Clarify your purpose and context

When thinking critically about something, clarify by asking some foundational questions, such as:

  • What is the problem or topic?
  • What question or goal am I addressing?
  • What different viewpoints, arguments, concepts or parts will I need to consider when thinking through this problem or topic?
  • Do I have a sufficient understanding of the information or parts relevant to this problem or topic?

Asking these initial questions is often associated with the identification stage of critical thinking. In this stage you can do some initial 'lower order' thinking in order to build a foundational understanding of the problem or topic, and the elements it is composed of. As you progress through the thinking process, you will question and interrogate your sources, and move to more 'higher order' stages of critical thinking such as analysis, evaluation and synthesis.

Taking it further