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how to improve analytical and critical thinking

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4 Ways to Improve Your Analytical Skills

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  • 07 Jan 2021

Data is ubiquitous. It’s collected at every purchase made, flight taken, ad clicked, and social media post liked—which means it’s never been more crucial to understand how to analyze it.

“Never before has so much data about so many different things been collected and stored every second of every day,” says Harvard Business School Professor Jan Hammond in the online course Business Analytics .

The volume of data you encounter can be overwhelming and raise several questions: Can I trust the data’s source? Is it structured in a way that makes sense? What story does it tell, and what actions does it prompt?

Data literacy and analytical skills can enable you to answer these questions and not only make sense of raw data, but use it to drive impactful change at your organization.

Here’s a look at what it means to be data literate and four ways to improve your analytical skills.

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What Is Data Literacy?

Data literacy is the ability to analyze, interpret, and question data. A dataset is made up of numerous data points that, when viewed together, tell a story.

Before conducting an analysis, it’s important to ensure your data’s quality and structure is in accordance with your organization’s needs.

“In order to transform data into actionable information, you first need to evaluate its quality,” says Professor Dustin Tingley in the Harvard Online course Data Science Principles . “But evaluating the quality of your data is just the first step. You’ll also need to structure your data. Without structure, it’s nearly impossible to extract any information.”

When you’re able to look at quality data, structure it, and analyze it, trends emerge. The next step is to reflect on your analysis and take action.

Tingley shares several questions to ask yourself once you’ve analyzed your dataset: “Did all the steps I took make sense? If so, how should I respond to my analysis? If not, what should I go back and improve?”

For example, you may track users who click a button to download an e-book from your website.

After ensuring your data’s quality and structuring it in a way that makes sense, you begin your analysis and find that a user’s age is positively correlated with their likelihood to click. What story does this trend tell? What does it say about your users, product offering, and business strategy?

To answer these questions, you need strong analytical skills, which you can develop in several ways.

Related: Business Analytics: What It Is & Why It’s Important

How to Improve Your Analytical Skills

Analysis is an important skill to have in any industry because it enables you to support decisions with data, learn more about your customers, and predict future trends.

Key analytical skills for business include:

  • Visualizing data
  • Determining the relationship between two or more variables
  • Forming and testing hypotheses
  • Performing regressions using statistical programs, such as Microsoft Excel
  • Deriving actionable conclusions from data analysis

If you want to provide meaningful conclusions and data-based recommendations to your team, here are four ways to bolster your analytical skills.

Related: How to Learn Business Analytics Without A Business Background

1. Consider Opposing Viewpoints

While engaging with opposing viewpoints can help you expand your perspective, combat bias, and show your fellow employees their opinions are valued, it can also be a useful way to practice analytical skills.

When analyzing data, it’s crucial to consider all possible interpretations and avoid getting stuck in one way of thinking.

For instance, revisit the example of tracking users who click a button on your site to download an e-book. The data shows that the user’s age is positively correlated with their likelihood to click the button; as age increases, downloads increase, too. At first glance, you may interpret this trend to mean that a user chooses to download the e-book because of their age.

This conclusion, however, doesn’t take into consideration the vast number of variables that change with age. For instance, perhaps the real reason your older users are more likely to download the e-book is their higher level of responsibility at work, higher average income, or higher likelihood of being parents.

This example illustrates the need to consider multiple interpretations of data, and specifically shows the difference between correlation (the trending of two or more variables in the same direction) and causation (when a trend in one variable causes a trend to occur in one or more other variables).

“Data science is built on a foundation of critical thinking,” Tingley says in Data Science Principles . “From the first step of determining the quality of a data source to determining the accuracy of an algorithm, critical thinking is at the heart of every decision data scientists—and those who work with them—make.”

To practice this skill, challenge yourself to question your assumptions and ask others for their opinions. The more you actively engage with different viewpoints, the less likely you are to get stuck in a one-track mindset when analyzing data.

2. Play Games or Brain Teasers

If you’re looking to sharpen your skills on a daily basis, there are many simple, enjoyable ways to do so.

Games, puzzles, and stories that require visualizing relationships between variables, examining situations from multiple angles, and drawing conclusions from known data points can help you build the skills necessary to analyze data.

Some fun ways to practice analytical thinking include:

  • Crossword puzzles
  • Mystery novels
  • Logic puzzles
  • Strategic board games or card games

These options can supplement your analytics coursework and on-the-job experience. Some of them also allow you to spend time with friends or family. Try engaging with one each day to hone your analytical mindset.

Related: 3 Examples of Business Analytics in Action

3. Take an Online Analytics Course

Whether you want to learn the basics, brush up on your skills, or expand your knowledge, taking an analytics course is an effective way to improve. A course can enable you to focus on the content you want to learn, engage with the material presented by a professional in the field, and network and interact with others in the data analytics space.

For a beginner, courses like Harvard Online's Data Science Principles can provide a foundation in the language of data. A more advanced course, like Harvard Online's Data Science for Business , may be a fit if you’re looking to explore specific facets of analytics, such as forecasting and machine learning. If you’re interested in hands-on applications of analytical formulas, a course like HBS Online's Business Analytics could be right for you. The key is to understand what skills you hope to gain, then find a course that best fits your needs.

If you’re balancing a full-time job with your analytics education, an online format may be a good choice . It offers the flexibility to engage with course content whenever and wherever is most convenient for you.

