Critical Thinking

The stairway to critical thinking

The stages and skills involved in critical thinking can be seen as an eight-step stairway to high grades. As your thinking skills develop in depth and complexity, your other study skills will also improve.

  1. Process – Take in the information (i.e. in what you have read, heard, seen or done).
  2. Understand – Comprehend the key points, assumptions, arguments and evidence presented.
  3. Analyse – Examine how these key components fit together and relate to each other.
  4. Compare – Explore the similarities, differences between the ideas you are reading about.
  5. Synthesise – Bring together different sources of information to serve an argument or idea you are constructing. Make logical connections between the different sources that help you shape and support your ideas.
  6. Evaluate – Assess the worth of an idea in terms of its relevance to your needs, the evidence on which it is based and how it relates to other pertinent ideas.
  7. Apply – Transfer the understanding you have gained from your critical evaluation and use in response to questions, assignments and projects.
  8. Justify – Use critical thinking to develop arguments, draw conclusions, make inferences and identify implications.

Source: Open University (2009) Skills for OU Study: Critical Thinking. Previously available at: [accessed 21/06/2011]
Also see:

Here are a selection of websites which may help you to become a critical thinker:

Critical thinking websites

Page updated by LD, 18/01/2018

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