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Critical Thinking and Writing: Critical Thinking

Overview

Critical thinking is a core skill that higher education students need to hone and demonstrate in their assignments. It is also central to being a scientist, researcher, academic or professional in any field.

Socrates and the Origins of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking was first conceptualilsed by Socrates (470BC-399BC, Athens). The Greek philosopher disputed the fact that people in authority necessarily have accurate knowledge. He would question people who thought they knew about a certain topic, and reveal flaws in the logic and evidence they relied on. Socrates  established the importance of seeking evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing out implications

Source: Wikipedia

Critical Thinking in Your Studies

In the United Kingdom, the higher your education level, the more crucial critical thinking becomes. At the postgraduate level you are expected to master critical thinking.   

Critical thinking has been defined as follows: “[c]ritical thinking occurs when students attempt to make reasoned judgments based on relevant criteria.” (The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2015). Therefore, critical thinking has two main components:

  1. some relevant criteria, which can be evidence, analysis
  2. a judgment (a conclusion, an evaluation)

After all, the English word ‘criticism’ comes from the Greek verb krino meaning ‘to judge’. A ‘critic’ is a judge, who

  • investigates the evidence
  • tests the evidence (cross-examined witnesses) 
  • considers alternative arguments and explanations
  • keeps an open mind
  • is unbiased
  • reached a conclusion (verdict)

Adapted from Student Learning Advisory Service, no date

Use critical thinking effectively in your assignments by: 

  • Reading critically: evaluating viewpoints/arguments and evidence to determine how strong or valid they are, and what their implications might be.
  • Writing critically: analysing issues and presenting valid arguments. 

Critical Thinking at Work

Only the most repetitive tasks do not require critical thinking. Critical thinking is instead sought after by most employers and provides a key to success in your career.

Critical thinking in accountancy: 

"Critical thinking has been recognized as one of the skills required by employers... there was a shift in clients’ expectations, from merely mechanical tasks to 'added-value' services. Clients now expected professional accountants to evaluate complex systems and information, as well as detect, predict, advice and recommend appropriate courses of action" (Muhamad and Sulaiman, 2013, p13).

Critical thinking in finance: 

“To succeed in a competitive business environment, newly minted finance professionals must be strong critical thinkers who can analyze complex finance problems, see meanings in data, and communicate effectively with both lay and professional audiences” (Carrithers, Ling and Bean, 2008, p152).

Critical thinking in science:

“Finding appropriate solutions for problems, both within the areas of Biology, of Medicine, or of any other scientific/technological area, requires the use of [critical thinking] abilities for individuals to make decisions, based on the relevance of the reasons found, rejecting partiality and arbitrariness in the assessment of arguments” (Vieira, Tenreiro-Vieira and Martins, 2011, p46).

Critical thinking in law:

“… when we use the phrase thinking like a lawyer, we are describing no more, no less, than the critical  thinking that a lawyer applies to the situations he faces in order to deal with them effectively. The two integral elements are the critical thinking skills and the ability to use those skills, not abstractly as in solving puzzles, but in dealing with real legal situations” (Mudd, 1983, p709).

Bibliography

Carrithers, D., Ling, T., and Bean, J.C. (2008). Messy problems and lay audiences: teaching critical thinking within the finance curriculum. Business Communication Quarterly, 71(2), 152-170.

Kahnemann, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. London: Penguin

Mudd, J. (1983). Thinking Critically About "Thinking Like a Lawyer". Journal of Legal Education, 33(4), 704-711. Available from www.jstor.org/stable/42897916 [Accessed 13 May 2020]

Muhamad, R and Sulaiman, A. D. (2013). Higher order or critical thinking: does accounting education need reforms? Journal of Accounting Perspectives, 6, 12-20.

Snyder L.G. and Snyder M. (2008). Teaching Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills. The Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, L(2), 90-99.

Student Learning Advisory Service, University of Kent (no date). Critical thinking and writing. University of Kent. Available from https://www.kent.ac.uk/learning/documents/student-support/value-map/valuemap1516/criticalthinkingandwriting171015alg.pdf [Accessed 16 January 2020]. 

The Critical Thinking Consortium (2015). Promoting critical thinking in science. The Critical Thinking Consortium. Available from https://tc2.ca/uploads/PDFs/TIpsForTeachers/Tips4Teachers_Promotingcriticalthinkinginscience.pdf [Accessed 16 January 2020]

Vieira, R., Tenreiro-Vieira, C., and Martins, I. (2011). Critical thinking: conceptual clarification and its importance in science education. Science Education International, 22(1), 43–54