An online course may also present the opportunity to network and build relationships with other professionals devoted to strengthening their analytical skills. A community of like-minded learners can prove to be an invaluable resource as you learn and advance your career.

Related: Is An Online Business Analytics Course Worth It?

4. Engage With Data

Once you have a solid understanding of data science concepts and formulas, the next step is to practice. Like any skill, analytical skills improve the more you use them.

Mock datasets—which you can find online or create yourself—present a low-risk option for putting your skills to the test. Import the data into Microsoft Excel, then explore: make mistakes, try that formula you’re unsure of, and ask big questions of your dataset. By testing out different analyses, you can gain confidence in your knowledge.

Once you’re comfortable, engage with your organization’s data. Because these datasets have inherent meaning to your business's financial health, growth, and strategic direction, analyzing them can produce evidence and insights that support your decisions and drive change at your organization.

A Beginner's Guide to Data and Analytics | Access Your Free E-Book | Download Now

Investing in Your Data Literacy

As data continues to be one of businesses’ most valuable resources, taking the time and effort to build and bolster your analytical skill set is vital.

“Much more data are going to be available; we’re only seeing the beginning now,” Hammond says in a previous article . “If you don’t use the data, you’re going to fall behind. People that have those capabilities—as well as an understanding of business contexts—are going to be the ones that will add the most value and have the greatest impact.”

Are you interested in furthering your data literacy? Download our Beginner’s Guide to Data & Analytics to learn how you can leverage the power of data for professional and organizational success.

how to improve analytical and critical thinking

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How to build your critical thinking skills in 7 steps (with examples)

Julia Martins contributor headshot

Critical thinking is, well, critical. By building these skills, you improve your ability to analyze information and come to the best decision possible. In this article, we cover the basics of critical thinking, as well as the seven steps you can use to implement the full critical thinking process.

Critical thinking comes from asking the right questions to come to the best conclusion possible. Strong critical thinkers analyze information from a variety of viewpoints in order to identify the best course of action.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have strong critical thinking abilities. In this article, we’ll help you build a foundation for critical thinking so you can absorb, analyze, and make informed decisions. 

What is critical thinking? 

Critical thinking is the ability to collect and analyze information to come to a conclusion. Being able to think critically is important in virtually every industry and applicable across a wide range of positions. That’s because critical thinking isn’t subject-specific—rather, it’s your ability to parse through information, data, statistics, and other details in order to identify a satisfactory solution. 

Definitions of critical thinking

Various scholars have provided definitions of critical thinking, each emphasizing different aspects of this complex cognitive process:

Michael Scriven , an American philosopher, defines critical thinking as "the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication as a guide to belief and action."

Robert Ennis , professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, describes critical thinking as "reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do."

Diane Halpern , a cognitive psychologist and former president of the American Psychological Association, defines it as "the use of cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome."

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Top 8 critical thinking skills

Critical thinking is essential for success in everyday life, higher education, and professional settings. The handbook "Foundation for Critical Thinking" defines it as a process of conceptualization, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of information.

In no particular order, here are eight key critical thinking abilities that can help you excel in any situation:

1. Analytical thinking

Analytical thinking involves evaluating data from multiple sources in order to come to the best conclusions. Analytical thinking allows people to reject cognitive biases and strive to gather and analyze intricate subject matter while solving complex problems. Analytical thinkers who thrive at critical thinking can:

Identify patterns and trends in the data

Break down complex issues into manageable components

Recognize cause-and-effect relationships

Evaluate the strength of arguments and evidence

Example: A data analyst breaks down complex sales figures to identify trends and patterns that inform the company's marketing strategy.

2. Open-mindedness

Open-mindedness is the willingness to consider new ideas, arguments, and information without prejudice. This critical thinking skill helps you analyze and process information to come to an unbiased conclusion. Part of the critical thinking process is letting your personal biases go, taking information at face value and coming to a conclusion based on multiple points of view .

Open-minded critical thinkers demonstrate:

Willingness to consider alternative viewpoints

Ability to suspend judgment until sufficient evidence is gathered

Receptiveness to constructive criticism and feedback

Flexibility in updating beliefs based on new information

Example: During a product development meeting, a team leader actively considers unconventional ideas from junior members, leading to an innovative solution.

3. Problem-solving

Effective problem solving is a cornerstone of critical thinking. It requires the ability to identify issues, generate possible solutions, evaluate alternatives, and implement the best course of action. This critical thinking skill is particularly valuable in fields like project management and entrepreneurship.

Key aspects of problem-solving include:

Clearly defining the problem

Gathering relevant information

Brainstorming potential solutions

Evaluating the pros and cons of each option

Implementing and monitoring the chosen solution

Reflecting on the outcome and adjusting as necessary

Example: A high school principal uses problem-solving skills to address declining student engagement by surveying learners, consulting with higher education experts, and implementing a new curriculum that balances academic rigor with practical, real-world applications.

4. Reasoned judgment

Reasoned judgment is a key component of higher order thinking that involves making thoughtful decisions based on logical analysis of evidence and thorough consideration of alternatives. This critical thinking skill is important in both academic and professional settings. Key aspects reasoned judgment include:

Objectively gathering and analyzing information

Evaluating the credibility and relevance of evidence

Considering multiple perspectives before drawing conclusions

Making decisions based on logical inference and sound reasoning

Example: A high school science teacher uses reasoned judgment to design an experiment, carefully observing and analyzing results before drawing conclusions about the hypothesis.

