Critical Thinking Definitions

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following :

  • understand the logical connections between ideas
  • identify, construct and evaluate arguments
  • detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning
  • solve problems systematically
  • identify the relevance and importance of ideas
  • reflect on the justification of one's own beliefs and values

Critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and he knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself.

Critical thinking should not be confused with being argumentative or being critical of other people. Although critical thinking skills can be used in exposing fallacies and bad reasoning, critical thinking can also play an important role in cooperative reasoning and constructive tasks. Critical thinking can help us acquire knowledge, improve our theories, and strengthen arguments. We can use critical thinking to enhance work processes and improve social institutions.

Some people believe that critical thinking hinders creativity because it requires following the rules of logic and rationality, but creativity might require breaking rules. This is a misconception. Critical thinking is quite compatible with thinking "out-of-the-box", challenging consensus and pursuing less popular approaches. If anything, critical thinking is an essential part of creativity because we need critical thinking to evaluate and improve our creative ideas.


§1. The importance of critical thinking

Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. The ability to think clearly and rationally is important whatever we choose to do. If you work in education, research, finance, management or the legal profession, then critical thinking is obviously important. But critical thinking skills are not restricted to a particular subject area. Being able to think well and solve problems systematically is an asset for any career.

Critical thinking is very important in the new knowledge economy. The global knowledge economy is driven by information and technology. One has to be able to deal with changes quickly and effectively. The new economy places increasing demands on flexible intellectual skills, and the ability to analyse information and integrate diverse sources of knowledge in solving problems. Good critical thinking promotes such thinking skills, and is very important in the fast-changing workplace.

Critical thinking enhances language and presentation skills. Thinking clearly and systematically can improve the way we express our ideas. In learning how to analyse the logical structure of texts, critical thinking also improves comprehension abilities.

Critical thinking promotes creativity. To come up with a creative solution to a problem involves not just having new ideas. It must also be the case that the new ideas being generated are useful and relevant to the task at hand. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in evaluating new ideas, selecting the best ones and modifying them if necessary

Critical thinking is crucial for self-reflection. In order to live a meaningful life and to structure our lives accordingly, we need to justify and reflect on our values and decisions. Critical thinking provides the tools for this process of self-evaluation.

Good critical thinking is the foundation of science and democracy. Science requires the critical use of reason in experimentation and theory confirmation. The proper functioning of a liberal democracy requires citizens who can think critically about social issues to inform their judgments about proper governance and to overcome biases and prejudice.

§2. The future of critical thinking

In January 2016, the World Economic Forum issued a report "The Future of Jobs". It says:

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets over the next five years, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape.

The top three skills that supposed to be most relevant are thinking skills related to critical thinking, creativity, and their practical application. These are the cognitive skills that our website focuses on.

§3. For teachers

  • The ideas on this page were discussed in a blog post on edutopia. The author uses the critical thinking framework here to apply to K-12 education. Very relevant to school teachers!

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Critical Thinking Skills List and Examples

Critical Thinking Skills and Keywords for Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviews

Critical thinking is one of the most sought after qualities that employers look for in job candidates in almost any industry. Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment.

Read below for a list of critical thinking skills that employers are looking for in resumes, cover letters, job applications, and interviews. Included is a detailed list of five of the most important critical thinking skills, as well as an even longer list of critical thinking skills.

Also see below for information on how to demonstrate your critical thinking skills during your job search.

Why Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking involves the evaluation of sources such as data, facts, observable phenomenon, and research findings. Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information and discriminate between useful and less useful details for solving a problem or making a decision.  

This is important for almost any job in any industry. Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and come up with the best solution. Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions on his or her own, and will not need constant handholding.

Examples of critical thinking vary depending on the industry. For example, a triage nurse would use critical thinking skills to analyze the cases at hand and decide the order in which the patients should be treated.

A plumber would use critical thinking skills to evaluate which materials would best suit a particular job. An attorney would review the evidence and use critical thinking to help devise a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.  

How to Use Skills Lists

If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, you want to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.

Include this phrase and related terms in your resumes, cover letters, and interviews.

Firstly, you can use these critical thinking skill words in your resume. In the description of your work history, you can use some of these key words. You can also include them in your resume summary, if you have one.

Secondly, you can use these in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, you can mention one or two of these skills, and give a specific example of a time when you demonstrated those skills at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.

Finally, you can use these skill words in an interview. Be ready to mention a particular problem or challenge at work, and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve the issue. Try to use some of the keywords listed below in your answers to questions.

Some interviewers will even give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your answer rather than the answer itself. The interviewer wants to see you use analysis and evaluation (key parts of critical thinking).

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully, and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Also review our other lists of skills listed by job and type of skill.

Top Five Critical Thinking Skills

Analytical
Part of thinking critical is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with analytical skills can examine information, and then understand what it means, and what it represents.

Communication
Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of colleagues. You need to be able to clearly communicate with others to share your ideas. You might also need to engage in critical thinking with a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.

Creativity
Critical thinking often involves some level of creativity. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at, or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye.

Open-Minded
To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments, and simply analyze the information you are given. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

Problem Solving
Problem solving is another important critical-thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating a solution, and implementing and then assessing that plan. After all, employers don’t simply want employee who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with effective solutions.

Critical Thinking Skills

A-G

  • Analytical
  • Applying Standards
  • Asking Thoughtful Questions
  • Assessment
  • Clarification
  • Cognitive Flexibility
  • Communication
  • Conceptualization
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Decision Making
  • Embracing Different Cultural Perspectives
  • Evaluation
  • Explanation
  • Foresight

H-M

  • Identifying Patterns
  • Imaginative
  • Information Seeking
  • Interpretation
  • Judgment
  • Logical Reasoning
  • Making Abstract Connections
  • Making Inferences

N-Z

  • Objectivity
  • Observation
  • Open-Minded Thinking 
  • Predicting
  • Presentation
  • Problem Solving
  • Questioning Evidence
  • Reasoning 
  • Recognizing Differences and Similarities
  • Reflection
  • Skepticism
  • Synthesizing

Read More: Employment Skills Listed by Job | Lists of Skills for Resumes | Soft vs. Hard Skills | List of Keywords for Resumes and Cover Letters

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