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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.

Films on Demand

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?

TED Talk: Why you think you're right — even if you're wrong

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments: Logical Falicies

Bad arguments book cover

TED Ed: 5 tips to improve your critical thinking - Samantha Agoos - YouTube

In other words:

Take time to understand what you want. What are you trying to accomplish?  What is your goal?

Gather Information.  Multiple sources, different points of view.  Seek expert advice.

Apply skepticism. The cliches  "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" and "There is no such thing as a free lunch" are common sayings because people have really good "2020 hindsight." And don't forget, "you get what you pay for."  

Consider the implications.  Something that sounds good in the short term, may have a bad long-term effect.  Don't ignore the related factors the decision might impact. 

Look at another point of view, even if it makes you uncomfortable.  Get outside your comfort zone. You may learn something useful.

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