This is Part 2 of the Critical Practice series/course. You can read Part 1 here.
What would you do if a friend suggested to you that the Covid-19 Pandemic was a geo-political conspiracy to regress humanity to a pre-human stage so that we lose our human rights and our governments would be able to do what they want (since we’d have no rights)? I know this is an extreme example of a conspiracy theory and as my friend was not willing to engage in any discussion that disagreed with him, lets just say, he’s no longer a friend. However, what if the story was less crazy and more human – would you just accept it? Or would you want to ask questions to get more information? Would you want to know what evidence exists to support the claim?
What is critical thinking?
When we are thinking critically, we’re trying to gather knowledge so that we’re able to make a better, more informed decision. Critical thinking means wanting to explore a topic more; consider a problem in more detail, looking at a range of causes, considering all the consequences and a range of solutions so you can come to the best answer for a given situation. In other words, you’re making an informed decision based on facts and evidence rather than just a gut reaction or going on instinct.
This process of exploring a range of evidence from a variety of sources, both positive and negative, is what we call critical thinking. Academically, using critical thinking skills shows that you have understood the facts of whatever issue or problem you are looking at and you are able to interpret all the information and opinions and draw your own conclusions based on the evidence.
One key feature of critical thinking is that there is a reliance on facts rather than opions and we need to be able to decide what is a fact and which facts we can trust. When reading or reviewing any materials you need to question if the information provided is fact or opinion. Does the author provide evidence to support their claims (just like you’d be asked to do with your own writing) or are they simply telling your their own personal opinion.
Its important, when thinking critically, not to take things at face value – you need to question what you’re being told – and this is where looking for the evidence to support the claims comes in (and highlights the difference between fact and opinion).
What is critical writing?
In many work and study-related situations you will need to produce a piece of writing which presents an argument supporting your response to a situation – an assignment or maybe a proposal for action at work.
Running with a work example, lets say you’re presenting a proposal to gain funding to expand your Department to your Senior Management Team (SMT). You can’t just go into the SMT Meeting and expect them to agree to your proposal simply because you asked. Think about what they might want to know and why. This will help you shape how you argue your case.
- Why do you want to expand?
- What are the benefits to the department and the organisation?
- What might be any risks associated with the expansion?
- What costs might be involved?
- a cost/benefit analysis
- A breakdown/action plan of what’s required for implementation
The more you present your case critically by using evidence, showing you have done your research, the more you will be able to defend and argue your position. You can demonstrate that you have done your homework and have a sound understanding of the business case, and the arguments for and against your proposal. You want to ensure that your proposal is impartial and not full of unsupported claims. Putting this information together in written form, simply, is critical writing.
In future posts, I will explore how to think and write critically, but I wanted to open up with an introduction providing a good definition of these terms in a bit more detail. In the next post, we will be looking at evidence-based practice since there is so much emphasis on the use of evidence in critical practice.
Egege, Sandra; (2021); Becoming a Critical Thinker, Red Globe Press, London
I hope my explanations above are clear, but please use the comments below to provide any feedback, opinions or questions.
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