Sunday, 2 November 2014

How to Think Critically for Study

When you think critically when you read, you're not necessarily doing so to look for flaws. Instead you are "interrogating" it for understanding. You're studying it to find out what it can teach you.

Books, papers, articles, etc. including this one, can need to be examined closely. You must not accept them or it as truth just because it's been published or because someone important or who you respect said it. For one thing, no one is perfect, and for another it's impossible to cover all the possibilities with all of the available information. Even if it could be done, the document would be too long to read and contain too much to comprehend.

So how do you think critically?

You need to adopt the persona of a skeptic. You have to assume that you're being told something for a reason that will promote the agenda of the author. When you do that, it helps to prevent you from being drawn into fallacious reasoning. It primes you to identify gaps in the information or the misrepresentation of it; and when you can do that, it makes it easy to spot erroneous conclusions.
After you get into the habit of doing this, you won't need to follow a plan. But until such time as you do, here are some suggestions to get you started.

The first thing you need to do is to make some notes about what you're being told. They don't need to be long. Bullets points are fine. You're doing it only so that you can follow what's being said more easily. The more you read, listen, or watch information being presented, the more sensitive you'll become to what you might call "waffle" - the deliberate padding of information. You'll get to where you can separate the information that matters from that which doesn't. But in the beginning, you'll probably find it helpful to write down the key points as you go along.

When you come across something that doesn't seem quite right, then flag it for later. It could be that it will be addressed further into the document, podcast or video. If it is, then you can think about why it was discussed then instead of when it first became of concern to you. Quite often there is no good reason.

If you still disagree or find the information to be incomplete, then jot down your thoughts. Critical thinking implies that you'll be controversial sometimes. If you agreed with everything you read, then there would be no need to think critically.

Interrogate the information; that is, ask good questions. Why was the information presented in the way it was? How else could it have been presented? Does the evidence presented lead you to the same conclusion as the author's? Why or why not?

These are key questions that most people don't ask. The result is that they swallow everything they're told and then form an uninformed opinion.

By Lisa S

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