Critical Thinking
Rex C. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Critical thinking encompasses description, analysis, and evaluation. It goes beyond taking in information (e.g., about an issue, decision, or strategy) and understanding it well enough to describe it. It also involves analysis and evaluation.

Analysis involves sifting through irrelevant or less-important information to recognize and select key, relevant information. It includes identifying linkages, interactions, and patterns. It includes distinguishing causes from effects or symptoms. It clarifies (often tacit) underlying assumptions.

Evaluation requires judgment about such questions as, What are the strengths and weaknesses, virtues and faults, of this idea or possible alternative? What contingencies are applicable, e.g., this is "good" for whom, in what sense, under what conditions? Are there better alternatives? Evaluation requires awareness of the context or frame of reference within which we are making judgments about this situation. It requires awareness of oneself and one's biases, predispositions, and other limitations.

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Last modified August 30, 2000 Copyright 2000 Rex Mitchell