5. Reflective thinking

Reflective thinking is the process of analyzing one's own thought processes, actions, and outcomes to gain deeper understanding and improve future performance. Good critical thinking requires analyzing and synthesizing information to form a coherent understanding of a problem. It's an essential critical thinking skill for continuous learning and improvement.

Key aspects of reflective thinking include:

Critically examining one's own assumptions and cognitive biases

Considering diverse viewpoints and perspectives

Synthesizing information from various experiences and sources

Applying insights to improve future decision-making and actions

Continuously evaluating and adjusting one's thinking processes

Example: A community organizer reflects on the outcomes of a recent public event, considering what worked well and what could be improved for future initiatives.

6. Communication

Strong communication skills help critical thinkers articulate ideas clearly and persuasively. Communication in the workplace is crucial for effective teamwork, leadership, and knowledge dissemination. Key aspects of communication in critical thinking include:

Clearly expressing complex ideas

Active listening and comprehension

Adapting communication styles to different audiences

Constructing and delivering persuasive arguments

Example: A manager effectively explains a new company policy to her team, addressing their concerns and ensuring everyone understands its implications.

7. Research

Critical thinkers with strong research skills gather, evaluate, and synthesize information from various sources of information. This is particularly important in academic settings and in professional fields that require continuous learning. Effective research involves:

Identifying reliable and relevant sources of information

Evaluating the credibility and bias of sources

Synthesizing information from multiple sources

Recognizing gaps in existing knowledge

Example: A journalist verifies information from multiple credible sources before publishing an article on a controversial topic.

8. Decision-making

Effective decision making is the culmination of various critical thinking skills that allow an individual to draw logical conclusions and generalizations. It involves weighing options, considering consequences, and choosing the best course of action. Key aspects of decision-making include:

Defining clear criteria for evaluation

Gathering and analyzing relevant information

Considering short-term and long-term consequences

Managing uncertainty and risk

Balancing logic and intuition

Example: A homeowner weighs the costs, benefits, and long-term implications before deciding to invest in solar panels for their house.

7 steps to improve critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that you can build by following these seven steps. The seven steps to critical thinking help you ensure you’re approaching a problem from the right angle, considering every alternative, and coming to an unbiased conclusion.

First things first: When to use the 7 step critical thinking process

There’s a lot that goes into the full critical thinking process, and not every decision needs to be this thought out. Sometimes, it’s enough to put aside bias and approach a process logically. In other, more complex cases, the best way to identify the ideal outcome is to go through the entire critical thinking process. 

The seven-step critical thinking process is useful for complex decisions in areas you are less familiar with. Alternatively, the seven critical thinking steps can help you look at a problem you’re familiar with from a different angle, without any bias. 

If you need to make a less complex decision, consider another problem solving strategy instead. Decision matrices are a great way to identify the best option between different choices. Check out our article on 7 steps to creating a decision matrix .

1. Identify the problem or question

Before you put those critical thinking skills to work, you first need to identify the problem you’re solving. This step includes taking a look at the problem from a few different perspectives and asking questions like: 

What’s happening? 

Why is this happening? 

What assumptions am I making? 

At first glance, how do I think we can solve this problem? 

A big part of developing your critical thinking skills is learning how to come to unbiased conclusions. In order to do that, you first need to acknowledge the biases that you currently have. Does someone on your team think they know the answer? Are you making assumptions that aren’t necessarily true? Identifying these details helps you later on in the process. 

2. Gather relevant information

At this point, you likely have a general idea of the problem—but in order to come up with the best solution, you need to dig deeper. 

During the research process, collect information relating to the problem, including data, statistics, historical project information, team input, and more. Make sure you gather information from a variety of sources, especially if those sources go against your personal ideas about what the problem is or how to solve it.

Gathering varied information is essential for your ability to apply the critical thinking process. If you don’t get enough information, your ability to make a final decision will be skewed. Remember that critical thinking is about helping you identify the objective best conclusion. You aren’t going with your gut—you’re doing research to find the best option

3. Analyze and evaluate data

Just as it’s important to gather a variety of information, it is also important to determine how relevant the different information sources are. After all, just because there is data doesn’t mean it’s relevant. 

Once you’ve gathered all of the information, sift through the noise and identify what information is relevant and what information isn’t. Synthesizing all of this information and establishing significance helps you weigh different data sources and come to the best conclusion later on in the critical thinking process. 

To determine data relevance, ask yourself:

How reliable is this information? 

How significant is this information? 

Is this information outdated? Is it specialized in a specific field? 

4. Consider alternative points of view

One of the most useful parts of the critical thinking process is coming to a decision without bias. In order to do so, you need to take a step back from the process and challenge the assumptions you’re making. 

We all have bias—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unconscious biases (also known as cognitive biases) often serve as mental shortcuts to simplify problem solving and aid decision making. But even when biases aren’t inherently bad, you must be aware of your biases in order to put them aside when necessary. 

Before coming to a solution, ask yourself:

Am I making any assumptions about this information? 

Are there additional variables I haven’t considered? 

Have I evaluated the information from every perspective? 

Are there any viewpoints I missed?

5. Draw logical conclusions

Finally, you’re ready to come to a conclusion. To identify the best solution, draw connections between causes and effects. Use the facts you’ve gathered to evaluate the most objective conclusion. 

