What is critical thinking?
Critical thinking is one of the most important skills learnt at university. It is a set of tools used to consider the ideas presented by other people, and to present your own ideas in a clear and judicious way.
Central to critical thinking is the ability to think 'outside' a piece of writing: not only understanding the writer's message, but deciding
- whether the message is valid or not
- whether the evidence and discussion given supports the message
- how the message fits into the broader context
Cottrell (2005, p. 2) describes critical thinking as the ability to "read between the lines," both when reading the work of others and when writing your own. This includes, but is not limited to, finding potential flaws in an argument. Critical thinking is used to construct an argument (a particular stand on a question or issue that you can use to build a well-reasoned and well-supported discussion).
References and further reading
Allen, M. (2004). Smart thinking: Skills for critical understanding and writing. (2nd ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press. [Massey Library link]
Cottrell, S. (2011). Critical thinking skills: Developing effective analysis and argument (2nd ed.). Basingstoke, England: Palgrave MacMillan. [Massey Library link]