Problem Solving Skills Training

A skills programme by Tremendis Learning

Four Steps of Critical Thinking

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Four Steps of Critical Thinking

Four Steps of Critical Thinking

Analytical or critical thinking involves four steps:

  1. Identify the problem and break it down.
  2. Collect information/perform research.
  3. Form opinions (hypotheses).
  4. Draw conclusions.

To see how this process works, try this scenario:
What would you do?
One afternoon a bunch of peers at work come down with stomach cramps and vomiting. All of them ate at a local restaurant. Those who didn't eat there didn't get sick.

What do you conclude?
If you've already decided it was the food, think again, Sherlock. Use your scientific thinking skills instead of jumping to the obvious conclusion.

  1. Identify the problem.
    People at work are sick and you want to find out what caused the problem.
  2. Collect information/investigate.
    So you found out that the people got sick had hot-dogs and the others didn't. Keep going. Ask questions that will take you scientifically to a conclusion before you leap to one. Did some students who ate at the restaurant not end up vomiting? Did they all have mustard or ketchup or relish? Was it maybe something else they ate with the food? Were all the sickies from the same lunch period? Expand your research to the kitchen. Did the same cafeteria server handle hamburgers and hot dogs? Did only one server handle the dogs? Did anybody in the kitchen get sick? Are there any toxic substances near the hot-dog-preparation area? Check out the hot-dog oven. What about pans and serving platters? Did anybody examine those hot dog buns? Are there uncooked hot dogs lying around? Never shortcut the information gathering step in a scientific investigation.
  3. Form your hypothesis.
    Maybe, after all your investigations, you still blame the hot dogs. In your opinion, the hot dogs are responsible for student sickness that afternoon. That's your theory, your hypothesis.
  4. Draw your conclusions.
    You can't do that until you test your hypothesis, right? If you're brave, you might run your own experiment and eat one of the suspect hot dogs. Or you can ask your science teacher to run a substance analysis on a hot dog. The fourth step is the time to test your theory and confirm your hypothesis or adjust your conclusion. You decide that you're not brave, so you don't eat the hot dog. Your employer examines the food, but it comes up clean. It's time to consider a new hypothesis. Since only one person prepared the hot dogs, and he didn't touch the hamburgers, you shift your suspicions to him. To test your new theory, you spy on him. Sure enough, you see him cough without covering his mouth. The man confesses that he just got over the flu. Case solved.
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