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Critical & Creative Thinking - OER & More Resources: Critical Thinking Tips

Understanding, for better or worse, starts with entertaining the idea that something is true. The brain tries to make thinking easier by creating heuristics, but sometimes these are inaccurate. Therefore you must be vigilant in evaluating any assumption.

Are you open minded?

The DIFFICULT part of critical thinking is to look at the alternative possibilities with the same open mind you use when you read something that agrees with you.

Ask Good Questions - Socratic method


  • What do you mean by                     ?

  • Could you put that another way?

  • Could you give me an example?

  • Could you explain that further?

Probe Assumptions

  • What are you assuming?

  • What could we assume instead?

  • You seem to be assuming                       .  Do I understand you correctly?

  • You seem to be assuming                          .  How would you justify taking this for granted?

  • Is it always the case?  

Probe Reasons and Evidence

  • How do you know?

  • Why do you think that is true?

  • What led you to that belief?

  • Do you have any evidence for that?

  • What would convince you otherwise?

Viewpoints or Perspectives

  • Can anyone see this another way?

  • What would someone who disagrees say?

  • What is an alternative?

Probe Implications and Consequences

  • What are the consequences of your assumption?

  • What else could also happen as a result?  Why?

  • What effect would that have?

  • Would that necessarily happen or only probably happen?

Questions About the Question

  • Why is this question important?

  • What does this question assume?

  • Is the question clear?  Do we understand it?

  • Is this question easy or hard to answer?  Why?

  • To answer this question, what questions would we have to answer first?

  • Can we break this question down into parts?

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