What is critical thinking?

How can we define critical thinking? Critical thinking is reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do. 

A brief conception is below. For a longer definition, please see long definition.


A critical thinker:
1. Is open-minded and mindful of alternatives
2. Desires to be, and is, well-informed
3. Judges well the credibilityof sources
4. Identifies reasonsassumptions, and conclusions
5. Asks appropriate clarifying questions
6. Judges well the quality of an argument, including its reasons, assumptionsevidence, and their degree of support for the conclusion
7. Can well developand defend a reasonable position regarding a belief or an action, doing justice to challenges
8. Formulates plausible hypotheses
9. Plans and conducts experiments well
10. Defines terms in a way appropriate for the context
11. Draws conclusions when warranted – but with caution
12. Integrates all of the above aspects of critical thinking 
Last revised 11/26/10 

(Note that this conception of critical thinking is not negative. It is also not mere persuasion, though critical thought will often be persuasive — but perhaps not often enough – the challenge of this century.)

Developed (revised 11/26/10) by Robert H. Ennis, Professor Emeritus, Univ. of Illinois. rhennis@illinois.edu