinking skills have made me aware of human weaknesses and the risk of putting too much trust in people vulnerable to shortcomings.
Gilster, P. (1997). Digital literacy: The thinking and survival skills new users need to make the Internet personally and professionally meaningful . New York, NY: Wiley.
Ku, K. Y., & Ho, I. T. (2010). Metacognitive strategies that enhance critical thinking. Metacognition and Learning , 5 (3), 251-267.
Summing Up on How to Write a Good Critical Thinking Essay
A critical thinking essay is a document that reflects students’ ability to use analytical and reflective skills in studying an issue. Although writing a critical thinking essay assumes following a basic structure of a standard essay, it has features that distinguish it from other papers. When writing this type of essay, students should master the following tips:
- read and analyze information;
- reflect on study findings;
- review the relevance of the information within the context of existing knowledge;
- identify any conclusions made by authors or other scholars and their significance.
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Critical Thinking Essay
Critical thinking is a skill that helps an individual to analyze information independent of other people’s thoughts. Therefore, it is the ability to make proper judgments based not only on what you think but what is true. It is a difficult skill to master yet critical for students as well as running daily life. Critical thinking essay writing involves absorbing the information and then further evaluating it. A critical thinker is not swayed by other people’s opinions, rather relies on the analyzed information to make decisions.
What is a critical thinking essay?
A critical thinking essay is a piece of writing that uses a writer’s analytical skills to address certain issues. This essay involves a well-read piece, combined with the identified weaknesses and personal arguments. The writer should understand that the role of this essay is not to fault-find. A critical thinking essay will use the available information, filter the unnecessary and make conclusions. A properly written critical thinking paper asks the right questions and addresses them appropriately. High school, college, and university students encounter such essays to equip them with knowledge on how to solve real-life problems.
Professor’s gauge such essays based on the students’ writing and analytical skills. Therefore, one must be present the ideas in a manner that proves their critical thinking prowess.
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How to create a thesis statement for critical thinking essay
When writing a thesis statement for a critical thinking essay, pick the opinion that you are least likely to agree with.
To get started, answer these questions about your topic:
- What is your position on this issue?
- Why do you think your position is true?
- How did you come to this conclusion?
- What facts have led you to form an opinion?
- Are there any facts that contradict your claim?
If so, how could they be explained in a way that does not conflict with your opinion? You can then draft your thesis statement by completing the following sentence template: “I believe [OPINION] because [REASONS], but many people disagree because [REASONS].”
Here are some examples of good thesis statements for critical thinking essays:
- I believe that we should eliminate all paper money in order to reduce crime and stimulate the economy. Many people disagree with me because they think it’s impractical, but I believe it can be done.
- I believe that school uniforms are necessary because students cannot learn if they are too distracted by clothing. Many people disagree with me because they think uniforms will make students less creative. However, I don’t agree because there is no evidence to support this claim.
- I believe that children do better in smaller classes because several studies show a significant difference in academic achievement between kids who attend small classes and kids who attend large ones. Many people disagree with me because they think teachers’ salaries need to be increased instead of class sizes decreased, but I think this is a false trade-off.
- I believe that cell phone usage should be banned in schools because it’s too distracting. Many people disagree with me because they think students should be able to learn how to handle distractions by practicing on their own time, but I don’t agree because they are not being held accountable for their performance once they leave the classroom. With practice, students will get used to being distracted which will harm them academically.
- I believe that women have an obligation to serve as soldiers during wartime even if it would mean killing innocent civilians. Many people disagree with me for religious reasons, but I believe that it is just for women to do whatever they can to protect their countries.
- I believe that gun control laws should be reformed because the current laws are ineffective. Many people disagree with me because they think that stricter restrictions will not stop criminals from getting guns illegally, but I don’t agree because it is easy for anyone to get a hold of a weapon if they want one badly enough.
- I believe that our public education system needs improvement because too many children are dropping out before finishing high school. Many people disagree with me because they think the government spends more on education than it needs to, but I believe that increased funding has made little impact on test scores or graduation rates.
- I believe that religion is an obstacle to world peace because antagonism based on religious beliefs contributes significantly to violence around the world. Many people disagree with me because they think that religion is fundamental to many cultures, but I believe that it has played a role in much of the conflict that exists today.
