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Critical Thinking and Reasoning Skills Help (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Reasoning Skills

Reasoning skills, on the other hand, deal more with the process of getting from point A, the problem, to point B, the solution. You can get there haphazardly, or you can get there by reason.

A reason is a motive or cause for something—a justification for thoughts, actions, or opinions. In other words, it's why you do, say, or think what you do. But your reasons for doing things aren't always reasonable—as you know if you've ever done or said something in the heat of the moment. Reasoning skills ask you to use good sense and base your reasons on facts, evidence, or logical conclusions rather than just on your emotions. In short, when you decide on the best way to handle a situation or determine the best solution to a problem, you should have logical (rather than purely emotional) reasons for coming to that conclusion.

Logical: according to reason; according to conclusions drawn from evidence or common sense

Emotional: drawn from emotions, from intense mental feelings

The Difference between Reason and Emotion

It would be false to say that anything emotional is not reasonable. In fact, it's perfectly valid to take your emotions into consideration when you make decisions. After all, how you feel is very important. But if there's no logic or reason behind your decisions, you're usually in for trouble.

Let's say, for example, that you need to buy a computer. This is a rather big decision, so it's important that you make it wisely. You'll want to be sure that you:

  • Carefully consider your options
  • Consider different possibilities and outcomes
  • Have logical reasons to support your final decision

It may seem obvious that you need to choose a computer that best suits your needs and budget. For example, as much as you might like the top-of-theline gaming computer with the best video card, almost unlimited memory, and built in surround sound, you shouldn't get it if you only need this computer for simple functions. But for a variety of emotional reasons, many people do make these kinds of unwise, unreasonable decisions. They may have thought critically and still made the wrong choice because they let their emotions override their sense of logic and reason.

Justifying Your Decision

One way to help ensure that you're using your critical thinking and reasoning skills is to always justify your decisions and actions. Why did you do what you did? Why did you make that decision? Why did that seem like the best solution? Try this with even your everyday decisions and actions. You'll get to know your current decision-making process, and you'll be able to determine where in that process you can become more effective.

Why Critical Thinking and Reasoning Skills Are Important

You will face (if you don't already) situations on the job, at home, and at school that require critical thinking and reasoning skills. By improving these skills, you can improve your success in everything you do. Specifically, strong critical thinking and reasoning skills will help you:

  • Compose and support strong, logical arguments
  • Assess the validity of other people's arguments
  • Make more effective and logical decisions
  • Solve problems more efficiently

Essentially, these four skills make up problem-solving skills. For example, if someone wants to change your mind and convince you of something, you have a "problem"—you have to decide whether or not to change your beliefs, whether to accept that person's argument. Similarly, when you have a choice to make, or a position you'd like to support, you have a different type of "problem" to solve—what choice to make, how to support your position. Thus, the term problem solving can refer to any one of these situations.

Tip

Don't be fooled by the use of the term argument. In this lessonn, the word doesn't mean raised voices, harsh tones, and veiled insults. Instead, in this arena, according to Princeton, the word argument means "a course of reasoning aimed at demonstrating a truth or falsehood; the methodical process of logical reasoning."

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