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Critical Thinking and Reasoning Skills Help

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Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Introduction to Critical Thinking and Reasoning Skills

"The more one listens to ordinary conversations, the more apparent it becomes that the reasoning faculties of the brain take little part in the direction of the vocal organs."

—Edgar Rice Burroughs, American author and creator of the Tarzan series (1875–1950)

Lesson Summary

You've probably heard the terms "critical thinking" and "reasoning skills" many times, in many different contexts. But what exactly does it mean to "think critically"? And just what are "reasoning skills"? This lesson will answer these questions and show you why critical thinking and reasoning skills are so important.

No matter who you are or what you do, you have to make decisions on a regular basis. You may not realize it, but even those decisions that seem like second nature—like deciding what to wear when you're getting dressed in the morning—require some critical thinking and reasoning skills. When you decide what to wear, you take many factors into consideration—the weather forecast; the current temperature; your plans for the day (where are you going? who will you see?); your comfort level (will you be walking a lot? sitting all day?); and so on. Thus, you are already a critical thinker on some level. But your life is complicated, and you face decisions that are much more difficult than choosing what to wear. How do you handle a conflict? Solve a problem? Resolve a crisis? Make a moral or ethical decision?

"The person who thinks before he acts seldom has to apologize for his acts."

—Napoleon Hill

(Think and Grow Rich)

While there's no guarantee you'll always make the right decision or find the most effective solution to a problem, there is a way to significantly improve your odds—and that is by improving your critical thinking and reasoning skills.

What Are Critical Thinking and Reasoning Skills?

To improve your critical thinking and reasoning skills, you need to know exactly what they are.

Critical Thinking

Think for a minute about the words critical thinking. What does this phrase mean? Essentially, critical thinking is a decision-making process. Specifically, critical thinking means carefully considering a problem, claim, question, or situation in order to determine the best solution. That is, when you think critically, you take the time to consider all sides of an issue, evaluate evidence, and imagine different scenarios and possible outcomes. It sounds like a lot of work, but the same basic critical thinking skills can be applied to all types of situations.

Tip

It is important to keep in mind that all problems have more than one solution. Like potato chips, you can't stop at just one. Keep thinking (and munching!) and see how many possible answers you can find. You might be surprised.

Critical thinking is so important because it helps you determine:

  • How to best solve a problem
  • Whether to accept or reject a claim
  • How to best answer a question
  • How to best handle a situation
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