- I believe that internet pornography should be illegal because it harms families and encourages sexual violence. Many people disagree with me for political reasons, but I believe this would reduce sex crimes overall.
- I believe that schools should start later so students will get more sleep. Many people disagree with me because they think starting earlier makes kids perform better academically, but I don’t agree because there is no scientific evidence supporting this argument.
These are some examples of thesis statement for critical thinking essay to help you formulate your own thesis.
How to start a critical thinking essay in 9 steps
Starting a critical thinking essay is not hard when you know how to approach it. Critical thinking is the process of constructive reasoning that involves gathering information, evaluating evidence and analyzing data. This type of essay will require you to take a side on an argumentative issue in order to show your own critical thinking skills.
Here are 9 steps of starting a critical thinking essay effectively:
1. State the issue
State the main argumentative issue of your topic in a sentence. It is an important step because it will be used as a basis for further explaining and analyzing it. Keep in mind that you have to keep your points concise so do not write anything too long. For example, if you were doing a critical thinking essay on whether fast food should be banned from schools, you would write something like this: “The topic I will analyze critically in this essay is whether there should be fast food restaurants at schools.”
2. Provide reasons for your position
Doing this simply involves listing the reasons why you think one side is better than another or why one decision is more advantageous than another. There are many ways to come up with these, but the easiest is to choose from a list of common arguments. For example, if you were writing about fast food restaurants in schools, these would be some reasons why they should stay:
- They provide easy access to cheap and quick meals.
- They employ teenagers who need money for college or other expenses.
- A lot of students eat there because it’s close by and more affordable than bringing their own lunch.
3. Discuss the consequences
This step is very important because consequences are usually used as evidence when arguing one side over another so ignoring them will make your essay seem incomplete. You need to write about both sides’ possible consequences, even if you think one or another seems unlikely or ridiculous.”The consequences of banning fast-food restaurants from schools are that students won’t have access to affordable meals when they are hungry. Many teenagers who work part-time jobs at these restaurants will lose their only source of income.”
4. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses
There are always pros and cons to every plan, so do not neglect this step by simply focusing on the best possible outcomes or the worst ones. If you were writing about fast food restaurants in schools, an example of a strength would be something like having booths available during lunch time for students with special dietary needs while a weakness would be students being less likely to eat healthy if they can get cheap items like onion rings or burger combos. You need to list them all down because some arguments will contradict others, which means that you have to pick one over the other.
5. Analyze the alternatives
Having a list of alternatives will help you create a more thorough argument that covers all possibilities. You can either use the same plan with different variations of it or create new ones based on what you know about your topic so far. For example, if you were doing a critical thinking essay on whether fast food restaurants should be banned from schools, an alternative would be allowing these restaurants to stay but adding healthier items to their menus or providing educational information on nutrition for people who are interested in improving their diets.
6. Argue against your position
This step involves arguing against your own position by stating reasons that prove your side is not beneficial as others think it is or that it has flaws that would not occur with another plan. This is important because it will help you convince your audience that although your position may be unpopular, they should buy into what you’re saying rather than the popular opinion by showing them how there are pros and cons to both arguments. If you were doing a critical thinking essay on whether fast food restaurants should be allowed at schools, an example of an argument against this idea could be:
“The existence of these restaurants encourages students to buy fast food instead of bringing their own lunch which is healthier for them.”
7. Conclude the essay
Doing this step last allows you to use any new information or ideas you come up with while writing the rest of your paper that will allow you to finish it without worrying about forgetting something or going off topic. The conclusion should be a summary of your main points and reasons, pointing out which ones have the most evidence while still managing to stay within the word limit.
For example, in a critical thinking essay on whether fast food restaurants should be banned from schools a good conclusion would be:
“Although there are many pros and cons to both arguments, I believe that fast food establishments should not be allowed in schools because they do not provide necessary nutrition for students who use them as their main source of food.”
8. Make your citations
Citations are important because academics love numbers even though it’s only ever one person’s opinion or point that is being represented by these statistics or facts so you need to give credit when it is due. Make sure that you provide the full name of the source and a page number whenever you make a citation. The style used differs from one school or research institution to another, so you should check it out before doing your essay or asking someone for help.
