When you’re thinking critically, you compare different points of view about a topic to enable you to form an opinion of your own – an argument – that you support with evidence. It sounds daunting, but it needn’t be. Critical thinking is a skill you already have, put to work in a new environment.
Try these three steps to get you into a critical frame of mind:
1 Step back
Critical thinking means stepping back from a topic and examining it from all angles. Think about the last time you had to weigh up the pros and cons of something: buy an iPad or spend the money on books? Order in or cook?
Now apply this to your academic work. Get into the habit of considering an issue from more than one perspective. Write down what you think and then identify what the opposing view would be. You could draw a table with columns for the different viewpoints.
2 Get talking
Form a study group with other people on your course and set aside time to discuss the issues in your field. Speaking with your fellow students can be an effective way to test your ideas before you put pen to paper. Perhaps you’ll see a flaw in your argument, or you’ll come away with a new angle on your topic.
3 Take time
Don’t be in a hurry to define your position; it’s important to allow enough time for thinking. Build this time into your study schedule so that you have the opportunity to sit with your topic for a while, reading and making notes, until your ideas feel fully formed. And take time to develop this skill—critical thinking gets easier with practice.
4 November 2021
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