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Critical thinking is an approach to thinking in which a person visualizes an idea and then goes about the task of taking the steps necessary to reach a conclusion. It involves research, investigation, evaluation, conjecture and implementing. Having critical thinking ability is vital to many professions in today's age of information society. Utilizing the five-step process of critical thinking skills can eliminate much of the worry and anxiety of problem solving.
Identify the Problem
The first step in critical thinking is to identify the problem. Consider what the issue is and break it down so it is specific as possible. Ask how big this problem really is. Determine why this problem exists and what would the consequences be if no action is taken to solve it. Also, determine who should be involved in the solving process.
It's critical to learn as much as possible about the problem. Look for potential reasons and solutions, but don't just accept facts at face value. Research and investigate all possibilities. Don't hesitate to seek out other people's opinions and perspectives about the issue. Determine both the validity and the reliability of the information you learn.
Evaluate the Evidence
The next step is to evaluate the evidence or information that has been collected. Ensure that the information is accurate. Confirm that it has come from more than just one source and that each of the sources are both unbiased and dependable. Determine if the information is based on fact or opinion. List all the ways the evidence could be interpreted.
Plan several solutions based on the conclusions made from the evidence evaluation. Deem the advantage and disadvantages of each of these options. It's important to outline what the obstacles might be, as well as any short- or long-term results the solution has. Sometimes it helps to look back at similar problems from the past and what solutions were used to solve them.
Choose and Implement
There are three factors to consider when deciding on an option. The first is determining the amount of risks involved with the solution. The second is the practicality of the solution and the third is the concurrence with any priorities that need to be fulfilled. Once the solution is selected and put to action, follow-through is needed by monitoring the results of the plan implementation.
Kerry O'Donnell has been writing professionally since 2008, when she began freelancing for the online magazine NewEnglandFilm.com. She later became the website's associate editor. She also serves as an associate editor of books for The Independent online magazine. O'Donnell holds an associate degree in criminal justice.