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Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

Understand what is meant by taking a critical or analytical approach Become more aware of how to use critical and analytical thinking when reading and writing Develop criteria for evaluating an argument or a line of reasoning in a piece of writing Develop criteria for evaluating the evidence given in a piece of writing Learn how to identify and draw valid conclusions

Richard Paul (a prominent advocate of CRITICAL THINKING) says, "Alternative solutions are often not given, they must be generated or thought-up. Critical thinkers must be creative thinkers as well, generating possible solutions in order to find the best one. Very often a problem persists, not because we can't tell which available solution is best, but because the best solution has not yet been made available no one has thought of it yet."

Weighing up arguments and evidence for and against Complete process of deliberation which involves a wide range of skills and attitudes. Process includes:
Identifying other peoples positions, arguments and

conclusions Evaluating the evidence for alternative points of view Being able to read between the lines, seeing behind surfaces, and identifying false or unfair assumptions Drawing conclusions about whether arguments are valid and justifiable, based on good evidence and sensible assumptions Presenting a point of view in a structured, clear, wellreasoned way that convinces others.

Analytical thinking

Standing back from info given Examine in detail Check closely if accurate Look for possible flaws Compare same issue Ability to see and explain why people arrive at different conclusions Able to argue why one set of opinions is preferable to another Check for hidden assumptions Check for attempts to lure reader

Knowing our own reasons: Critical thinking is associated with reasoning or with our capacity for rational thought
rational using reasons to solve problems

Starts with ourselves. Includes:

Having reasons for what we believe and do and

being aware of what these are; Critically evaluating our own beliefs and actions; Being able to present to others the reason for our beliefs and actions

Critical Analysis of other peoples reasoning Critical reasoning usually involves considering other peoples reasoning. Requires skill of grasping an overall argument, but also skills in analysing and evaluating it in detail May involve:

Identifying their reasons and conclusions; Analysing how they select, combine and order reasons to

construct a line of reasoning; Evaluating whether their reasons support the conclusions they draw; Evaluating whether their reasons are well-founded, based on good evidence; Identifying flaws in their reasoning

Improved attention and observation More focused reading Improved ability to identify the key points in a

text or other message rather than becoming distracted by less important material Improved ability to respond to the appropriate points in a message Knowledge of how to get your own point across more easily Skills of analysis that you can choose to apply in a variety of situations

Development of a range of ancillary skills:


Decision-making Analysis


Realistic Self-Appraisal

Attention to detail: taking the time to note small clues that throw greater light on the overall issue Identifying trends and patterns: this may be through careful mapping of information, analysis of data, or identifying repetition and similarity Repetition: going back over the same ground several times to check that nothing has been missed. Taking different perspectives: looking at the same information from several points of view. Objectivity: putting your own likes, beliefs and interests to one side with the aim of gaining the most accurate outcome or a deeper understanding. Considering implications and distant consequences: what appears to be a good idea in the short term, for example, might have long-term






I may make a quick first reading to get the overall picture and check my initial response. I see whether it rings true or contradicts what I believe to be true. I compare what I read with what I already know about the topic and with my experience. I summarise as I go along, and hold the overall argument in my head to make sense of what comes next. I look for the authors position or point of view, asking what are they trying to sell me? As I read, I check each section and ask myself if I know what it means. If not, I check again sometimes it is clearer when I read the second time. If it is still unclear, I remind myself to come back to it later as the rest of the passage may make it clearer.





I then read more carefully, seeing what reasons the writers present and checking whether I am persuaded by these. If I am persuaded, I consider why. Is it because they make use of experts in the field? Is there research evidence that looks thorough and convincing? If I am not persuaded, then why not? I check if this is a gut level thing or whether I have good reasons for not being convinced. If I have relied on a gut response, I check for hard evidence such as whether I have read other material that contradicts it. I then create my own position, and check that my own point to view is convincing. Could I support it if I was challenged?

I put my energy into looking for the heart of the issue: what is really being said, and why? The answers may not be on the page; they may be in the wider history of a debate, a cultural clash, or conflicting bids for project money. It is surprising how often the wider context, popular debates, even a desire to be seen to be saying what is currently in fashion, have a bearing on what a given passage is really saying.

The trick is being able to see the wood for the trees; identifying what is relevant amongst a mass of less relevant information. It isnt enough just to understand; you have to be constantly evaluating whether something is accurate, whether it gets to the heart of the issue, whether it is the most important aspect on which to focus, whether what you are saying about it is a fair representation of it.

Examples illustrate different aspects of CT

1. An analytical strategy for the material;

2. Understanding of the wider context;

3. An evaluative and selective approach; 4. Being self-critical about your own

understanding, interpretation and evaluation.

Why? How far? How much How often? To what extent? How do we know this is true? How reliable is this source? What could be going on below the surface? What do we not know about this? Which is preferable? For what reason?

Identify the line of reasoning Critically evaluate the line of reasoning Question surface appearances Identify evidence in the text Evaluate the evidence Identify the writers conclusions Evaluate whether the evidence supports the conclusions


Line of reasoning Angle/point of view Position being defended Case being made: backed up by evidence & examples and leading to conclusions

What are the main things this writer wants me to accepts? What reasons does she/he present to encourage me to accept this?