9. Edit and proofread your work
The last step involves going over every sentence and checking if any words are misspelled or misplaced, including where punctuation goes within quotations and which type is being used. When you’re done, print out what you have written and read it through once more to see if any new information or ideas come up that could improve your paper. You might want to spend a bit of time reading the essay back to yourself in a different voice than the one you would typically use so you can hear how it sounds and find anything that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the writing.
How to write a critical thinking essay for school in 6 steps
The following are some steps that will help you to effectively write a critical thinking essay:
Step 1. Choose the right topic
Some instructors may provide students on a topic to analyze while others will allow the learners to choose. If one is availed to you, make sure you read and understand it before starting to conduct your research. Your professor may ask you to analyze an article, essay, piece of literature or a controversial opinion. On the other hand, if you are to pick a topic, choose one that interests you. As much as you would like to impress your professor, never choose a tic that is too difficult for you to handle. Select an area that provides sufficient information for your basic arguments.
Step 2. Conduct your research
Collect information that relates to your current knowledge on the topic. Ensure that you gather the materials from credible and verifiable sources. If you are to analyze another person’s piece of work, read through it attentively. Write down your thoughts as you continue reading. You can also include a list of questions that will need to be addressed from the text. Note the sources from which you have drawn information.
Step 3. Develop a thesis statement
A good thesis forms the central argument of your essay and the direction you will take. Though brief, the thesis statement should mention the main points of your argument and your stand. Having gathered the relevant information, a good thesis should contain the points that you will discuss in the body of your essay. Take time to come up with a strong thesis statement since it will determine how critically analyzed your information is. Do not use obvious facts or information as your thesis statement.
Step 4. Outline your work
Since you have the thesis statement and relevant material, create your essay’s blueprints. Some critical thinking essays are backed up by external sources while others depend on your thinking. A critical thinking essay is not the place to take express emotions. Therefore, you should present the logical views in line with your thesis statement. While creating your outline, consider other scholarly viewpoints on the same matter.
Step 5. Draft your essay
Your essay is almost complete, only that it is in bits and pieces. You need to put the information gathered together to come up with a perfect critical thinking essay. A good critical thinking essay should have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Some writers choose to begin in a systematic order while others start with the body paragraphs. Use the approach that works best for you in analyzing your ideas and expressing your thoughts.
- Introduction: The first sentence of your essay should uniquely identify the purpose of the piece of writing. A compelling start will make the reader anxious to read your content. Therefore, starting it in a boring tone makes you predictable. Use statistics, facts, anecdote or an engrossing question to grab the reader’s attention.
- Body paragraphs: A critical thinking essay may entail your research or another person’s work. The content of the body paragraphs depends on what you are analyzing. If it is your research, identify your arguments in the first two paragraphs. Use the next paragraphs to give supporting evidence to your arguments. If you are analyzing an article, essay or other person’s literature, summarize the main points in the first few paragraphs. Apply your analytical skills to express your thoughts on the content highlighted. If you are using the five-paragraph essay format, focus on the main ideas and remain relevant. However, it is better to have three short paragraphs that one long one. The body paragraphs are a reflection of your critical thinking skills, based on the arguments you present. Clearly illustrate your logical opinions but avoid using pronouns like “I” or “my”. While you may base your work on some research, have a paragraph that explicitly expresses your opinion. Again, do not let emotions take the lead here.
- Conclusion: Your conclusion should highlight what findings you have covered and their importance. How does the information you have provide affect you or relate to the reader? You can also provide an avenue for further research on the topic. Let the reader see the same direction you had pointed out in your thesis statement.
Step 6. Revise and proofread your essay
Submitting a critical thinking paper that you have not proofread could cost you a considerable number of points. In the course of revising your work, you will identify the hitches in your logical thinking. It will also help you polish the writing errors. Ensure that you have used the required formatting styles. Revisit the instructions and establish what the instructor expects your essay to look like. If you do not feel a smooth flow of ideas, neither will the reader. Do not forget to cite the sources as advised by your professor. Since you had noted down the references during research, this should not take up much of your time.
Important critical thinking skills in essay writing
The ability to think critically is not a skill possessed by everyone. In fact, many people have never been taught how to think critically and instead simply rely on their existing knowledge or what they were told by others. Critical thinking involves questioning assumptions rather than just accepting them at face value. A lack of critical thinking can lead to someone making incorrect decisions without even realizing it, especially given the complex nature of some issues. While some forms of writing do not require any critical thinking skills, such as when an article is copied from another source word for word with no original thought or opinions included, other types of writing actually benefit from including this sort of information. Essays are one where having these skills will help ensure that the final product is a good one.
