understandable, the meaning can be grasped
free from errors or distortions, true
exact to the necessary level of detail
relating to the matter at hand
containing complexities and multiple interrelationships
encompassing multiple viewpoints
the parts make sense together, no contradictions
focusing on the important, not trivial
Justifiable, not self-serving or one-sided
There are numerous other standards that may be applied to elements on a contextual basis. Here are just a few:
Completeness, Validity, Rationality, Sufficiency, Necessity, Feasabilty, Consistency, Authenticity, Effectiveness, Efficiency
Can you identify others standards relevant to your situation?
Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced. If we want to think well, we must understand at least the rudiments of thought, the most basic structures out of which all thinking is made. We must learn how to take thinking apart.
All Thinking Is Defined by the Eight Elements That Make It Up. Eight basic structures are present in all thinking: Whenever we think, we think for a purpose within a point of view based on assumptions leading to implications and consequences. We use concepts, ideas and theories to interpret data, facts, and experiences in order to answer questions, solve problems, and resolve issues.Thinking, then:
- generates purposes
- raises questions
- uses information
- utilizes concepts
- makes inferences
- makes assumptions
- generates implications
- embodies a point of view
Element: Purpose All reasoning has a PURPOSE.
Element: Question All reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, to settle some QUESTION, to solve some problem.
Element: Information All reasoning is based on DATA, INFORMATION and EVIDENCE.
Element: Interpretation and Inference All reasoning contains INFERENCES or INTERPRETATIONS by which we draw CONCLUSIONS and give meaning to data.
Element: Concepts All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, CONCEPTS and IDEAS.
All reasoning is based on ASSUMPTIONS.
Element: Implications All reasoning leads somewhere or has IMPLICATIONS and CONSEQUENCES.
Element: Point Of View All reasoning is done from some POINT OF VIEW.
Think About... PurposeYour purpose is your goal, your objective,
what you are trying to accomplish. We also use the term to include functions, motives, and intentions.
You should be clear about your purpose, and your purpose should be justifiable.
Questions which target purpose
State the QuestionThe question lays out the problem or issue and
guides our thinking. When the question is vague, our thinking will lack clarity and distinctness.
The question should be clear and precise enough to productively guide our thinking.
Questions which target the question
Gather... InformationInformation includes the facts, data, evidence, or experiences we use to figure things out. It does not necessarily imply accuracy or correctness.
The information you use should be accurate and relevant to the question or issue you are addressing.
Questions which target information
Watch Your... InferencesInferences are interpretations or conclusions you come to. Inferring is what the mind does in figuring something out.
Inferences should logically follow from the evidence. Infer no more or less than what is implied in the situation.
Questions to check your inferences
Clarify Your... ConceptsConcepts are ideas, theories, laws, principles, or hypotheses we use in thinking to make sense of things.
Be clear about the concepts you are using and use them justifiably.
Questions you can ask about concepts
Check Your... Assumptions
Assumptions are beliefs you take for granted. They usually operate at the subconscious or unconscious level of thought.
Make sure that you are clear about your assumptions and they are justified by sound evidence.
Questions you can ask about assumptions
Think Through the...
Implications and Consequences
Implications are inherent in your thoughts, whether you see them or not. The best thinkers think through the logical implications in a situation before acting.
Questions you can ask about implications
Point of View
view something. It includes what you are looking at and the way you are seeing it.
Make sure you understand the limitations of your point of view and that you fully consider other relevant viewpoints.
Questions to check your point of view
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Universal Intellectual Standards
by Linda Elder and Richard Paul
Universal intellectual standards are standards which must be applied to thinking whenever one is interested in checking the quality of reasoning about a problem, issue, or situation. To think critically entails having command of these standards. To help students learn them, teachers should pose questions which probe student thinking; questions which hold students accountable for their thinking; questions which, through consistent use by the teacher in the classroom, become internalized by students as questions they need to ask themselves.
