How to Think More Critically As a University Student

The phrase “critical thinking” can mean a lot of things; it’s all context-dependent when it comes to defining what it means to think in an academic setting. For some, this term might bring up connotations pertaining to criticism, i.e. negativity and nagging. This is certainly a definition that needs to be eschewed, however, if one is to succeed as a student.

No matter the field you’re striving to get into, some kind of critical thinking will be required – that’s why it’s necessary to get more information about how to think critically. In the final analysis – despite so many polarizing views of the term – critical thinking is a process of engagement and active learning that occurs within the context of one’s locality. Having this essential skill can help one to make significant life decisions, while allowing opportunities for full-fledged participation in the world.

Speaking succinctly, critical thinking involves a process of reflective thought. Indeed, to learn and become an active member of society, students must be actively engaged in the process of learning as opposed to being passive receivers of information. Ultimately, a committed, critical education ought to be a consistent process throughout life, such that knowledge is a fundamental component of social progress and reform.

Critical thinking is a necessary component of academia because it allows for the development of new information and knowledge. It helps us to question all information while looking for ways to continue to challenge the data to create further research. That’s why it’s necessary to interrogate those factors that inhabit critical thought, such as:

  • Egocentric thinking:  What I believe is true, even though I have never examined the basis of my belief.
  • Socio-centric thinking:  I take on the beliefs of the dominant group, even though I have never examined the basis of these beliefs.
  • Wishful thinking:  I believe what I want to believe because it makes me feel good, it fits with my other beliefs, it is easier to believe this, it makes me look better, etc.
  • Self-validated thinking: I believe what I have always believed, even though I have never examined the basis of these beliefs.
  • Selfish thinking:  I believe that which gets me what I want, such as power, money, privilege, fame etc.

Once these frameworks of thought are eliminated by a great deal of introspection, true and effective critical thinking can begin. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Do Research: All the information that gets thrown at us on a daily basis can be overwhelming, but if you decide to take matters into your own hands, it can also be a very powerful tool. If you have a problem to solve, a decision to make, or a perspective to evaluate, get onto Google and start reading about it. The more information you have, the better prepared you’ll be to think things through and come up with a reasonable answer to your query.
  • Be Inquisitive and Open: Acknowledging that you don’t know everything is a very important part of criticality. This means you’ll be open to other possibilities. If you don’t take in other perspectives and points of view, and think them over, and compare them to your own, you really aren’t doing much thinking at all.
  • See the Big Picture and Its Components: Being able to see the big picture is often touted as a great quality, but I’d wager that being able to see that picture for all its components is even better. After all, most problems are too big to solve all at once, but they can be broken down into smaller parts. The smaller the parts, the easier it’ll be to evaluate them individually and arrive at a solution. This is essentially what scientists do; before they can figure out how a bigger system — such as our bodies or an ecosystem — works, they have to understand all the parts of that system, how they work, and how they relate to each other.

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