If you ever care to pay little attention to the job ads, you will probably find that “critical thinking” is a commonly used phrase in the job requriment section. With that said, we can be better of if we are more critical, or at least appreciate a critical mindset.

I have been actually reading a book Asking the Right Question-A Guide to Critical Thinking, written by M. Neil Browne and Stuart M. Keeley. And starting from today, I will be jotting down some notes of the book here so that anyone who happens to drop by could have the chance to get more understanding of critical thinking and how we make critical thinking our own.

I do this simply because:

  • Critical thinking is essential for personal development and career success;
  • This book is a great one on the issue in question;
  • Not everyone got the chance to read this book;
  • Not everyone like reading;
  • …and most obviously: I love sharing.

The notes will be chapter based and you could expected at least 14 parts in this series. Be patient here, coz it worths.

OK. Here we go with part 1: The Benefit of Asking the Right Questions

1. What is critical thinking and the appropriate way to ask questions?
Critical thinking consists of an awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions, plus the ability and willingness to ask and answer them at appropriate times.

By our questions, we are saying to the person: I am curious; I want to know more; help me. This request shows respect for the other person. The point of your questions is that you need help to have a deeper understanding or appreciation of what is being said.

2. Two information process approaches

– The Sponge Approach

Just buy whatever was heard lately, without examination;

– The Panning-for-Gold Approach

The process of panning for gold provides a model for active readers and listeners as they try to determine the worth of what they read and hear.

Either of them makes sense in certain situations. There is no absolute right or wrong. And when we talk about critical thinking, we are more likely to be thinking in the panning for gold approach.

3. Sense of Critical thinking

We bring lots of personal baggage to every decision we make—experiences, dreams, values, training, and cultural habits. However, if you are to grow, you need to recognize these feelings, and, as much as you are able, put them on a shelf for a bit. Only that effort will enable you to listen carefully when others offer argument that threaten or violate your current beliefs.

Remember: Emotional involvement should not be the primary basis for accepting or rejecting a position.

Therefore, there are two level of critical thinking:

– Weak-sense critical thinking

If you approach critical thinking as a method for defending your initial beliefs or those you are paid to have, you are engaged in weak-sense critical thinking.

– Strong-Sense Critical Thinking

Strong-Sense critical thinking requires us to apply the critical questions to all claims, including our own.

Weak-sense critical thinking is the use of critical thinking to defend our current beliefs. Strong-sense critical thinking is the use of the same skills to evaluate all claims and beliefs, especially your own.

In a nutshell, to be thinking critically, asking the right questions listed below:
  1. What are the issues and the conclusions?
  2. What are the reasons?
  3. Which words or phrases are ambiguous?
  4. What are the value conflicts and assumptions?
  5. What are the descriptive assumptions?
  6. Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?
  7. How good is the evidence?
  8. Are there rival causes?
  9. Are the statistics deceptive?
  10. What significant information is omitted?
  11. What reasonable conclusions are possible?
Until next time, keep thinking critically!
Jeff Wang
28 August 2009
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