Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Guiding Principle for This Blog (Critical Thinking 101)

Critical thinking is an essential part of the nursing process. It is also an essential part of exercising one's freedom as an American citizen. Critical thinking is the art and science of looking at the world around us objectively and without bias, gathering data, and reaching an informed conclusion. It has been said that critical thinking is the practice of thinking about your thinking, and that is true. Critical thinking has been compared and contrasted with Scientific Process, and I have found in my experience that the two are remarkably similar in theory and practice.

So what do critical thinkers do? Here is a practical but brief guideline.

(1) Identify the problem and ask questions (who, what, when, where, how, why, etc.).

(2) Prioritize the problem (Is this important? Why?).

(3) Gather information from all available sources on either side of a given issue (pro and con).

(4) Carefully consider the sources of information (organization, oversight, target audience, purpose for the information's existence).

(5) Identify where the sources of the information got their information (Do they cite resources?). Note: If a source does not provide references, it must be considered unreliable and thus disqualified for use.

(6) Cluster their information into groups (one for each side of an issue) and begin to inventory data.

(7) Formulate a hypothesis based on the data collected.

(8) Test the hypothesis! Show your hypothesis (and your reference sources) to others. Do they arrive at the same conclusion? If not, find out why. Is it a flaw in your methodology, or is it a perspective that you did not previously consider? Do the critics cite their own resources? Do the critics have something constructive to offer, or are they just badmouthing your ideas?

Note: transparency is the the reason for the popularity of blogging, and why the great blogs are great. Great bloggers cite their sources, present their hypotheses, and allow others to examine the data and add their perspectives, and to hold the blogger accountable for spurious information. Great bloggers are also willing to adjust and learn when incorrect.

(9) Evaluate the outcome. Did your conclusion hold water?

(10) Always encourage further research. The more people who arrive at the same conclusions using reliable information, the more firmly a fact is established.

Thus ends our first session of Critical Thinking 101. In my next installment, I will compare and contrast the critical thinking practices of reliable bloggers with the practices of the mainstream media.

LeFevre (2004). Critical thinking and clinical judgment: A practical approach (3rd Edn.)
St. Louis: Saunders.