Keep in mind that there may be more than one solution. Often, the problems you’re facing are complex and intricate. The critical thinking process doesn’t necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 

6. Develop and communication solutions

Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers. It isn’t enough to think for yourself—you also need to share your conclusion with other project stakeholders. If there are multiple solutions, present them all. There may be a case where you implement one solution, then test to see if it works before implementing another solution. 

This process of communicating and sharing ideas is key in promoting critical thinking within a team or organization. By encouraging open dialogue and collaborative problem-solving, you create an environment that fosters the development of critical thinking skills in others.

7. Reflect and learn from the process

The seven-step critical thinking process yields a result—and you then need to put that solution into place. After you’ve implemented your decision, evaluate whether or not it was effective. Did it solve the initial problem? What lessons—whether positive or negative—can you learn from this experience to improve your critical thinking for next time? 

By engaging in this metacognitive reflective thinking process, you're essentially teaching critical thinking to yourself, refining your methodology with each iteration. This reflective practice is fundamental in developing a more robust and adaptable approach to problem-solving.

Depending on how your team shares information, consider documenting lessons learned in a central source of truth. That way, team members that are making similar or related decisions in the future can understand why you made the decision you made and what the outcome was.

Example of critical thinking in the workplace

Imagine you work in user experience design (UX). Your team is focused on pricing and packaging and ensuring customers have a clear understanding of the different services your company offers. Here’s how to apply the critical thinking process in the workplace in seven steps: 

Step 1: Start by identifying the problem

Your current pricing page isn’t performing as well as you want. You’ve heard from customers that your services aren’t clear, and that the page doesn’t answer the questions they have. This page is really important for your company, since it’s where your customers sign up for your service. You and your team have a few theories about why your current page isn’t performing well, but you decide to apply the critical thinking process to ensure you come to the best decision for the page. 

Gather information about how the problem started

Part of identifying the problem includes understanding how the problem started. The pricing and packaging page is important—so when your team initially designed the page, they certainly put a lot of thought into it. Before you begin researching how to improve the page, ask yourself: 

Why did you design the pricing page the way you did? 

Which stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making process? 

Where are users getting stuck on the page?

Are any features currently working?

Step 2: Then gather information and research

In addition to understanding the history of the pricing and packaging page, it’s important to understand what works well. Part of this research means taking a look at what your competitor’s pricing pages look like. 

Ask yourself: 

How have our competitors set up their pricing pages?

Are there any pricing page best practices? 

How does color, positioning, and animation impact navigation? 

Are there any standard page layouts customers expect to see? 

Step 3: Organize and analyze information

You’ve gathered all of the information you need—now you need to organize and analyze it. What trends, if any, are you noticing? Is there any particularly relevant or important information that you have to consider? 

Step 4: Consider alternative viewpoints to reduce bias

In the case of critical thinking, it’s important to address and set bias aside as much as possible. Ask yourself: 

Is there anything I’m missing? 

Have I connected with the right stakeholders? 

Are there any other viewpoints I should consider? 

Step 5: Determine the most logical solution for your team

You now have all of the information you need to design the best pricing page. Depending on the complexity of the design, you may want to design a few options to present to a small group of customers or A/B test on the live website.

Step 6: Communicate your solution to stakeholders

Critical thinking can help you in every element of your life, but in the workplace, you must also involve key project stakeholders . Stakeholders help you determine next steps, like whether you’ll A/B test the page first. Depending on the complexity of the issue, consider hosting a meeting or sharing a status report to get everyone on the same page. 

Step 7: Reflect on the results

No process is complete without evaluating the results. Once the new page has been live for some time, evaluate whether it did better than the previous page. What worked? What didn’t? This also helps you make better critical decisions later on.

Tools and techniques to improve critical thinking skills

As the importance of critical thinking continues to grow in academic and professional settings, numerous tools and resources have been developed to help individuals enhance their critical thinking skills. Here are some notable contributions from experts and institutions in the field:

Mind mapping for better analysis

Mind mapping is a visual technique that helps organize and structure information. It's particularly useful for synthesizing complex ideas and identifying connections between different concepts. The benefits of mind mapping include:

Enhancing creativity by encouraging non-linear thinking

Improving memory and retention of information

Facilitating brainstorming and idea generation

Providing a clear overview of complex topics

To create a mind map:

Start with a central idea or concept.

Branch out with related sub topics or ideas.

Use colors, symbols, and images to enhance visual appeal and memorability.

Draw connections between related ideas across different branches.

Mind mapping can be particularly effective in project planning , content creation, and studying complex subjects.

The Socratic Method for deeper understanding

The Socratic Method, named after the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, involves asking probing questions to stimulate critical thinking and illuminate ideas. This technique is widely used in higher education to teach critical thinking. Key aspects of the Socratic Method include:

Asking open-ended questions that encourage deeper reflection

Challenging assumptions and preconceived notions

Exploring the implications and consequences of ideas

Fostering intellectual curiosity and continuous inquiry

The Socratic Method can be applied in various settings:

In education, to encourage students to think deeply about subject matter

In business, it is important to challenge team members to consider multiple points of view.

In personal development, to examine one's own beliefs and decisions

Example: A high school teacher might use the Socratic Method to guide students through a complex ethical dilemma, asking questions like "What principles are at stake here?" and "How might this decision affect different stakeholders?"