Important critical thinking skills in essay writing include:
1. Understanding how to use evidence:
When people write essays they need to include evidence in order to support their claims and opinions. Evidence in writing can come in many different forms, including facts or data that are collected by someone with expert-level knowledge or observations that are made by an everyday person who happened to see something interesting happen. People do not always think about using evidence when they are writing an essay, but it will be included naturally if the writer does his research before starting the process of putting together these thoughts. Being able to accurately find dependable sources is another important area where critical thinking skills may be needed for this type of assignment .
2. Knowing what makes an argument strong:
While not every essay that someone writes will be focused on proving a point, it is still important to include arguments that are based in fact rather than just opinions or assumptions. There are many different elements involved when determining the strength of an argument. For example, one must consider whether or not the evidence used seems reasonable and if there is enough of it to prove what the writer is claiming. Other areas where critical thinking skills can help include looking at various points of view so that all sides are considered instead of taking one side over another or simply inventing opinions without providing any proof for them.
3. Avoiding fallacies:
Fallacies are statements that appear to be true but cannot be verified as being accurate to lack of information or because they are not accurate to begin with. For example, if a writer were simply to state that all dogs like human affection and then end the argument there without any evidence or research done to prove that this is true, it would be considered a fallacy because there may be some dogs who do not like affection and others who only like certain types of affection. Anyone who wants to write an essay needs to avoid using fallacies in their writing as much as possible. This will make the contents of the paper more credible and bring up less questions from readers because everything will be factually based rather than just stating opinions.
As seen above, critical thinking skills can help you write an essay better by helping them separate assumptions from facts and properly use evidence while also avoiding common mistakes such as fallacies. Critical thinking does not just apply to subjects such as science and math , but it can be useful in any topic under the sun.
Critical thinking is a vital life skill that everyone should learn about sooner rather than later. The more aware people are of this, the better off they will be when trying to determine what information they are given is accurate or if it needs to be questioned further before being accepted as fact. Being able to use critical thinking skills can help avoid mistakes that may cost someone time, money, or opportunities for advancement down the road.
25 Critical thinking essay topics to write about
Here are 25 interesting critical thinking essay topics to write about:
- Describe a time in your life when you were faced with a problem that could have been resolved better if you had applied critical thinking skills. How can we teach people to think critically? Why is it important to think critically about the world around us? Are most human beings capable of being rational thinkers or do we behave more irrationally than rationally on a day-to-day basis? Can critical thinking be developed at an early age?
- What are some reasons why humans would want to foster a culture of critical thinking in our society today, and how does this compare with other cultures around the world?
- What are some components of critical thinking? How is the development of those components related to learning and education? How is it related to our ability to function as a society?
- What role do emotions play in the process of critical thinking, and why should we attempt to detach our feelings from such processes?
- Why is critical thinking important for success in life and work today? Is there a difference between “critical thinking skills” and “critical reading skills”? Are most people naturally good at critical reading or understanding, or must these abilities be learned?
- Can critical-thinking tools (e.g., guiding questions, templates help readers, listeners, viewers, thinkers?) How?
- What is the relationship between thought and language? Critical thinking and emotions: If we “feel” that something is true, does that mean it IS true? What is the role of emotions in critical thinking and decision making?
- Is there such a thing as a “logic instinct” (i.e., an innate ability to reason) or are logic skills learned behaviours? How does this relate with critical thinking abilities vs critical reading abilities? What effort has been made by educational institutions around the world to promote better reasoning skills and encourage students to think more critically than before.
- Do our dreams help us to think more creatively? Do our dreams help us to make better decisions?
- What makes an argument valid or invalid, strong or weak? Why is the study of logic important if one hopes to be a critical thinker?
- What do we mean when we say that something is “true”? What different types of truth are there, and how does knowing this help us remain grounded in reality?
- How has the development and increased relevance of social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) affected critical thinking and reasoning skills for younger generations? How about older generations? Why do you think this might be significant in terms of its effects on society at large?
- What do we mean when we say that something is “false”? What different types of falsehoods are there, and how does knowing this help us to recognize deceitful claims made by others? Is it possible for an argument or claim to be true and false at the same time?
