Critical thinking is a mental process of questioning and evaluating what you read, hear, and see (Palgrave, n.d.). Being able to question or doubt ideas or arguments and not accept them at face value is part of the process. You will need to demonstrate the ability to think critically by:
This process involves:
You can use the learning cycle and the six questions (5W + 1H system) to trigger your critical thinking.
Think about the six questions: What, Who, When, Where, Why, and How, as demonstrated in the table below.
What are the main messages, arguments, results, or findings?
What type of source is it? e.g. a research study, professional opinion, discussion, website or other?
Who is the target audience?
Who has written, said or produced the source?
Is the author/speaker an organisation or an individual?
Are they an expert in the topic?
Could they have any bias?
How do you know?
When was it published or updated?
Check if recent work is available; older key information may still be valid.
Where did you find the information? Where was it published?
Did you find the information by chance? Or did you find it through a systematic search?
Why has this been written, said or produced?
What is the aim of the information?
Who is the information aimed at – professionals or patient/client groups?
How has the author/speaker come to their conclusions?
Is their line of reasoning logical and understandable?If it is research or a review of research, how was it carried out, was it done well and do the conclusions reflect the findings?
Six questions (5W+1H) to trigger your critical thinking (adapted from Aveyard et al., 2015).
This is the learning cycle that can help you reflect on your learning process. In this cycle there are four stages, as summarised in the diagram below.
[Click on the image to enlarge.]
Learning cycle (adapted from Batista, 2007). Summary of a learning cycle which can be used to bring about critical thinking.
Don't forget - the Library also runs bitesize workshops on critical thinking. To find out more and book a place click here .
Aveyard, H., Sharp, P. and Wooliams, M. (2015) A beginner's guide to critical thinking and writing in health and social care, 2nd ed. Maidenhead: Open University Press, p. 19. Available from: http://lib.myilibrary.com/Open.aspx?id=332096 [Accessed 14 July 2016].
Batista, E. (2007) Executive coaching change management. Available from: http://www.edbatista.com/2007/10/experiential.html [Accessed 14 July 2016].
Plagrave (n.d.) Critical thinking skills IN: Skills4StudyCampus. London: Palgrave Macmillan Higher Education. Available from: http://www.skills4studycampus.com/palgrave/ [Accessed 18 July 2016].
“Question” icon by Vandita Malhodra from the Noun Project https://thenounproject.com/shital777/icon/329956/
(Used in table 1 next to ‘What’).
“About Us” icon by Ben Peetermans from the Noun Project https://thenounproject.com/term/dollar-currency/105366/
(Used in table 1 next to ‘Who’. Icon revised by Gil Dekel).
“Calendar” icon Bohdan Burmich from the Noun Project https://thenounproject.com/term/earth/409094/
(Used in table 1 next to ‘When’).
“Location” icon by Ecem Afacan from the Noun Project https://thenounproject.com/ecem.afacan.5/icon/408403/
(Used in table 1 next to ‘Where’).
“Crowdsourcing” icon By Iconathon https://thenounproject.com/term/crowdfunding/14296/
(Used in table 1 next to ‘Why’).
“Tutorial” icon by Peipei Feng from the Noun Project https://thenounproject.com/kaipei.feng/icon/70354/
(Used in table 1 next to ‘How’).
Head image by Max Griboedov/Shutterstock (image ID:332573291).
Critical thinking by Plymouth University [PDF].
Critical thinking by University of Southampton [PDF].
Be more critical - a practical guide to critical thinking, produced by Oxford Brookes University for Health Sciences students [PDF].
Critical appraisal of a journal article by University College London [PDF].
Reflection - an introduction to reflection including models and examples of how to write reflectively, by Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh [PDF]
Critical thinking: an introduction - This session looks at what critical thinking is, why you need to do it and how to go about it. This session will introduce you to the main concepts and suggest resources to help you improve your skills. This is a Panopto recording of a Skills for Success workshop run by the University of Southampton Library.
Critical thinking at University: an introduction - a FutureLearn MOOC - run monthly and created by the University of Leeds.
The difference between descriptive and critical writing by the Open University
Evaluating information - a 7 minute tutorial from the University of Southampton which covers thinking critically, and understanding how to find quality, reliable information.
Problem solving and analytical skills by Kent University.
Reflective learning by Reading University.
Reflective writing - a 15 minute tutorial by Teesside University