SWOT analysis for comprehensive evaluation

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is a strategic planning tool that can be applied to critical thinking. It helps in evaluating situations from multiple angles, promoting a more thorough understanding of complex issues. The components of SWOT analysis are:

Strengths: internal positive attributes or assets

Weaknesses: internal negative attributes or limitations

Opportunities: External factors that could be beneficial

Threats: External factors that could be harmful

To conduct a SWOT analysis:

Clearly define the subject of analysis (e.g., a project, organization, or decision).

Brainstorm and list items for each category.

Analyze the interactions between different factors.

Use the analysis to inform strategy or decision-making.

Example: A startup might use SWOT analysis to evaluate its position before seeking investment, identifying its innovative technology as a strength, limited capital as a weakness, growing market demand as an opportunity, and established competitors as a threat.

Critical thinking resources

The Foundation for Critical Thinking : Based in California, this organization offers a wide range of resources, including books, articles, and workshops on critical thinking.

The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking : This council provides guidelines and standards for critical thinking instruction and assessment.

University of Louisville : Their Critical Thinking Initiative offers various resources and tools for developing critical thinking skills.

The New York Times Learning Network provides lesson plans and activities to help develop critical thinking skills through current events and news analysis.

Critical thinking frameworks and tools

Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Framework : Developed by Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder, this framework provides a comprehensive approach to developing critical thinking skills.

Bloom's Taxonomy : While not exclusively for critical thinking, this classification system is widely used in education to promote higher-order thinking skills.

The California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) : This assessment tool measures the disposition to engage in problems and make decisions using critical thinking.

The Ennis-Weir Critical Thinking Essay Test : Developed by Robert Ennis, this test assesses a person's ability to appraise an argument and to formulate a written argument.

By incorporating these tools and techniques into regular practice, individuals can significantly enhance their critical thinking capabilities, leading to more effective problem-solving, decision-making, and overall cognitive performance.

Critically successful 

Critical thinking takes time to build, but with effort and patience you can apply an unbiased, analytical mind to any situation. Critical thinking makes up one of many soft skills that makes you an effective team member, manager, and worker. If you’re looking to hone your skills further, read our article on the 25 project management skills you need to succeed .

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How to build critical thinking skills for better decision-making

It’s simple in theory, but tougher in practice – here are five tips to get you started.

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Have you heard the riddle about two coins that equal thirty cents, but one of them is not a nickel? What about the one where a surgeon says they can’t operate on their own son?

Those brain teasers tap into your critical thinking skills. But your ability to think critically isn’t just helpful for solving those random puzzles – it plays a big role in your career. 

An impressive 81% of employers say critical thinking carries a lot of weight when they’re evaluating job candidates. It ranks as the top competency companies consider when hiring recent graduates (even ahead of communication ). Plus, once you’re hired, several studies show that critical thinking skills are highly correlated with better job performance.

So what exactly are critical thinking skills? And even more importantly, how do you build and improve them? 

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate facts and information, remain objective, and make a sound decision about how to move forward.

Does that sound like how you approach every decision or problem? Not so fast. Critical thinking seems simple in theory but is much tougher in practice, which helps explain why 65% of employers say their organization has a need for more critical thinking. 

In reality, critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. In order to do it well, you need to:

  • Remain open-minded and inquisitive, rather than relying on assumptions or jumping to conclusions
  • Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value
  • Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible
  • Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation

So, critical thinking isn’t just being intelligent or analytical. In many ways, it requires you to step outside of yourself, let go of your own preconceived notions, and approach a problem or situation with curiosity and fairness.

It’s a challenge, but it’s well worth it. Critical thinking skills will help you connect ideas, make reasonable decisions, and solve complex problems.

7 critical thinking skills to help you dig deeper

Critical thinking is often labeled as a skill itself (you’ll see it bulleted as a desired trait in a variety of job descriptions). But it’s better to think of critical thinking less as a distinct skill and more as a collection or category of skills. 

To think critically, you’ll need to tap into a bunch of your other soft skills. Here are seven of the most important. 


It’s important to kick off the critical thinking process with the idea that anything is possible. The more you’re able to set aside your own suspicions, beliefs, and agenda, the better prepared you are to approach the situation with the level of inquisitiveness you need. 

That means not closing yourself off to any possibilities and allowing yourself the space to pull on every thread – yes, even the ones that seem totally implausible.

As Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D. writes in a piece for Psychology Today , “Even if an idea appears foolish, sometimes its consideration can lead to an intelligent, critically considered conclusion.” He goes on to compare the critical thinking process to brainstorming . Sometimes the “bad” ideas are what lay the foundation for the good ones. 

Open-mindedness is challenging because it requires more effort and mental bandwidth than sticking with your own perceptions. Approaching problems or situations with true impartiality often means:

  • Practicing self-regulation : Giving yourself a pause between when you feel something and when you actually react or take action.
  • Challenging your own biases: Acknowledging your biases and seeking feedback are two powerful ways to get a broader understanding. 

Critical thinking example

In a team meeting, your boss mentioned that your company newsletter signups have been decreasing and she wants to figure out why.

At first, you feel offended and defensive – it feels like she’s blaming you for the dip in subscribers. You recognize and rationalize that emotion before thinking about potential causes. You have a hunch about what’s happening, but you will explore all possibilities and contributions from your team members.