- How can critical thinking skills help us in terms of problem solving?
- How would you define science as opposed to pseudoscience? What makes a scientific theory valid or invalid? Can “honest mistakes” be made in scientific research – i.e., honest mistakes vs outright fraud, deceit, lies etc.?
- Can a person have a belief that is both valid and invalid at the same time? Can a person be right for the wrong reasons, or wrong for the right reasons? How can we tell which of those two possibilities apply to any given situation?
- What is Socrates’ contribution to philosophy and critical thinking? Why did he become so well-known as a result, and why should we study him today if we hope to cultivate better reasoning skills in ourselves?
- What role do “ unconscious beliefs ” play in one’s life and how does this affect our decision making abilities on a daily basis? In what ways might all people be – i.e., less rational – than they think?
- What is the difference between inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning? What is an example of each type of reasoning, and how do each work in terms of logical arguments?
- How are conspiracy theories used as rhetorical devices by politicians or groups with particular political agendas? Why does this matter for critical thinkers who hope to avoid being influenced by false information spread online about politics, science, history etc.? Are there benefits to using conspiracy theories rhetorically? How can critical thinking help people to recognize conspired rhetoric when it exists in any given context – i.e., what are the techniques used by conspir rhetoric to appeal emotionally to listeners/readers?
- How can critical thinking help people to spot deceptive advertising when they see it online or on TV etc.?
- What is an “appeal to authority” and how does it compare with valid forms of argumentation? Why is the study of fallacies important for any critical thinker?
- What types of cognitive biases do all individuals suffer from, according to research findings in the field of psychology ? Why might this information be significant for critical thinkers who hope to avoid being influenced by them in their daily lives?
- Why is it that some truths remain difficult to discover even after extensive research has been done on a given topic by experts? What are the different ways scientists establish the validity of their claims ?
- How can critical thinking help people to avoid falling prey to pseudoscience or intentional deceit online? In what cases might one person’s ignorance constitute another individual’s knowledge, and vice versa?
What is critical thinking?
Critical thinking is a set of skills and traits that define the way people process information and make decisions. Characteristics of critical thinkers include: an ability to think, reflect, apply knowledge to ideas or concepts, analyze problems from multiple angles, value evidence over assumption, consider ethics as well as personal and social consequences, and adapt to the changing world.
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How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay Step by Step
Essay paper writing
Writing a critical thinking paper is a complicated task that requires analytical skills and the ability to process and evaluate information, providing your personal, well-justified opinion on the topic in focus. This article provides straightforward instructions and tips on how to write a high-quality critical thinking essay, what outline to choose, and how to edit such a paper.
Besides, you will see a list of interesting topics you can use to practice writing, a detailed video guide on creating a good critical thinking essay, and some samples.
What Is Critical Thinking Essay
A critical thinking essay is a type of assignment aimed at teaching students to carefully analyze information, work with concepts, develop arguments and counter-arguments, and express their ideas based on the conducted research.
The importance of critical thinking essay is unquestionable, as people who can analyze any issue from several facets will be resistant to manipulations and stereotypes and safe from making rush decisions. There is a separate discipline called critical thinking in many educational establishments. Many teachers regard critical thinking in writing as an excellent opportunity to encourage students to be open to different opinions and come up with objective conclusions.
It is important to understand that thinking critically doesn’t mean criticizing anything or anybody. The essence of a critical thinking essay is to describe a specific concept, argument, or evidence in an unbiased manner. Thus, you don’t simply express your ideas but navigate multiple data sources, work through the information, and either support or reject the argument. Of course, the process may be time-consuming, but it will surely help students approach and evaluate different situations and facts more thoroughly.
Steps for Writing a Critical Thinking Essay
Writing a critical thinking essay, you have to manipulate multiple data assets and can get tired quickly. However, if you follow the steps presented below, you will be able to organize the entire process better and achieve the desired result without stressing out.
1. Choose a Topic for Critical Thinking Essay
When professors ask students to write a critical thinking essay, they usually reveal the topic straight away. Thus, learners already understand what the focus of their research will be. However, sometimes, teachers let students choose a topic themselves. In this case, you need to be very mindful of an argument, concept, phenomenon, or situation you will write about. It is better to select something that you are genuinely interested in.
