Study note | What is critical thinking

Posted by Joy on October 8, 2017

Most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.

Mental indolence is one of the commonest of human traits.


I feel and I think are different:

  1. I feel Feeling is a subjective response that reflects emotion, sentiment, or desire; it generally occurs spontaneously rather than through a conscious mental act. However, feeling is never a good substitute for thinking because it is notoriously unreliable.
  2. I think In contrast to feeling, thinking is a conscious mental process performed to solve a problem, make a decision, or gain understanding.

To sum up the relationship between feeling and thinking, feelings need to be tested before being trusted, and thinking is the most reasonable and reliable to test them.

The essence of critical thinking is evaluation. Critical thinking, therefore, may be defined as the process by which we test claims and arguments and determine which have merit and which do not. In other words, critical thinking is a search for answers, a quest.

Characteristics of Critical Thinkers

  • Skill in asking appropriate questions.
  • Control of one’s mental activities, use their minds actively as well as passively.

The Role of Intuition

Intuition is commonly defined as sensing or understanding something without the use of reasoning.

Basic Activities in Critical Thinking

Investigation, interpretation and judgment.

Critical thinking and writing

Two broad purposes of writing: to discover ideas and to communicate them. Whenever you write to discover ideas, focus on the issue you are examining and record all your thoughts, questions and assertions.

Critical thinking and Discussion

Here are some simple guidelines for ensuring that the discussions you engage are more civil, meaningful, and productive.

  • Whenever possible, prepare in advance. Begin by reflecting on what you already know about this topic. Then decide how you can expand your knowledge and devote some time to doing so. Try to anticipate the different points of view. Keep your conclusions tentative at this point.
  • Set reasonable expectations. People seldom change their minds easily or quickly, particularly in the case of long-held convictions. Expect to have your ideas questioned, and be cheerful and gracious in responding.
  • Leave egotism and personal agendas at the door. Egotism produces disrespectful attitudes towards others. Personal agendas, such as dislike for another participant or excessive zeal for a point of view, can lead to personal attacks and unwillingness to listen to others’ views.
  • Contribute but don’t dominate. Don’t be too talkative or more reserved. Discussions tend to be most productive when everyone contributes ideas.
  • Avoid distracting speech mannerisms. Whenever you are engaged in a discussion, aim for clarity, directness, and economy of expression.
  • Listen actively. When the participants don’t listen to one another, discussion becomes little more than serial monologue. This can happen quite unintentionally because the mind can process ideas faster than the fastest speaker can deliver.
  • Judge ideas responsibly. Fairness demands that you base your judgment on thoughtful consideration of the overall strengths and weaknesses of the ideas, not on initial impressions or feelings. Be especially careful with ideas that unfamiliar or different from your own because those are the ones you will be most inclined to deny a fair hearing.
  • Resist the urge to shout or interrupt. If you really believe your ideas are sound, you will have no need to raise your voice or silence the other person. Even if the other person resorts to such behaviour, the best way to demonstrate confidence and character is by refusing to reciprocate. Make it your rule to disagree without being disagreeable.


Avoiding Plagiarism

Step 1: When you are researching a topic, keep your sources’ ideas separate from your own. [A software recommend by Zhiping YANG is called Zotero.]

Step 2: As you read each source note the ideas you want to refer to in your writing.

  • If the author’s words are unusually clear and concise, copy them exactly and put quotation marks around them.
  • If the author’s idea triggers a response in your mind, write it down and put brackets “[]” around it.

Step 3: When you compose your paper, work borrowed ideas and words into your own wiring by judicious use of quoting and paraphrasing.