Observation is, of course, your ability to notice and process the details all around you (even the subtle or seemingly inconsequential ones). Critical thinking demands that you’re flexible and willing to go beyond surface-level information, and solid observation skills help you do that.

Your observations help you pick up on clues from a variety of sources and experiences, all of which help you draw a final conclusion. After all, sometimes it’s the most minuscule realization that leads you to the strongest conclusion.

Over the next week or so, you keep a close eye on your company’s website and newsletter analytics to see if numbers are in fact declining or if your boss’s concerns were just a fluke. 

Critical thinking hinges on objectivity. And, to be objective, you need to base your judgments on the facts – which you collect through research. You’ll lean on your research skills to gather as much information as possible that’s relevant to your problem or situation. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about the quantity of information – quality matters too. You want to find data and details from a variety of trusted sources to drill past the surface and build a deeper understanding of what’s happening. 

You dig into your email and website analytics to identify trends in bounce rates, time on page, conversions, and more. You also review recent newsletters and email promotions to understand what customers have received, look through current customer feedback, and connect with your customer support team to learn what they’re hearing in their conversations with customers.

The critical thinking process is sort of like a treasure hunt – you’ll find some nuggets that are fundamental for your final conclusion and some that might be interesting but aren’t pertinent to the problem at hand.

That’s why you need analytical skills. They’re what help you separate the wheat from the chaff, prioritize information, identify trends or themes, and draw conclusions based on the most relevant and influential facts. 

It’s easy to confuse analytical thinking with critical thinking itself, and it’s true there is a lot of overlap between the two. But analytical thinking is just a piece of critical thinking. It focuses strictly on the facts and data, while critical thinking incorporates other factors like emotions, opinions, and experiences. 

As you analyze your research, you notice that one specific webpage has contributed to a significant decline in newsletter signups. While all of the other sources have stayed fairly steady with regard to conversions, that one has sharply decreased.

You decide to move on from your other hypotheses about newsletter quality and dig deeper into the analytics. 

One of the traps of critical thinking is that it’s easy to feel like you’re never done. There’s always more information you could collect and more rabbit holes you could fall down.

But at some point, you need to accept that you’ve done your due diligence and make a decision about how to move forward. That’s where inference comes in. It’s your ability to look at the evidence and facts available to you and draw an informed conclusion based on those. 

When you’re so focused on staying objective and pursuing all possibilities, inference can feel like the antithesis of critical thinking. But ultimately, it’s your inference skills that allow you to move out of the thinking process and onto the action steps. 

You dig deeper into the analytics for the page that hasn’t been converting and notice that the sharp drop-off happened around the same time you switched email providers.

After looking more into the backend, you realize that the signup form on that page isn’t correctly connected to your newsletter platform. It seems like anybody who has signed up on that page hasn’t been fed to your email list. 


3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

If and when you identify a solution or answer, you can’t keep it close to the vest. You’ll need to use your communication skills to share your findings with the relevant stakeholders – like your boss, team members, or anybody who needs to be involved in the next steps.

Your analysis skills will come in handy here too, as they’ll help you determine what information other people need to know so you can avoid bogging them down with unnecessary details. 

In your next team meeting, you pull up the analytics and show your team the sharp drop-off as well as the missing connection between that page and your email platform. You ask the web team to reinstall and double-check that connection and you also ask a member of the marketing team to draft an apology email to the subscribers who were missed. 


Critical thinking and problem-solving are two more terms that are frequently confused. After all, when you think critically, you’re often doing so with the objective of solving a problem.

The best way to understand how problem-solving and critical thinking differ is to think of problem-solving as much more narrow. You’re focused on finding a solution.

In contrast, you can use critical thinking for a variety of use cases beyond solving a problem – like answering questions or identifying opportunities for improvement. Even so, within the critical thinking process, you’ll flex your problem-solving skills when it comes time to take action. 

Once the fix is implemented, you monitor the analytics to see if subscribers continue to increase. If not (or if they increase at a slower rate than you anticipated), you’ll roll out some other tests like changing the CTA language or the placement of the subscribe form on the page.

5 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Think critically about critical thinking and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not as instinctive as you’d like it to be. Fortunately, your critical thinking skills are learned competencies and not inherent gifts – and that means you can improve them. Here’s how:

  • Practice active listening: Active listening helps you process and understand what other people share. That’s crucial as you aim to be open-minded and inquisitive.
  • Ask open-ended questions: If your critical thinking process involves collecting feedback and opinions from others, ask open-ended questions (meaning, questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”). Doing so will give you more valuable information and also prevent your own biases from influencing people’s input.
  • Scrutinize your sources: Figuring out what to trust and prioritize is crucial for critical thinking. Boosting your media literacy and asking more questions will help you be more discerning about what to factor in. It’s hard to strike a balance between skepticism and open-mindedness, but approaching information with questions (rather than unquestioning trust) will help you draw better conclusions. 
  • Play a game: Remember those riddles we mentioned at the beginning? As trivial as they might seem, games and exercises like those can help you boost your critical thinking skills. There are plenty of critical thinking exercises you can do individually or as a team . 
  • Give yourself time: Research shows that rushed decisions are often regrettable ones. That’s likely because critical thinking takes time – you can’t do it under the wire. So, for big decisions or hairy problems, give yourself enough time and breathing room to work through the process. It’s hard enough to think critically without a countdown ticking in your brain. 

Critical thinking really is critical

The ability to think critically is important, but it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It’s just easier to stick with biases, assumptions, and surface-level information. 