It is important to pick a topic with at least several basic arguments you can build your critical thinking essay around. Moreover, make sure there is enough data for studying and analyzing.
2. Conduct Research and Collect Information
Critical thinking in essay writing presupposes that you cannot base the arguments on your personal preferences, religious beliefs, political ideas, etc. You should be flexible in accepting different points of view at this stage. Moreover, it is advisable to look up different scholarly sources to have a reliable basis for your essay.
You can start your search with online platforms, printed newspapers, magazines, and books. The main thing here is to avoid questionable resources; otherwise, your critical thinking essay will be undependable, and you will likely receive poor grades.
You should be very accurate when choosing scientific sources. It is not enough to find a single article where an author claims a particular concept is correct and undeniable. Instead, you need to read various materials and analyze them meticulously.
3. Develop and Write a Thesis Statement
A thesis is a core argument you are discussing in your critical thinking essay. A good thesis statement serves as a hook to intrigue readers and touches upon the topic you are addressing. Besides, it helps you define the aim you need to achieve in body paragraphs. Usually, a thesis statement is one sentence long.
4. Prepare an Outline
The outline of a critical thinking paper is rather standard:
- First, present the topic/issue you are considering in the form of a thesis statement. It is also recommended to include a “catch” sentence and provide some factual background data.
- Next, define an approximate number of paragraphs. You may put down a starting sentence for each paragraph to have a more precise writing plan. Keep in mind that every paragraph should have one argument reinforced with examples and evidence. It is also necessary to indicate the source of information you used.
- Finally, restate a thesis, overview the points you made, and come up with a conclusion where your thesis is proven.
5. Write a Rough Draft
When you have a rough outline of your critical thinking essay, you should start structuring the information in accordance with it. Every paragraph in a body section must be devoted to a distinct argument or piece of evidence in favor of your point. It is paramount to anticipate objections that may appear. Try to imagine what your opponents may think about when reading your paper. Include several logical statements that specify why their criticism is ungrounded.
6. Revise and Edit Your Critical Thinking Essay
Writing critical thinking papers isn’t easy. Chances are high that your rough draft requires meticulous editing and revising. Leave your paper aside and return to it in several hours or even a day to evaluate its quality as accurately as possible. Sometimes, you may even need to alter an initial thesis if you think that you can make better points.
7. Proofread and Check for Mistakes
It may be challenging to find mistakes and dubious statements yourself, so you can ask relatives or friends to read your paper. They can highlight typos and paragraphs that sound vague or barely relate to what you touch upon in your critical thinking essay. If you are lucky to have friends or relatives with a linguistics background, don’t hesitate to ask them for help, as they may notice in your paper such fallacies as generalization, ambiguity, appeal to authority or emotions, as well as a false analogy.
Video Guide on How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay
Critical thinking writing can become an exciting activity if you constantly hone your skills and work on different topics. Mastering this craft will be easier with this detailed video guide . An author shares tips on writing a critical essay that will come in handy regardless of the academic discipline. You will understand what critical thinking involves, how to present your ideas properly, what techniques to use, and how to sound objective.
Critical Thinking Essay Outline
A critical thinking paper outline is similar to the structure of any other essay type. In total, there are three distinct parts – an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion.
In this part of a critical thinking essay, you need to present a general idea of a paper. Let’s imagine that an introduction is like a map, where you should draw a route for readers and direct them from one point to the other. A good introduction should:
- Intrigue readers
- State the main argument of an essay without going into detail
- Include some general facts about the topic
- Shed light on the importance of the issue
An introduction should also include a thesis statement; everything written further will stem from it.
Body paragraphs, where you present and discuss all ideas and arguments, comprise about 90% of a critical thinking essay.
Arguments are extremely important, and you need to ensure they:
- Represent the main topic
- Are underpinned with sources, examples, and citations.
In addition to arguments, you have to come up with counter-arguments to show you’re aware of different points of view concerning the topic and are ready to support your ideas.
The main purpose of critical thinking essay writing is to persuade readers that your opinion about a situation, fact, concept, etc., is correct. The best way to do it is by referring to credible sources. Therefore, you will need to analyze many printed and digital media to collect facts that back up your point of view.
