Critical Thinking Questions (FAQ)
Asking critical thinking questions (FAQ) about information and information sources is fundamental to the critical thinking process.
The critical thinker has an insatiable curiosity and doesn’t take things at face value.
Two questions to ask when determining the value of information are:
• Does this information make sense?
• What does my common sense, intuition, experience, and education tell me about this information?
If the answers to either of these critical thinking questions concern you then learn more about the information and its source.
Sometimes you may get a bad feeling known as a red flag. This is a clear sign to dig deeper to find out about the information and its source(s).
• Red flags often come from past experience or knowledge. Sometimes you get a red flag and don’t know why. This comes from experience or knowledge your
mind remembers, but your conscious mind doesn’t.
Learning to trust and validate your intuition takes time, patience and practice.
• Sometimes information doesn’t even pass the laugh test. The laugh test is failed when you realize the information is so ridiculous that you know it has to be wrong.
Critical thinking questions help open your mind to look at written and spoken information objectively. The information may be correct. Then again, it may be biased or wrong.
By not taking information as fact, just because it has been written or spoken, you begin to discriminate information. This can lead to sound opinions and decisions about the information.
Next, there is a need to continually question:
Information and Information Sources
Information can come from a wide array of sources. Books, magazines, newspapers, experts and the Internet are some primary sources. This begs the next questions:
• What sources can be believed?
• What information should be discarded?
To help you find worthwhile information and sources ask the following critical thinking questions:
Where are the best sources of information?
• If the information you are gathering is for general education, finding it on the Internet, magazines, or regular newspapers is usually okay.
• The more critical the information, the more important the sources. Reliable sources can be found in books and articles from established experts, library resources and magazines and newspapers that you have strong confidence in.
o You can use unknown sources from the Internet, magazines and articles, but caution is advised. The information isn’t governed and a great deal of it is biased and/or wrong. Try to verify information when it is important.
Can the information be verified?
• Finding two more different locations that have the same information is one of the best ways to verify information. Your objective is to find unrelated sources. It needs to noted that much information (sometimes bad information) is recopied in many locations today.
o One way of finding unrelated sources is to look for information that verifies what you are investigating, but is presented differently. This doesn’t always guarantee that the source is un-related; however it is a good indicator.
Assumptions about information are crucial. Assumptions are used instead of facts and data when they are unavailable, or time is limited. Wrong assumptions will lead you down the wrong path.
Consequently, assumptions need to be questioned.
Ask yourself these critical thinking questions:
• Are my assumptions valid?
• If so, why?
• If not, why not?
• Do I need to investigate more facts and data?
These critical thinking questions will help you think through assumptions before using them as “fact.” That process helps to screen out bad assumptions. It won’t catch all bad assumptions. However, it will catch a good majority of them with practice.
Interpretations and Implications
Continually questioning how you are interpreting (comprehending) information is essential to critical thinking. Some of the land mines to critical thinking such as group think, intolerance or social conditioning can bias interpretations of information.
If you are aware of land mines to critical thinking you can adjust your thinking as necessary. This will help to ensure you are interpreting information accurately and fairly.
Asking a trusted colleague or friend about his or her interpretation of information is a good way to get a second opinion to help you to test the validity of your interpretation.
Question the implications of choosing certain information. The more critical the issue, the more important the information, and the more time should be invested in verifying it.
There are several critical thinking questions that can help determine if conclusions drawn from critical thinking are valid. Ask yourself
• Does the conclusion I came to make sense?
• Does this information support the conclusion reached?
o If so why?
o If not, why not?
• Did I ask the right critical thinking questions?
• Did I ask enough critical thinking questions?
• Should I review the information, information sources, assumptions, interpretations and implications one last time to be sure of myself?
• Was there more than one possible conclusion?
o If so, did I pick the right one (to the best of my ability) from the facts and data I had to work with?
o If not, go back to the beginning of this section and start the process over.
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