But that route often leads you to rash judgments, shaky conclusions, and disappointing decisions. So here’s a conclusion we can draw without any more noodling: Even if it is more demanding on your mental resources, critical thinking is well worth the effort.

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How to develop critical thinking skills


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What are critical thinking skills?

How to develop critical thinking skills: 12 tips, how to practice critical thinking skills at work, become your own best critic.

A client requests a tight deadline on an intense project. Your childcare provider calls in sick on a day full of meetings. Payment from a contract gig is a month behind. 

Your day-to-day will always have challenges, big and small. And no matter the size and urgency, they all ask you to use critical thinking to analyze the situation and arrive at the right solution. 

Critical thinking includes a wide set of soft skills that encourage continuous learning, resilience , and self-reflection. The more you add to your professional toolbelt, the more equipped you’ll be to tackle whatever challenge presents itself. Here’s how to develop critical thinking, with examples explaining how to use it.

Critical thinking skills are the skills you use to analyze information, imagine scenarios holistically, and create rational solutions. It’s a type of emotional intelligence that stimulates effective problem-solving and decision-making . 

When you fine-tune your critical thinking skills, you seek beyond face-value observations and knee-jerk reactions. Instead, you harvest deeper insights and string together ideas and concepts in logical, sometimes out-of-the-box , ways. 

Imagine a team working on a marketing strategy for a new set of services. That team might use critical thinking to balance goals and key performance indicators , like new customer acquisition costs, average monthly sales, and net profit margins. They understand the connections between overlapping factors to build a strategy that stays within budget and attracts new sales. 

Looking for ways to improve critical thinking skills? Start by brushing up on the following soft skills that fall under this umbrella: 

  • Analytical thinking: Approaching problems with an analytical eye includes breaking down complex issues into small chunks and examining their significance. An example could be organizing customer feedback to identify trends and improve your product offerings. 
  • Open-mindedness: Push past cognitive biases and be receptive to different points of view and constructive feedback . Managers and team members who keep an open mind position themselves to hear new ideas that foster innovation . 
  • Creative thinking: With creative thinking , you can develop several ideas to address a single problem, like brainstorming more efficient workflow best practices to boost productivity and employee morale . 
  • Self-reflection: Self-reflection lets you examine your thinking and assumptions to stimulate healthier collaboration and thought processes. Maybe a bad first impression created a negative anchoring bias with a new coworker. Reflecting on your own behavior stirs up empathy and improves the relationship. 
  • Evaluation: With evaluation skills, you tackle the pros and cons of a situation based on logic rather than emotion. When prioritizing tasks , you might be tempted to do the fun or easy ones first, but evaluating their urgency and importance can help you make better decisions. 

There’s no magic method to change your thinking processes. Improvement happens with small, intentional changes to your everyday habits until a more critical approach to thinking is automatic. 

Here are 12 tips for building stronger self-awareness and learning how to improve critical thinking: 

1. Be cautious

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of skepticism. One of the core principles of critical thinking is asking questions and dissecting the available information. You might surprise yourself at what you find when you stop to think before taking action. 

Before making a decision, use evidence, logic, and deductive reasoning to support your own opinions or challenge ideas. It helps you and your team avoid falling prey to bad information or resistance to change .

2. Ask open-ended questions

“Yes” or “no” questions invite agreement rather than reflection. Instead, ask open-ended questions that force you to engage in analysis and rumination. Digging deeper can help you identify potential biases, uncover assumptions, and arrive at new hypotheses and possible solutions. 

3. Do your research

No matter your proficiency, you can always learn more. Turning to different points of view and information is a great way to develop a comprehensive understanding of a topic and make informed decisions. You’ll prioritize reliable information rather than fall into emotional or automatic decision-making. 


4. Consider several opinions

You might spend so much time on your work that it’s easy to get stuck in your own perspective, especially if you work independently on a remote team . Make an effort to reach out to colleagues to hear different ideas and thought patterns. Their input might surprise you.

If or when you disagree, remember that you and your team share a common goal. Divergent opinions are constructive, so shift the focus to finding solutions rather than defending disagreements. 

5. Learn to be quiet

Active listening is the intentional practice of concentrating on a conversation partner instead of your own thoughts. It’s about paying attention to detail and letting people know you value their opinions, which can open your mind to new perspectives and thought processes.

If you’re brainstorming with your team or having a 1:1 with a coworker , listen, ask clarifying questions, and work to understand other peoples’ viewpoints. Listening to your team will help you find fallacies in arguments to improve possible solutions.

6. Schedule reflection

Whether waking up at 5 am or using a procrastination hack, scheduling time to think puts you in a growth mindset . Your mind has natural cognitive biases to help you simplify decision-making, but squashing them is key to thinking critically and finding new solutions besides the ones you might gravitate toward. Creating time and calm space in your day gives you the chance to step back and visualize the biases that impact your decision-making. 

7. Cultivate curiosity

With so many demands and job responsibilities, it’s easy to seek solace in routine. But getting out of your comfort zone helps spark critical thinking and find more solutions than you usually might.

If curiosity doesn’t come naturally to you, cultivate a thirst for knowledge by reskilling and upskilling . Not only will you add a new skill to your resume , but expanding the limits of your professional knowledge might motivate you to ask more questions. 