A unique feature of a critical essay format is that you can include an additional section or a subparagraph in a body part dedicated to your viewpoint and whether it transformed in the research process.
In the conclusion section, you need to evaluate your findings, summarize your arguments, and point out the directions for further research. In general, every argument from the main body will have a separate conclusion, and you can enumerate them all in this part. Don’t get too carried away with describing every argument in detail since you’ve already done it in the body section; make sure to stick to the point.
Topics for Critical Thinking Essay
If you want to practice writing this paper type, this rundown of critical thinking essay topics will surely come in handy. The list includes critical thinking paper topics from different academic courses.
Critical Thinking Essay Examples
If you don’t know how to start your essay writing process, check the examples of critical thinking essay here . While reading a critical thinking essay sample, you can come up with interesting ideas for your assignment and understand how such an academic paper should be structured.
Sometimes, an example of critical essay on your chosen topic may help you grasp the other side of an argument.
If you need professional help with critical thinking essay writing, place an order with us. We offer top-notch writing services, reasonable prices, and timely delivery. Our team has rich experience in writing critical thinking papers and can present your point of view in a convincing way.
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Essay writing: argument and criticality.
- Argument and criticality
What is an argument?
Essays are generally structured as arguments .
After you analyse the essay question, you read (or re-read) texts from your reading list and texts found through your own research. On the basis of your reading, you develop a general view, or answer, to the essay question, which you then defend with the evidence found in your reading.
The view that you defend in your essay is called a thesis statement .
What is a thesis statement ?
Your thesis statement states your position on the essay question, which you will defend with one or more arguments in the body of the essay. Your thesis statement is essentially your answer to the essay question, expressed in a single sentence, and will be based on your reading.
Your thesis statement is:
- Is developed through reading. What does the literature say about the issue referred to in the essay question?
- Provided in the introduction
- Usually follows a brief outline of the problem, or issue, addressed by the essay question
- Is specific and relevant to the essay question
Examples of thesis statements
Essay question: ‘Discuss the claim that mass public schooling provides equal access to high quality education.’
Thesis: This essay will argue that while the introduction of mass public schooling was a great advancement in ensuring equal access to education, the influence of socio-economic status on educational attainment has not yet been overcome.
"This essay will argue" → Signposting phrase to introduce your argument
"while mass public schooling was a great advancement in ensuring equal access to education, the influence of socio-economic status on educational attainment has not yet been overcome" → Clearly indicates your position on the issue
Essay question: To what extent is there a 'participation crisis' in UK politics?
Thesis: If we define 'participation' as xyz, it can be argued that there is not in fact a participation crisis in UK politics.
A note on thesis statements :
It can feel scary to commit yourself to a thesis statement because thesis statements seem to speak with tremendous certainty! But..."The influence of socio-economic status on educational attainment has not yet been overcome" simply indicates the general destination that the essay will be moving toward. It does not have to be a highly developed statement of how things are. Try to develop a general, 'working' thesis to give your writing direction. You can make it more precise and nuanced as you work through various drafts of your essay.
Additional help with thesis statements
Writing effective arguments
In defending your thesis statement, you will likely have to break it down into separate issues, or aspects, which are dealt with separately.
In discussing these separate aspects, you might develop smaller thesis statements, which are related to your larger thesis statement .
This means that your essay will have a "tree structure".
Essay tree structure
An example of a more developed tree structure:
Thesis: Digital technology will lead to greater social mistrust and dysfunctionality rather than greater social cohesion
The handout below looks at the difference between everyday arguments and arguments in academic writing:
- Academic vs. Everyday Arguments An analysis of the similarities and differences between academic arguments and everyday arguments
- The order and structure of an argument can vary
Claim: We should go to the cinema today.
Argument structure A:
1. Counter arguments/concessions:
It is true that…
Cinema is costly (topic 1)
It is hard to agree on a movie (topic 2)
Tomorrow we have lectures in the morning (topic 3)
2. Rebuttals with evidence:
We have saved money by working… (topic 1)
There is a new sci-fi movie that you should like and I’m finding quite intriguing... (topic 2)
We haven’t been out in a while and I need some
inspiration to study more efficiently... (topic 3)
Argument structure B:
1. Counterargument/concession plus rebuttal of topic 1
Cinema is costly, at £10 per ticket, but we have saved money by working…
2. Counterargument/concession plus rebuttal of t opic 2
It is hard to agree on a movie, but there is a new sci-fi movie that you should like and I’m finding quite intriguing..
