How can I think, read or write more critically?

A simple definition of critical thinking, reading and writing is that it considers more than one point of view or interpretation.

Here is one step-by-step process you can follow for critical thinking or reading (e.g. of a theory, research article or recommendation):

  1. Identify the important choices which have been made. (For example, what is the author’s point of view? What methodology did the researcher choose? What type of action has been recommended? What evidence do they offer?)
  2. Think of some alternatives to those choices. (For example, what other points of view are possible? What other methodologies, actions or evidence could have been used?)
  3. Reach your own position on the alternatives. (For example, which point of view do you agree with? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the different methodologies or recommended actions?)
  4. Find some convincing evidence for your point of view. (For example, to what books or articles could you refer, to support your view? What examples or data can you draw on, to show that your view is convincing?)

There are other techniques for critical thinking and reading. (See Learning Centre workshops, or search the library catalogue for books on critical thinking: see links on the right.)

Critical writing requires strong writing skills. This is because you not only need to thoroughly understand the topic and the issues, but also to develop an essay structure and paragraph structure which will clearly analyse the different interpretations, develop an argument which considers more than one viewpoint, and provide convincing evidence for your view.

To build your skills in critical writing, there are several workshops which you can do (see the links on the right of this page). It can also be very helpful to look at some examples of critical writing by students within your discipline. Ask your tutor, lecturer or the office of your school or department whether there are any samples of good critical writing by previous students that you can look at. Also, you can look at professional critical writing in your discipline: Find some recent copies of a few top academic journals in your subject area, and look for some book reviews. A book review is one type of critical writing, and it will show you examples of the style and structure which is acceptable in your discipline.

For more on this topic, see the links on the right...