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Template for all student academic writing lib guides

Critical Thinking, Critical Analysis and Critical Reflection are terms commonly used to describe the type of writing necessary to complete an academic writing task. The terms are similar and may seem confusing!

So, what's the difference?

 

CRITICAL THINKING CRITICAL ANALYSIS CRITICAL REFLECTION

Processing information that you receive
in an evaluative and investigative way.
Asking questions about the material.

Breaking information into components
to compare and evaluate ideas. 
Assessing or evaluating a process
or event and deducting conclusions.  

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical Thinking is a process of acknowledging what we learn, read or see beyond simply describing it. It is about asking questions of the material such as, who created it, why was created, what is its agenda or purpose. By dissecting information in this way, we can gain a better understanding of the subject matter with which we are learning about. 

Watch this short video that explains Critical Thinking and how you can think and write critically

How to think critically

Critical Thinking is made up of a set of skills that can be learned, practised and honed. While there is not one set or exact list of instructions to follow there are certain steps to take that will guide your critical thinking journey. 


Always asking questions of the subject matter is a great starting point

You can try going through this checklist 

WHO Who is saying it? Who is the material aimed at?
WHY Why is it being said? Why is it important?/or not? Why do you need to know?
WHAT What is being said? What is it about?
WHEN When was it said/written/created? Is this important?
HOW How is it said? Format? Mood? Tone?

Establishing these answers will take you beyond simply describing what it is that you learn and give you the tools to analyse and evaluate what you learn for a deeper understanding of the subject.


These methods below are also concrete ways to think critically, allowing you to form your own opinions, judgments and arguments relating to a topic. 

THINK CREATIVELY When you are reading, be open to new ideas and ways of thinking. Don’t let preconceived ideas cloud your thought process. Be open to discussing a topic from all different angles and opinions.

ANALYSE Dissect a topic and examine all aspects of the information – see Critical Analysis.

PROBLEM SOLVE Think about all possible resolutions to a situation and choose the best scenario.

REASON When gathering information, come to educated conclusions. Connect the pieces of information you know to form new truths.

EVALUATE Examining everything that you read, watch or learn to rate its reliability, integrity, usefulness and authority.


While having your own opinions is a vital part of critical thinking, in academic writing, it is also important to be able to back these opinions with examples from current literature. You can learn more about the importance of referencing here.

Why do we need to think critically?

Thinking critically is beneficial because it enables a deeper level of learning. By questioning the material you are producing original thoughts and building on knowledge that is already available to broaden your understanding of the material and its place in the greater community.