Critical thinking clarifies goals, examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, accomplishes actions, and assesses conclusions.
“Critical” as used in the expression “critical thinking” connotes the importance or centrality of the thinking to an issue, question or problem of concern. “Critical” in this context does not mean “disapproval” or “negative.” There are many positive and useful uses of critical thinking, for example formulating a workable solution to a complex personal problem, deliberating as a group about what course of action to take, or analyzing the assumptions and the quality of the methods used in scientifically arriving at a reasonable level of confidence about a given hypothesis. Using strong critical thinking we might evaluate an argument, for example, as worthy of acceptance because it is valid and based on true premises. Upon reflection, a speaker may be evaluated as a credible source of knowledge on a given topic.
Critical thinking can occur whenever one judges, decides, or solves a problem; in general, whenever one must figure out what to believe or what to do, and do so in a reasonable and reflective way. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening can all be done critically or uncritically. Critical thinking is crucial to becoming a close reader and a substantive writer. Expressed most generally, critical thinking is “a way of taking up the problems of life.”