Critical Thinking – 5 Easy Steps


crit·i·cal think·ing

noun: critical thinking
  1. the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

Five easy steps to critical thinking and reading critically

Now more than ever, it matters that we all think critically and apply that to what information we ingest. In light of recent exposure of false news being shared that has had an impact on national elections, believing everything we read comes with extreme consequences. To that end, I am more convinced than ever that one thing I can do is to apply what I learned in my schooling about reading critically.

The internet is a source of a lot of information and misinformation. A data point from meetings I attended this week – over 90% of the content that is on the Internet has been created in the past 2 years. It will continue to proliferate and grow, making it harder and harder to filter and fact check. We all want to believe that what we read is true, but that can’t be the case. To quote my mom (and many others), fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me.

Here are my suggestions – I’m sure there are many others, but I wanted to keep this brief. Feel free to add your own to the list.

  1. Read broadly. If you only get your news from a single source, you run the risk of getting tunnel vision.
  2. If a topic or story seems ludicrous, fact check it. Look at other sites to see if they are reporting it as well. Select sites that have conflicting views and see how it’s being reported from their perspective.
  3. Know who is behind your news. Look at who the publishers and editors are – you can very quickly get a sense of bias or point of view by doing this. Many media sources use names in ways that make them seem like other sources – this can be intentional or not, but it is important to understand what you are reading and who is sharing it.
  4. If you find yourself only ever saying “Yeah – that’s my kind of news” you are probably in an echo chamber. News that is based on the basic journalistic principle of “Who, What, Where, Why, and How” will often give you news that makes you uncomfortable because it runs counter to your personal beliefs or bias.
  5. Synthesize what you read – get the various sources, look for themes, and then THINK. I can’t stress this enough. News should not tell you how to think or feel. It should inform and you need to draw your own conclusions. It’s why I stopped watching any local or network news. I can’t abide being told how I should feel or think. I use my brain every day to do this. The minute I stop, I become part of the problem. And that’s not OK with me.

3 thoughts on “Critical Thinking – 5 Easy Steps

  1. “THINK” – what great advice. The problem I encounter often is not so much that people don’t think but that they don’t know how to articulate what they think. I am currently participating in a weekly discussion group in which I was originally excited but have grown bored. There seems to be almost no original thought and zero willingness (or skill perhaps) to engage in debate of topics critical to citizens of a world perpetually engulfed in conflict. For some reason people have confused debate with debase, as in skip exploring the many facets of an idea and go directly to dehumanizing anyone who disagrees with you.

    • I agree – we’ve lost both the ability to think for ourselves as well as a means to express it constructively. The old adage of “if you can’t say something nice…” has gone by the wayside and it’s now a free for all of dissension and to use your word, Debase. My youngest son is studying to be a linguist. I count on him to help keep me honest in my discourse, but damn, it’s a tough world out there right now.

      Thanks for your thoughts – I always enjoy hearing from you!
      Happy Thanksgiving –

  2. Pingback: Welcome to the Handbasket – erinlearywrites

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