Critical thinking is the ability to assess arguments and make objective evaluations such that poor decisions are avoided and positive outcomes are maximized. Listed below are some guidelines for critical thinking which, if implemented, will enable you to effectively navigate your life and increase your potential for success.
- Be precise. Define your terms. The more concretely you are able to identify and articulate the problem, the less likely your conclusions will be flawed.
- Carefully examine what is presented as facts. Avoid anecdotal evidence. Coming to a conclusion without carefully and meticulously scrutinizing the data can have catastrophic consequences.
- Be vigilant in regard to your assumptions and biases. Don’t fall into the trap of allowing any pre-conceived notions to form the basis of your arguments and assertions.
- Avoid being swayed by your emotions. Gut feelings and intuitions need to be taken into consideration but should not overshadow your objectivity.
- Don’t oversimplify. Avoid overarching generalizations. Do not draw conclusions based on limited data.
- Consider other explanations. Although the principle of Occam’s Razor states that when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better, it’s best that you not arrive at any conclusions without thoroughly considering the alternatives.
- Avoid being stubborn and dogmatic. The most creative solutions often arise from an attitude of flexibility and open-mindedness.
(Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online degrees, and what it takes for adult students to succeed when studying for an online post-grad degree from home. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.)