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Academic Skills

Critical Thinking

It isn't enough just to find the right material for an assignment; degree level study requires you to think critically about what you read and apply your knowledge systematically and objectively. Critical thinking means that you don’t just accept what you read but you question it so that you come to understand the different perspectives and ideas related to the concepts that you are studying. In turn you then come to take your own viewpoint based on what you have read. In order to read critically, look for: Clarity; Accuracy; Precision; Relevance; Depth; Breadth; Logic; Significance and Fairness.

  • Does the author say clearly what he/she means?
  • Is the author accurate in what she/he says?
  • Is the author sufficiently precise in providing relevant details?
  • Does the author retain his/her purpose or provide irrelevant material?
  • Is the writing in depth or does it take a superficial approach?
  • Is the author’s perspective narrow or are other views considered?
  • Is the text consistent or are the arguments illogical?
  • Does the author make significant or trivial points?
  • Does the author deal with the content fairly?

So critical thinking is all about asking questions and this ties in with the need for active reading and meaningful Note-making.

Below are some of the activities that critical thinking might involve. Think about the assignment you are doing and decide which might apply.

  • Interpreting according to a framework
  • Relating theory to practice
  • Making a claim and supporting it
  • Using appropriate evidence
  • Making links between ideas
  • Asking questions
  • Evaluating
  • Predicting
  • Describing
  • Analysing
  • Synthesising
  • Categorising
  • Establishing cause and effect
  • Comparing and contrasting
  • Identifying problems and solutions

Adapted from www.canberra.edu.au

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