The ultimate goal, then, is for these questions to become infused in the thinking of students, forming part of their inner voice, which then guides them to better and better reasoning. While there are many universal standards, the following are some of the most essential:
CLARITY:Could you elaborate further on that point? Could you express that point in another way? Could you give me an illustration? Could you give me an example? Clarity is the gateway standard. If a statement is unclear, we cannot determine whether it is accurate or relevant. In fact, we cannot tell anything about it because we don't yet know what it is saying. For example, the question, "What can be done about the education system in America?" is unclear. In order to address the question adequately, we would need to have a clearer understanding of what the person asking the question is considering the "problem" to be. A clearer question might be "What can educators do to ensure that students learn the skills and abilities which help them function successfully on the job and in their daily decision-making?"
ACCURACY: Is that really true? How could we check that? How could we find out if that is true? A statement can be clear but not accurate, as in "Most dogs are over 300 pounds in weight."
PRECISION:Could you give more details? Could you be more specific?
A statement can be both clear and accurate, but not precise, as in "Jack is overweight." (We don’t know how overweight Jack is, one pound or 500 pounds.)
RELEVANCE:How is that connected to the question? How does that bear on the issue?
A statement can be clear, accurate, and precise, but not relevant to the question at issue. For example, students often think that the amount of effort they put into a course should be used in raising their grade in a course. Often, however, the "effort" does not measure the quality of student learning; and when this is so, effort is irrelevant to their appropriate grade.
DEPTH:How does your answer address the complexities in the question? How are you taking into account the problems in the question? Is that dealing with the most significant factors? A statement can be clear, accurate, precise, and relevant, but superficial (that is, lack depth). For example, the statement, "Just say No!" which is often used to discourage children and teens from using drugs, is clear, accurate, precise, and relevant. Nevertheless, it lacks depth because it treats an extremely complex issue, the pervasive problem of drug use among young people, superficially. It fails to deal with the complexities of the issue.
BREADTH:Do we need to consider another point of view? Is there another way to look at this question? What would this look like from a conservative standpoint? What would this look like from the point of view of . . .? A line of reasoning may be clear accurate, precise, relevant, and deep, but lack breadth (as in an argument from either the conservative or liberal standpoint which gets deeply into an issue, but only recognizes the insights of one side of the question.)
LOGIC:Does this really make sense? Does that follow from what you said? How does that follow? But before you implied this, and now you are saying that; how can both be true? When we think, we bring a variety of thoughts together into some order. When the combination of thoughts are mutually supporting and make sense in combination, the thinking is "logical." When the combination is not mutually supporting, is contradictory in some sense or does not "make sense," the combination is not logical.
FAIRNESS: Do I have a vested interest in this issue? Am I sympathetically representing the viewpoints of others? Human think is often biased in the direction of the thinker - in what are the perceived interests of the thinker. Humans do not naturally consider the rights and needs of others on the same plane with their own rights and needs. We therefore must actively work to make sure we are applying the intellectual standard of fairness to our thinking. Since we naturally see ourselves as fair even when we are unfair, this can be very difficult. A commitment to fairmindedness is a starting place.
For a deeper understanding of intellectual standards and their relationship with critical thinking, see the Thinker's Guide to Intellectual Standards.
( Paul, R. and Elder, L. (October 2010). Foundation For Critical Thinking, online at website: www.criticalthinking.org)
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Universal Intellectual Standards
Sublinks:Content Is Thinking, Thinking is Content
Critical Thinking in Every Domain of Knowledge and Belief
Using Intellectual Standards to Assess Student Reasoning
Valuable Intellectual Traits
Universal Intellectual Standards
Thinking With Concepts
The Analysis & Assessment of Thinking
Glossary of Critical Thinking Terms
Distinguishing Between Inert Information, Activated Ignorance, Activated Knowledge
Critical Thinking: Identifying the Targets
Distinguishing Between Inferences and Assumptions
Critical Thinking Development: A Stage Theory
Becoming a Critic Of Your Thinking
Bertrand Russell on Critical Thinking