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Article review tips: what is critical thinking

When reviewing an article for a science, social science, or humanities class, it is imperative that you demonstrate creative, original thought, control of language, and critical thinking. These traits separate high quality papers from those that are muddled, confused, or poorly written.

In any academic field (and in life in general), critical thinking skills are paramount. A person with critical thinking skills can separate fraudulent information from legitimate knowledge, can form logical conclusions given a body of evidence, can disprove erroneous claims, and can combat their own assumptions and prejudices, as well as those of others. Because critical thinking skills are so essential in life and in intellectual inquiry, many college professors expect their students to display them.

But what are critical thinking skills? And how does one apply critical thinking to an article written by someone else? Below is a brief guide.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the scientific method, applied to both scientific and nonscientific matters. Thinking critically involves forming logical, internally consistent theories and hypotheses about the world, and testing those ideas by collecting appropriate evidence. A critical thinking should be inquisitive and constantly forming predictions and inferences based on the information they have available, and should always update their conclusions and beliefs in light of new data. Like a scientist, a critical thinker should always seek new information and attempt to forge new discoveries.

What does a critical thinker do?

A critical thinker never takes a claim for granted. They demand evidence for every statement, and they require citations and legitimate evidence to support ever claim of fact. A critical thinker must not only be skeptical, however; they must also be theoretical. They should have organized methods of thought, and see how different facts and systems are interrelated. A critical thinker can therefore see the long-term effects or far-reaching implications of a new discovery. A critical thinker, finally, must be humble. To think critically, one must be willing to accept new evidence that disproves prior beliefs.

How to apply critical thinking to writing?

When critiquing an article, a critical thinker will approach the subject with a somewhat open, yet informed mind. Preexisting knowledge about the topic will be applied to the article, allowing for more deep processing of the content. A critical thinker reads carefully and parses the language in a thorough way, looking for errors in logic or in fact. The philosophical and factual implications of any claims in the article are explored. The subject matter and the facts in the article are tested, using external research. This allows the critical thinker to arrive at his or her own conclusions on the matter.