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How to be a critical thinker

red line dividerCritical thinking: two words you'll tire of hearing during your time at university, but also a skill that will help you improve your grades, build strong arguments, think clearly and even spot the sneakiest of fake news on your social media feed. 

By the time you reach the end of this page, you'll know what critical thinking is, how to hone it and how to demonstrate it in your work. Are you ready? Let's get critical.


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Why does reasoning matter?

This free chapter from Tom Chatfield's Critical Thinking shows you the ins and out of reasoning and argument-making, including what arguments are, what they aren't and what makes an argument effective. 

critical thinking: the basics

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Critical thinking in the real world

Critical thinking is everywhere and this free chapter from How to Think proves it. Set the scene for your clear thinking journey with advice on how to think well, tackle biases, and spot fake news.


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Learn to read and write critically

Critical thinking, reading and writing go hand in hand. This chapter from Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates illustrates what it means to be critical in an academic setting and how you can achieve it.

being critical: start here

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Create effective counterarguments

Counterarguments are more than proving someone wrong. That said, what are they and how do you produce one? Get answers and see how counterarguments are created in practice in this chapter from The Essential Guide to Building Your Argument by Dave Rush.


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How to show you are a critical thinker?

1. Look for the key ideas, themes and concepts in your research 

2. Compare, contrast and link the different ideas you identify 

3. Understand these ideas, and apply them to new questions or problems 

4. Contribute your own ideas to the academic debate; respond to the key ideas you’ve identified - don't just summarise them!

5. Question everything you read, whether it’s been written by a renowned academic or your favourite commentator on a topic. Ask:

  • What was their purpose when writing their work?
  • Do they explain their reasoning sufficiently?
  • Are there alternative arguments and do they deal with them?
  • Can you introduce anything from your wider research to contrast with or support this particular text?

Extract: Academic Writing and Grammar for Students by Alex Osmond

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How to think for yourself

Want more top tips on how to best showcase your critical skills in assignments and engage critically with the world? Watch this webinar with Tom Chatfield and Alex Baratta for advice.


Other critical thinking resources




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