Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking PDF


Critical thinking is the process of applying reasoned and disciplined thinking to a subject. To do well in your studies you need to think ‘critically’ about the things you have read, seen or heard. Acquiring critical thinking skills helps you to develop more reasoned arguments and draw out the inferences that you need to use in your assignments, projects and examination questions.

These skills are essential if you want to obtain high grades in your university study and, like other skills, they improve with practice.

The stairway to critical thinking

The stages and skills involved in critical thinking can be seen as an eight-step stairway to high grades. As your thinking skills develop in depth and complexity, your other study skills will also improve.

  1. Process – Take in the information (i.e. in what you have read, heard, seen or done).
  2. Understand – Comprehend the key points, assumptions, arguments and evidence presented.
  3. Analyse – Examine how these key components fit together and relate to each other.
  4. Compare – Explore the similarities, differences between the ideas you are reading about.
  5. Synthesise – Bring together different sources of information to serve an argument or idea you are constructing. Make logical connections between the different sources that help you shape and support your ideas.
  6. Evaluate – Assess the worth of an idea in terms of its relevance to your needs, the evidence on which it is based and how it relates to other pertinent ideas.
  7. Apply – Transfer the understanding you have gained from your critical evaluation and use in response to questions, assignments and projects.
  8. Justify – Use critical thinking to develop arguments, draw conclusions, make inferences and identify implications.

From the Open University:




Critical Thinking is

the process we use to reflect on assess and judge the assumption underlying our own and others ideas and efforts.

Creative thinking is

the process we use to develop ideas that are unique, usefulm and worthy of further elaboration


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