Critical Thinking is very simply defined as determining the truth or falsity of a conclusion. Behind this simple definition, there is a body of applied knowledge of our patterns of reasoning that is applied for us to be able to determine the truth in a variety of situations. Critical Thinking obviously cannot conclusively establish truth in a situation if there are insufficient facts or knowledge to arrive at an irrefutable conclusion. But when Critical Thinking is applied it can definitely raise questions on dubious claims, identify logical fallacies., draw attention to additional information or facts that may be required to be better able to arrive at the truth of a conclusion or viability of a plan of action.

Characteristics of a Critical Thinker( Paul Elder)

To understand Critical Thinking, it's a good idea to see what are the benefits of Critical Thinking. Paul Elder, a contemporary philosopher talks about what a Critical Thinker is able to do>

Habitual utilization of the intellectual traits produce a well-cultivated critical thinker who is able to:

    • Raise vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
    • Gather and assess relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
    • Come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
    • Think open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
    • Communicate effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems

Critical Thinking Frameworks

Just as we have quality standards, security standard and various other standards that can be applied across industries. Critical Thinking Frameworks have evolved over time that act as prompts and checks in ensuring that any issue under consideration is thoroughly examined from all dimensions. The Case Study methods that different Business Schools have evolved is also an application of Critical Thinking specific to Business situations. 

paul elder

Paul Elder has formulated one of the most comprehensive and generic frameworks for application of Critical Thinking. He has also developed certain checks and balances to ensure that rigorous standards are applied to the thinking. Obviously confronted with the same situation in life (which is not a question of proven fact or definitely science) , different people are likely to arrive at radically different solutions or conclusions. This may happen even with the application of frameworks. However what the framework does is that it ensures that all the dimensions of the issue are thought through, and each one may arrive at their own conclusions, based on their interpretation of circumstances, moral principles, different motivating factors (one likes art, the other science) and so on.

When Examining any situation, we need to :

- Understand the elements of thought
- Apply some intellectual standards to ensure integrity and high quality of thinking

Where do we need to apply  Critical Thinking?

All of us believe we are thinking critically whenever we are examining any situation - whether it is while evaluating choices, making a plan, answering Critical Thinking questions in exams such as GRE/GMAT/CAT, writing a research paper, debating an issue, drawing up a business strategy, evaluating investment options, resolving parenting dilemmas, or for that matter any course of action that offers choices and calls for thinking before making a decision.

Do we actually think Critically?

Different people apply different levels of Critical Thinking to different areas in life. At work, a Marketing Manager has to think very critically about his marketing strategy for the products or business. If he is a Business Management Graduate, he has been specifically trained how to evaluate various business parameters, and has the knowledge to arrive at a plan that is most likely to work. However the same Marketing Manager is handicapped when it comes to evaluating political candidates, because he is not trained in evaluating non-business situations.

A Student may excel at Math, Physics and Science - which are all subjects that have evolved as a result of Critical Thinking in a specific field of study. But he/she may not be that well equipped in making career choices, answering Critical Thinking questions in competitive exams. He/she may is unlikely to have a Critical Thinking framework at hand to objectively and thoroughly evaluate choices of colleges, further education or careers.

Critical Thinking at its core, adopts a set of principles in evaluating any situation. First one learns all the different types of reasoning that is applied in different situations and different aspects of life.