Critical Thinking Skills Review Study Guide (page 4)
Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are is true enough, but I'd know you better if you told me what you reread.
François Mauriac, French author (1885–1970)
This lesson provides a review of critical thinking skills. Reviewing the highlights can serve as a quick reference any time you're about to take a test at school or for a job. So, keep it handy and reread!
It's important to be able to pick out the main, important ideas in material and present them concisely. You summarize every time you tell someone about a movie you saw, sporting event you attended, or what happened at school or work today. You can't tell everything, minute-by-minute in real time, so you hit the highlights: the main idea and a few details. You can often do it in just a few sentences.
Read over the summaries of the critical thinking lessons. If anything seems unclear, go back and read that lesson so you can retain and use all the skills you need for successful critical thinking.
A tip about summarizing: Keep it brief—include all the main ideas from the original but reduce the details. A summary is always supposed to be a lot shorter than the original material.
You learned that the first step in problem solving is to recognize a situation that needs a solution. Sometimes you find a problem through your own observations, but at other times, someone else tells you about a problem. Next, you prioritize—does the problem need immediate attention, or can it wait? If there's more than one problem, which problem is most important and should be tackled first?
This lesson explained how to avoid "solving" something that is not your actual problem. Defining a real problem entails gathering information and carefully examining what may first appear to be a large problem (it could be a number of smaller ones). It also means not being tricked into solving offshoots of a problem or mistaking the more obvious consequences of a problem for the actual problem. Two ways to be sure you are considering a real problem are to avoid making assumptions and to think the situation through.
You learned how to become a more effective decision maker and problem solver by using focused observation. That means increasing awareness by being thorough, concentrating, and creating a context (looking at a situation as a whole, instead of zeroing in on a small part).
In this lesson, you used concept maps, webs, Venn diagrams, charts, and problem/solution outlines to organize your thinking on your way to solutions. Graphic organizers combine text and illustration to show a lot of information in a small space, and keep you focused by showing what you know and what you still need to find out.
Here, you learned that goals, the clear statements of what you want to accomplish, should be specific, measurable, realistic, and deadline oriented. If goals are unrealistic, too large, or take too long, they become difficult or impossible to reach, and even if they're reachable, you may grow tired and quit before you get there! Using a goal chart can help keep you on track to meet your goal.
You learned how to troubleshoot problems by thinking ahead, identifying issues that could get in your way, and taking care of them. You also learned about unforeseeable problems, those inconveniences that hold you up as you work toward a goal. Another type of troubleshooting involved problem-causing trends. This must be used when you are consistently faced with the same type of problem, in order to figure out how to prevent it in the future.
This lesson stressed getting accurate information. If you have a decision to make, or a problem to solve and you do not know what to base a decision on, or if there are factors that need to be considered that you are not familiar with, you need to consult other resources. They include the Internet, libraries, and experts.
Here, you learned that a fact is something that can be proven true while an opinion can't. And you discovered the importance of knowing if information is accurate and objective or false and/or biased. To trust any source, you need to check out the author's credentials, documentation and quality of sources, and others' opinions of the source. This is essential, especially when researching on the Internet, where just about anyone can publish and make it seem legitimate.
This lesson examined how to recognize persuasion techniques used in speech, writing, and advertising. Three persuasion techniques described by Aristotle thousands of years ago (logos, pathos, ethos) are still used today, along with rhetorical questions, hyperboles, and comparisons. These techniques are used in persuasive advertising, where the marketer aims to manipulate your spending habits by making you want to buy his or her product or service. When you understand how persuasion works, you can avoid being swayed by it and use it to your advantage.
You learned how numbers can sometimes lie. Whether by deliberate misuse, negligence, or plain incompetence, the facts and figures we see, hear, and read are not always the truth. It all happens in one, or both, of two key areas. First, numbers must be gathered. If they are collected incorrectly or by someone with an agenda or bias, you need to know that. Second, numbers must be analyzed or interpreted. Again, this process can be done incorrectly, or by an individual or group with an agenda. Surveys, correlation studies, and statistics were examined.
This lesson covered the role emotions play in the decision-making process. Emotions and emotional situations explored included bias and stereotypes, stress, and the ego. When emotional responses are recognized and used appropriately they can be an effective component of critical thinking. The goal is to acknowledge and understand the emotions that may influence your decision making, so you can determine when and where to let them become part of the solutions and decisions you make.
You learned that in deductive reasoning, an argument is made based on two facts, or premises. These premises could be rules, laws, principles, or generalizations. If they are true, it should follow that the conclusion of the argument must also be true. But, the conclusion must follow logically from and not go beyond or make assumptions about the premises. If it does not, the argument is said to be invalid.
Arguments that have an error in logic, or a fallacy, are invalid. This lesson explored four of the most common logical fallacies: slippery slope, which has true premises but the conclusion takes them to an extreme; false dilemma, which presents only two options (either/or) when there are really more; circular reasoning, which has just one premise, and the conclusion simply restates it; equivocation, which uses a word twice, each time with a different meaning, or one multiple-meaning word that creates ambiguity.
This lesson showed how to recognize and construct an inductive argument. Induction is the process of reasoning from the specific (particular facts or instances) to the general (principles, theories, rules). It uses two premises that support the probable truth of the conclusion. To determine what is probable, you must use past experience and/or common sense. The two forms of inductive arguments are comparative (comparing one thing, event or idea to another to see if they are similar), and causal (trying to determine cause from effect).
You learned that an inductive fallacy has either has two premises that don't adequately support the conclusion, or a conclusion that doesn't fit the premises. You explored four common fallacies: hasty generalization, which doesn't have enough evidence in the premises to support the conclusion; chicken-and-egg, which claims cause and effect without enough evidence; post hoc, ergo propter hoc, which incorrectly assumes that because one event preceded another, it caused it; and composition, which draws a conclusion based only on the parts of a whole.
This lesson covered logical fallacies that distract from the real issue, putting an opponent on the defensive. Three such techniques are: red herring, in which the opponent of an argument throws in an irrelevant topic to change the subject to one with which he or she is more comfortable; straw man, which distracts from the original argument by creating a weaker one that is easier to attack; and ad hominem, which attacks the opponent instead of the issue.
You learned that judgment calls are subjective, debatable decisions that have four characteristics: the stakes are high, needed information is incomplete or ambiguous, other people disagree about them, and they sometimes involve conflicting values. It's necessary to always take the time to evaluate all the risks and weigh the consequences of each possible decision.
You learned that an explanation is made up of two parts: the explanadum, what will be explained; and the explanans, the statements that do the explaining. A good explanation gives new information, the topic is accepted as fact, it's relevant, and when accepted, removes or lessens a problem. An explanation answers the question, "why?" An argument, on the other hand, gives reasons (premises) that are evidence for a conclusion and may be opinions or value judgments. Explanations are neither of those.
In this lesson, you discovered how to use the skills when you take exams to get into colleges or grad schools or to get a job. Critical reading questions on tests measure your ability to understand a passage, draw inferences, analyze information, and critique others peoples' arguments. Other tests measure science reasoning, analytical writing, and logical and situational reasoning.
Summarize each lesson yourself. Draw a triangle and write the three most important facts, one in each corner. Use this technique with everything you read to help you help you remember what you read and increase your critical-thinking skills!
Now that you have reviewed each of the lessons, it is time to test your skills with the Critical Thinking Practice Quiz.
Exercises for this concept can be found at Critical Thinking Skills Review Practice Exercises.
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