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How to be a critical thinker

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Critical thinking: two words you'll tire of hearing during your time at university, but also a skill that will help you improve your grades, build strong arguments, think clearly and even spot the sneakiest of fake news on your social media feed. 

By the time you reach the end of this page, you will know what critical thinking is, how to hone it and how to demonstrate it in your work. Are you ready? Let's get critical.


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Why does reasoning matter?

This free chapter from Tom Chatfield's Critical Thinking will show you what makes a good argument, the difference between arguments, assertions, and conclusions, along with tips to help you study smart and improve your reasoning skills.

critical thinking: the basics

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Critical thinking in the real world

Critical thinking is everywhere and this free chapter from How to Think will prove it by setting the scene to your critical thinking journey. Read along for guidance on how to think well, spot your biases, avoid fake news and address your own ignorance.


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Critical reading for assessments

Critical thinking, reading and writing go hand in hand. This chapter from Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates will help you read critically, evaluate the usefulness of your reading material, and spot convincing (and flawed) arguments.

CRITICAL READINg: start here



How to think for yourself

Want some top tips on how to best showcase your critical skills in assignments, spot misinformation, and engage critically with the world? Then look no further! Watch the talk below, hosted by JS Group and featuring SAGE Study Skills authors Tom Chatfield and Alex Baratta, for some top tips.


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How to show you are a critical thinker?

1. Look for the key ideas, themes and concepts in your research 

2. Compare, contrast and link the different ideas you identify 

3. Understand these ideas, and apply them to new questions or problems 

4. Contribute your own ideas to the academic debate; respond to the key ideas you’ve identified - don't just summarise them!

5. Question everything you read, whether it’s been written by a renowned academic or your favourite commentator on a topic. Ask:

  • What was their purpose when writing their work?
  • Do they explain their reasoning sufficiently?
  • Are there alternative arguments and do they deal with them?
  • Can you introduce anything from your wider research to contrast with or support this particular text?

Extract: Academic Writing and Grammar for Students by Alex Osmond 

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Test your critical thinking skills

Finally, take a break, put your discernment to the test by playing 'Fact or Fake?' and find out how easily you're fooled.