A Guide to Critical Thinking Steps (With Benefits and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 20, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Critical thinking skills enable you to evaluate a problem to create an effective and sustainable solution. This process has specific steps that begin with identifying the issue and its variables and end with implementing a suitable solution. Learning about these steps can help you analyze challenging situations and devise long-lasting solutions. In this article, we present critical thinking steps, discuss relevant skills you can leverage to ease the process, outline their benefits, and share tips to help you improve your process.

7 critical thinking steps

Critical thinking steps serve as a guide you can use for complex decision areas to implement an effective problem-solving process. These steps involve analyzing information, asking relevant questions, and deriving a logical conclusion. Critical thinking applies to various industries, and it's the ability to evaluate data, information, and statistics to identify an adequate solution to a problem. Here are seven steps you can follow to ensure you're approaching a problem from a logical perspective that is free of bias:

1. Identify the problem

To implement a critical thinking process, it's crucial to identify the problem you're trying to solve. You can accomplish this by viewing the dilemma from an alternative perspective and asking relevant questions about the situation. Doing this may help you determine the problem's details and variables. Here are questions you can consider asking:

  • What's the exact problem and its effects?

  • What's influencing its occurrence?

  • What are the problem's assumptions?

  • Are these assumptions accurate?

2. Perform adequate research

After identifying the problem, you likely have an initial understanding of the issue, but you can conduct research to comprehend the situation in more detail and design a suitable solution. Gather relevant information, including team input and previous project data. You can consider different ideas pertaining to the resolution by getting information from various sources. Doing this may prevent you from reaching a skewed final decision.

3. Determine the relevance of gathered information

It's essential to determine data suitability after gathering information from various sources, as it prevents you from spending resources on information that may not relate directly to the situation. During this phase, you can browse through the data and consider whether the information is reliable and determine its significance to improve your critical thinking. You can also consider if the information corresponds to a specific field or if it's outdated.

4. Ask relevant questions

Asking questions helps you challenge your assumptions about the problem to determine its accuracy. This step is also helpful in eliminating preconceptions, such as cognitive biases. This refers to a systematic thought process in which you may simplify information or data processing through a filter of preferences and personal experiences. Asking questions during the critical thinking process can help produce a bias-free solution. Here are questions you can consider asking:

  • Are there variables I'm not considering?

  • Am I evaluating relevant data and information from every perspective?

  • Is the gathered information factual and free of assumptions?

5. Identify an effective solution

To derive a conclusion from the research and gathered information, you can make connections between the causes and effects. As the critical thinking process involves evaluating different information and variables, there's often more than one solution. To make an informed decision and identify the best one, you can refer to the facts to evaluate the most objective conclusion.

6. Present your solution

After identifying a solution to the problem, communicate this to relevant parties, such as team members and shareholders. If you have multiple solutions, you can present them and hold a session to choose the most appropriate one. Sharing your findings and solution with other project stakeholders helps ensure you choose an appropriate option with the best available outcome.

7. Analyze the solution's effectiveness

Analyzing the solution's results can help you determine if it solved the initial problem. You can also evaluate its effectiveness. Depending on the results, you can make modifications or document the critical thinking process as a central source to help team members learn from it. This can guide you when making related decisions in the future.

Related: 6 Critical Thinking Skills and Why They Are Important at Work

Common critical thinking skills

These skills include various analytical and interpersonal traits. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Problem solving: With this skill, you can analyze a problem's variables to derive a suitable conclusion according to the information available. This supports the critical thinking process of finding effective solutions to problems.

  • Analytical thinking: This skill enables you to evaluate data from different sources to derive the most suitable resolution. It's helpful for identifying and excluding unrelated data to eliminate biases.

  • Observation: Using this skill, you can identify and evaluate problems from different perspectives. This ability is also helpful for recognizing variables that may not be visible initially.

  • Communication: With this skill, you can share information with other stakeholders. Communication skills are helpful for presenting a status report and evidence that support your conclusion.

  • Interpretation: As the data you gathered during the research phase may not be clear or direct, you can leverage interpretation skills to understand the problem better. They can also allow you to reach the best conclusion from collected data.

  • Self-regulation: This is the ability to differentiate your personal experiences and preferences when working to find a solution. Questioning your assumptions can help you identify factual information.

Related: Key Differences: Analytical Thinking vs. Critical Thinking

Benefits of the critical thinking process

Here are the benefits of initiating a critical thinking process:

Encourages curiosity

Curiosity typically helps you gain an understanding of events and occurrences. Critical thinking helps you stay curious about a range of topics and interests. It may help you stay alert to available opportunities and explore interests or topics. Doing this yields constructive outcomes and encourages growth.

Related: How to Become a Critical Thinker (With Tips and Importance)

Facilitates creativity

Critical thinking enhances creativity, as you're likely to find new and innovative ways to solve problems. During this process, asking relevant questions, gathering information, and analyzing data to get effective solutions can help you improve your creativity. It also allows you to examine ideas and adjust them accordingly.

Related: 7 Steps to Improve Your Creative Thinking Skills

Aids problem solving

Thinking critically can help reinforce your problem-solving skills. This process involves analyzing different variables to identify suitable solutions, which helps you develop and build your problem-solving abilities. Developing this talent can help you thrive in your job and personal life.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

Helps you form well-informed opinions

You can use critical thinking skills to evaluate a situation's variables and elements and help you to understand it better. This allows you to make well-informed decisions, as it ensures your decisions stem from facts rather than assumptions. With this, you can think independently and make decisions free from bias.

Related: How to Make an Informed Decision (With Steps and Tips)

Fosters career and personal development

Critical thinking aids career development, as it helps you develop innovative solutions to problems. With this attribute, you can analyze information and plan systematically. This skill is transferrable because it applies to various industries and facilitates decision making. You can also apply this talent to your daily activities, as it encourages personal growth and development.

Related: 5 Personal Development Tips to Progress Your Career

Tips for improving critical thinking skills

Here are some best practices you can follow to improve your critical thinking skills:

  • Identify and understand your mental process. You can increase the efficiency of the critical thinking process by identifying how you listen, interpret, and react to information. This can help you develop effective strategies objectively or eliminate bias and process information.

  • Develop foresight. Predicting the outcome of a solution may help you during the solution selection process. You can consider the changes each resolution may incur and how they may affect others to guide you toward choosing a suitable one.

  • Evaluate existing evidence. Using previous situations and experiences to make informed decisions during the critical thinking process may ease this. You can get a more practical solution by reviewing past data from similar projects.

  • Practise active listening. During the critical thinking process, listening to team members' opinions and ideas can be helpful. Understanding their perspective may help you get diverse views on the situation and produce effective outcomes.

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