We all deal with tons of information every day. We get it constantly from everywhere: social networks, news websites, TV, zines, our friends, professors, or just random people we meet. Information we interact with serves as a basis for our judgments, beliefs, decisions, or worldviews. Having a scrupulous mind can help us in many areas of our lives, including college. By thinking critically, we learn to build strong arguments, solve everyday problems, formulate logical conclusions, and make effective decisions.
The critical thinking process occurs in certain steps which we consciously omit. However, if we are aware of the way we process information and come to conclusions, we can define certain steps. Let us see what these 6 critical thinking steps look like.
At this step, we receive certain information. Before we start working with it, we must assess it first by making some research on the problem and collecting some additional facts and data. We don’t move forward until we identify the problem.
At this stage, we categorize the problem by comparing it to other problems. Also, we collect information regarding the context of the current issue. We look at what data is available for a better and broader understanding of the problem.
Here, we place the problem into the present context and evaluate the resources we need to deal with it. Do we have enough time? What would the desired solution be? Is it somehow related to some other problems that we are working on?
After we have collected the necessary information on the problem, compared it with others, evaluated the context, and assessed our resources, we need to do a deeper analysis. SWOT method can be applied here: we divide a blank paper into four parts. In the first one, we write down the strengths associated with the problem, such as our resources that will help us deal with it. In the second quarter, we list the weaknesses, meaning everything we lack in order to solve the problem effectively. Opportunities go into the third part. Here, we mention everything that we might gain from the situation in question. In the last quarter, we write the threats by estimating what negative aspects we might have to deal with. This way, we can look at the situation in more detail while placing it in the real-life context.
At the analysis stage, we can also divide our problem into smaller problems. Then, we can try to see which of them we can solve and how, and create a priority list of which we will be solving first.
Here, we summarize all information that we have on the problem and make a list of all the possible solutions. If there are multiple ones (this is often the case), we prioritize the solutions as well. At this stage, we make a step-by-step plan on how we are going to tackle the situation. A SWOT analysis for solutions can be also helpful.
6. Action Taking
When we apply the critical thinking method, we cannot act impulsively. First, we need to make sure once again that our plan will work. Then, we move to the action part. It is important to make sure that we act according to the step-by-step instruction that we have previously created. This will help avoid impulsiveness in our actions.
This is just an approximate overview of how our critical thinking works. It is worth mentioning that it does not always take such a detailed form. However, it is important that we complete every step consciously, from evaluating the problem and analyzing it to creating a solution plan and enacting it. This way, we will make it a habit to base our decisions and actions not just on assumptions and emotions, but by singling out facts and seeing the relationships between things. It will help us develop our thinking capabilities in general and broaden our perspectives.