A human skeleton was found near the river late last month by a senior couple walking their dog. They believed it was a murder caused by a troublesome local family. The police interviewed the family but ruled out their involvement. The bones are believed to be several hundred years old. Historians confirm that the river Marie passes close to an ancient burial grounds and that there are records of other bodies being carried away by the river in the distant past. This was the first for over 150 years. Recent storms have caused the river to rise by half a metre. It is probable that the skeleton was dislodged from its resting place by the river rather than by the local family.
Identify: Main argument, reasons and conclusion.

Main argument: The swollen river dislodged the skeleton Reasons: 1) A skeleton was found near the river 2) The police have ruled out that a suspected local family was involved. 3) The bones are believed to be several hundred years old 4) The river passes close to ancient burial grounds 5) Other bodies have been carried away in the past 6) Recent storms have caused the river to rise. Conclusion: The skeleton was dislodged by the swollen river rather than the local family.

Relevant, contributing and sufficient propositions (reasons) Logical progression

False premises
Are the reasons given relevant? Do they support overall argument?

Logical connection between one thing and the next something not positive Assuming causal connection Drawing general conclusions based on one or few

Flawed reasoning

examples Inappropriate comparisons

E.g: There was a murder near the station last night. There are always young lads hanging around there. One of them probably did it. The local council should ban young people from hanging around the station. Conclusion: Young people should be banned from hanging around the station

Inconsistent because: 1) No evidence that the young people did it 2) Even did they did so, other young people would do the same 3) A general ban on young people would prevent future murders

E.g: Behaviour is better in schools in rural areas than in inner city schools. Children brought up in the country have more responsibility for contributing to the family livelihood and care for vulnerable animals. This fosters a more mature attitude and a respect for life in general. Children in inner city schools often have more material possessions but value them less. They show less respect for parents and teachers. Children from the cities should be sent to school in rural schools. This would lead to more children who are respectful and well behaved.

Conclusion: If children were sent from city to country schools, their attitude and behaviour would improve. Inconsistent because: 1) It does not follow logically that moving school would lead to a change in their behaviour 2) The alleged better behaviour is attributed to the responsibilities they have at home, not the schools 3) The reasons provide better grounds for a different conclusion: that the childrens behaviour might improve if they were given more responsibilities.

a) War in the gulf is likely to have affected how much oil is produced in the next few months. When there is shortage of oil, petrol prices usually rise. Therefore, the price of petrol is likely to rise this year. SOUND

b) Cities are too polluted by cars exhaust fumes and chemical pumped into the air. In the countryside, the air is free of pollution. People ought to stop living in cities as it is healthier to live in the countryside. FALSE

c) Digital television will increase the number of channels from which viewers can choose. The more choice there is, the better the quality of the programmes that are produced. Therefore, digital television will lead to better television programmes. FALSE Bollywood, the Mumbai-based film industry in India, produces around 900 films every year, far more than any rival. These are being distributed to more countries than ever before. Indian films used to appeal mostly to home audience but now attract large non-Indian audiences. India has diversified into art-films that win international acclaim. Therefore, the Indian film industry is gaining wide appeal. SOUND

Evidence as appeared?
Other explanations apart from the obvious

All necessary information been given? Other

details lead to a different conclusion?

Interested parties who would gain if the

conclusions were accepted?

Hidden assumptions or agendas? Evidence come from a reliable, disinterested


Statistics Examples Case histories Findings from experiments Surveys Questionnaires Case studies Anecdotal (stories told by one or a few people about their experiences)

Check the date of the research Check the source of your information Check for bias in your sources Beware the allure numbers and statistics Percentages Sample size Representativeness Conditions of data collection Emotive language and persuader words Emotive words Persuader words

At end of writing May also be found at beginning of text or even middle

Harder to find and less effective

trigger words
Therefore, so, hence, thus Must, should, need to

Sometimes not stated at all

Implied by arguments and evidence

More than one

Any explicit conclusion? If so, what? What is the implicit conclusion?


You want a plant, You like this one and you

can afford it. The tree is dangerous. It is leaning over the childrens playground. It is heavy, rotten and could break at any time.


Check for hidden false assumptions

Proposition 1: The karate champion is a woman Proposition 2: My mother is a woman Conclusion: My mother is a woman, therefore,

she is a karate champion (False conclusion)



5) 6)


Misunderstanding of what is meant by criticism Over-estimating our own reasoning abilities. Lack of methods, strategies or practice Reluctance to critique experts Affective reasons Insufficient focus and attention to detail Mistaking information for understanding

2. 3. 4. 5.

Be clear about your conclusions

Have a clear line of reasoning

Use evidence to support your reasoning

Evaluate your own writing through critical reading

Take multiple perspectives


Being clear what your conclusions are Show a clear line of reasoning an argument leading to your conclusion Presenting evidence to support your reasoning Reading you own writing critically View subject from multiple perspectives Write in a critical, analytical style, rather than in a descriptive, personal/journalistic style

Listening Check for consistency in what the speaker is saying does the speaker appear to contradict herself/himself; and if so, what is going on beneath that contradiction? Check that body language, eye contact, and speed and tone of voice are consistent with what is being said does the speaker look and sound as though he or she believes what he or she is saying?