Critical Thinking...

  • A physician evaluates a patient's symptoms and prescribes the appropriate medication

  • A project manager in construction chooses the materials that are best suited for his job

  • A lawyer reviews evidence and comes up with a strategy to win the case in court

The physician, project manager, and lawyer all used critical thinking to come up with solutions for these scenarios.

But what is it? Flaticon Icon Critical thinking is the ability to analyze facts and data in order to form a conclusion about an issue or question.

There are 5 stages of critical thinking:

  1. Identify the question or issue

  2. Gather relevant information

  3. Explore alternatives

  4. Consider the implications

  5. Select the most reasonable conclusion

LeVar Burton pointing to his head & nodding

Hanna And Her New Dentist

This is Hanna:

Flaticon Icon

  • Hanna just moved and is in the market for a new dentist

  • Dentist A is right down the street, so that is her top choice

  • Dentist B is a few miles away, but also a good choice

  • She knows the importance of a good dentist, and wants to choose someone who is right for her

  • She will use her critical thinking skills to make a decision

1. Identify The Question Or Issue

To begin the critical thinking process ask yourself "What am I being asked to believe or accept?"

A Spongebob character opening a briefcase with the words

At this stage:

  • Specify your objective or goal

  • Develop a question based on an issue you are having

  • Be precise: it is easer to find solutions to a narrower issue


Flaticon Icon Hanna's objective is to choose the dentist that best fits her needs.

2. Gather Relevant Information

Second, ask yourself "What evidence supports this position?"

At this stage you can:

  • Research the position online

  • Read a book about the topic

  • Ask an expert in the field

A girl in a library looking through a magnifying glass


Flaticon Icon To research Dentist A and B, Hanna:

  • Searched patient reviews on the dentists' website

  • Asked her friends about the dentists, since they've been patients there

  • Researched both dentists' credentials

  • Researched the services offered

3. Explore Alternatives

Third, ask yourself "Can this evidence be interpreted differently?"

Homer Simpson telling Lisa,

At this stage, ask yourself:

  • Is this interpretation logical?

  • What assumptions did I make?

  • Was there any bias present?

  • Did I consider other points of view?


Flaticon Icon Hanna found there may be bias on the dentists' websites, so she:

  • Searched patient reviews on a third party website

4. Consider The Implications

Fourth, ask yourself "What type of implications does each side have?"

At this stage you can:

  • Evaluate the positive and negative outcomes of each choice

  • Determine short term and long term effects

A pros and cons list


Flaticon Icon Hanna made pros and cons lists for Dentist A and Dentist B:

Dentist A Pros

  • Closer to home

  • Long hours of operation

  • Good reviews

Dentist B Pros

  • Kind staff

  • Experienced dentist

  • Good reviews

Dentist A Cons

  • Fresh out of school

  • No TVs in the waiting room

  • Only one dentist in the office

Dentist B Cons

  • Further from home

  • Short hours of operation

  • Office not very clean

5. Select The Most Reasonable Conclusion

Ask yourself, "What is the most reasonable conclusion?"

At this stage:

  • Identify various conclusions that are possible

  • Select the choice (if any) that you think has the most supportive data

  • Implement a plan of action and make adjustments when necessary


Flaticon Icon Based on her research and lists, Hanna chose Dentist A.

  • She trusts Dentist A is well-trained based on reviews

  • The office location and hours are more convenient for her than Dentist B's

Choose Who You Think Is The Best Critical Thinker

Nick, Sophia, and Daniel all saw the same commercial advertising a new tea for weight loss.


  • Flaticon Icon The commercial claimed the product was natural, and he only likes to use natural products

  • The actor in the commercial is his role model, so he thinks the product must work

  • He looked up reviews online, and they were all good reviews

  • Javier bought the product


  • Flaticon Icon She researched the product and its ingredients online

  • She asked her doctor if the product can help with weight loss

  • She looked up side effects of the product and potential benefits

  • She decided that in her case, the potential side effects outweigh the benefits, and did not buy the product


  • Flaticon Icon His roommate tried the product and had an allergic reaction, so he thinks it must be bad for him

  • He researched the product, but only the side effects

  • His significant other told him not to waste his money

  • Milo did not buy the product


Who is the best critical thinker?

Take Action

A cycle summarizing the 5 stages of critical thinking

Now that you've become familiar with the 5 stages of critical thinking:


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