3. Counterargument/concession plus rebuttal of t opic 3
Tomorrow we have lectures in the morning, but we haven’t been out in a while and I need some inspiration to study more efficiently
Obviously your academic writing will be more complex, will deal with more serious questions, will use evidence and will refer to the relevant academic literature!
Critical thinking and writing
Your essay needs to demonstrate some degree of analysis and critical thinking. The more you progress in higher education, the more you are expected to use and apply knowledge. This is reflected in critical writing , whereby you move from mere description to analysis and evaluation .
Critical thinking entails:
- Being objective
- Looking for weaknesses in arguments
- Checking arguments are logical
- Checking arguments are accurate
- Looking at an idea or data from different perspectives
It also involves asking questions about your own work as well as the work of others such as:
- Is this true?
- How reliable is this information?
- Can I support the arguments and claims I am making?
If you have ever been told that your writing is ‘too descriptive’ and not ‘critical’ enough then consider the differences between analytical writing and descriptive writing:
- Descriptive writing summarises, reports, lists and outlines information, theories and sources.
- Critical writing looks for links between sources, identifies issues, challenges established ideas and considers alternatives.
Check the guide on Critical Thinking and Writing for more information on writing critically.
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Home / Essay Samples / Education / Learning / Critical Thinking
Critical Thinking Essay Examples
The main aspects of critical thinking.
Critical thinking is a mindset, an expository position you take with respect to surveying claims that you have perused, heard, or saw. In deciding if a case is valid or not, basic reasoning is the cautious application. Sensible thinking about what to do and what...
Critical Thinking: Definition, the Importance and Problem Solving
Thinking takes a great place in modern scientific studies. It is one of the important mental abilities that play a major role in the life of the human being and in the cognitive life of humans. Thinking is defined as a series of mental activities...
How Develop the Ability of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking not only involves practice and mental discipline, it allows a reader to form a judgment from analyzing facts. But this does not mean that only a few can learn the ability to think critically. In critical thinking reflection essay we will understand how...
Importance of Critical Thinking: a Reflection on Its Impact
Encouraging people to improve their mindset and think deeper will help them better themselves as people and individuals. Developing a good mindset may be hard to achieve but will be worth it in the end, according to philosopher Minke Tromp. Changing mindsets can affect people...
Impacts of Critical Thinking on Growth Mindset
In the articles “Learning to Think” and “Growth Mindset”, the authors describe how critical thinking can impact lives immensely. Both articles present the idea that if people think positive then their results will become more positive. While developing a more positive mindset may be tough...
Fake News and Critical Thinking in Information Evaluation
In the post-truth era we are constantly bombarded with “news” which is fabricated, distorted, and massaged information, published with the intention to deceive and mislead others. Such “news” has come to be known as “fake news”. The influence of fake news can have profound socio-political...
The Importance of Critical Thinking Skills for My Education
I will be more independent and self-directed learner. This is because as a student it allows me to figure out my learning style, strengths and weakness in my life. This would help me to improve my performance or effort in achieving my goals. For an...
Critical Thinking Thesis: Learning Disabilities, Specifically Dyslexia
This topic interests me because I am familiar with people who suffer from learning disabilities. This made me want to explore in detail, the learning disability called dyslexia. I have a younger sibling who has not yet been definitively diagnosed with a learning disability however,...
Philosophical Problems and Critical Thinking
The main arguments revolve around the philosophies of the professor. The first argument of the professor is that to save the human race in the world, the skillsets of a person is the main ingredient. This means that the bunker should only be composed of...
The Role of Mental Imagery for an Athlete
Thinking, or cognition, can be defined as mental activity that goes on the brain when a person is processing information (organizing, understanding, and communicating it to others). Thinking does not only include memory, but much more. When people think, they are not only aware of...
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About Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is the analysis of available facts, evidence, observations, and arguments to form a judgment.
The list of core critical thinking skills includes observation, interpretation, analysis, inference, evaluation, explanation, and metacognition. In addition to possessing strong critical-thinking skills, one must be disposed to engage in problems and decisions using those skills. Critical thinking employs not only logic but broad intellectual criteria such as clarity, credibility, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, significance, and fairness.