Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally. To think critically is to reflect on things in an independent manner. Critical thinking becomes increasingly important as you progress through school. A critical thinker is able to deduce conclusions from what he or she already knows, use existing knowledge to reach conclusions, and identify relevant sources of information to extend existing knowledge.
Here are some things you can do to enhance your critical thinking.
- Clarify your thinking. Don’t be satisfied with a vague or fuzzy understanding of things. Don’t take things at face value. Seek the real meaning of things by looking at not just the surface, but below the surface as well.
- Apply and refine your intellectual standards. Judge things according to your personal standards, social standards, and professional standards.
- Keep an open mind. You will not be able to think critically if you approach things with a rigid set of opinions and attitudes that are not open to discussion.
- Utilize observation and inference, but place a high value on objective reality. To be productive, your thinking must accurately perceive and interpret reality.
- Do not rush to judgment. Withhold judgment about things until you are certain you have enough information with which to make an informed judgment. This is another way of saying “don’t jump to conclusions.”
- Stick to the point when you are thinking something through. Don’t jump about without any logical connections between your thoughts. Stay focused on what is relevant.
- Be intellectually curious. Learn about things you don’t know much about and explore new ways of looking at and doing things.
- Don’t let your emotions get in the way of your thinking. It’s difficult to think critically when you are angry or upset. You will do your clearest thinking when you are calm and in control.
- Be a good listener. The better you listen, the more correct information you will have, and the better decisions you will make.
- Don’t simply jump on the bandwagon. It is tempting to embrace ideas that become popular. However, this is conformity, not critical thinking.
Descartes said, "I think therefore I am." Think critically, and you will be all that you can be.