You don’t have to develop critical thinking skills exclusively in the office. Whether on your break or finding a hobby to do after work, playing strategic games or filling out crosswords can prime your brain for problem-solving. 


9. Write it down

Recording your thoughts with pen and paper can lead to stronger brain activity than typing them out on a keyboard. If you’re stuck and want to think more critically about a problem, writing your ideas can help you process information more deeply.

The act of recording ideas on paper can also improve your memory . Ideas are more likely to linger in the background of your mind, leading to deeper thinking that informs your decision-making process. 

10. Speak up

Take opportunities to share your opinion, even if it intimidates you. Whether at a networking event with new people or a meeting with close colleagues, try to engage with people who challenge or help you develop your ideas. Having conversations that force you to support your position encourages you to refine your argument and think critically. 

11. Stay humble

Ideas and concepts aren’t the same as real-life actions. There may be such a thing as negative outcomes, but there’s no such thing as a bad idea. At the brainstorming stage , don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Sometimes the best solutions come from off-the-wall, unorthodox decisions. Sit in your creativity , let ideas flow, and don’t be afraid to share them with your colleagues. Putting yourself in a creative mindset helps you see situations from new perspectives and arrive at innovative conclusions. 

12. Embrace discomfort

Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable . It isn’t easy when others challenge your ideas, but sometimes, it’s the only way to see new perspectives and think critically.

By willingly stepping into unfamiliar territory, you foster the resilience and flexibility you need to become a better thinker. You’ll learn how to pick yourself up from failure and approach problems from fresh angles. 


Thinking critically is easier said than done. To help you understand its impact (and how to use it), here are two scenarios that require critical thinking skills and provide teachable moments. 

Scenario #1: Unexpected delays and budget

Imagine your team is working on producing an event. Unexpectedly, a vendor explains they’ll be a week behind on delivering materials. Then another vendor sends a quote that’s more than you can afford. Unless you develop a creative solution, the team will have to push back deadlines and go over budget, potentially costing the client’s trust. 

Here’s how you could approach the situation with creative thinking:

  • Analyze the situation holistically: Determine how the delayed materials and over-budget quote will impact the rest of your timeline and financial resources . That way, you can identify whether you need to build an entirely new plan with new vendors, or if it’s worth it to readjust time and resources. 
  • Identify your alternative options: With careful assessment, your team decides that another vendor can’t provide the same materials in a quicker time frame. You’ll need to rearrange assignment schedules to complete everything on time. 
  • Collaborate and adapt: Your team has an emergency meeting to rearrange your project schedule. You write down each deliverable and determine which ones you can and can’t complete by the deadline. To compensate for lost time, you rearrange your task schedule to complete everything that doesn’t need the delayed materials first, then advance as far as you can on the tasks that do. 
  • Check different resources: In the meantime, you scour through your contact sheet to find alternative vendors that fit your budget. Accounting helps by providing old invoices to determine which vendors have quoted less for previous jobs. After pulling all your sources, you find a vendor that fits your budget. 
  • Maintain open communication: You create a special Slack channel to keep everyone up to date on changes, challenges, and additional delays. Keeping an open line encourages transparency on the team’s progress and boosts everyone’s confidence. 


Scenario #2: Differing opinions 

A conflict arises between two team members on the best approach for a new strategy for a gaming app. One believes that small tweaks to the current content are necessary to maintain user engagement and stay within budget. The other believes a bold revamp is needed to encourage new followers and stronger sales revenue. 

Here’s how critical thinking could help this conflict:

  • Listen actively: Give both team members the opportunity to present their ideas free of interruption. Encourage the entire team to ask open-ended questions to more fully understand and develop each argument. 
  • Flex your analytical skills: After learning more about both ideas, everyone should objectively assess the benefits and drawbacks of each approach. Analyze each idea's risk, merits, and feasibility based on available data and the app’s goals and objectives. 
  • Identify common ground: The team discusses similarities between each approach and brainstorms ways to integrate both idea s, like making small but eye-catching modifications to existing content or using the same visual design in new media formats. 
  • Test new strategy: To test out the potential of a bolder strategy, the team decides to A/B test both approaches. You create a set of criteria to evenly distribute users by different demographics to analyze engagement, revenue, and customer turnover. 
  • Monitor and adapt: After implementing the A/B test, the team closely monitors the results of each strategy. You regroup and optimize the changes that provide stronger results after the testing. That way, all team members understand why you’re making the changes you decide to make.

You can’t think your problems away. But you can equip yourself with skills that help you move through your biggest challenges and find innovative solutions. Learning how to develop critical thinking is the start of honing an adaptable growth mindset. 

Now that you have resources to increase critical thinking skills in your professional development, you can identify whether you embrace change or routine, are open or resistant to feedback, or turn to research or emotion will build self-awareness. From there, tweak and incorporate techniques to be a critical thinker when life presents you with a problem.

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Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships. With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

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3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking

  • Helen Lee Bouygues

how to improve analytical and critical thinking

But simple doesn’t mean easy.

Too many business leaders are simply not reasoning through pressing issues, and it’s hurting their organizations.  The good news is that critical thinking is a learned behavior. There are three simple things you can do to train yourself to become a more effective critical thinker: question assumptions, reason through logic, and diversify your thought and perspectives. They may sound obvious, but deliberately cultivating these three key habits of mind go a long way in helping you become better at clear and robust reasoning.

A few years ago, a CEO assured me that his company was the market leader. “Clients will not leave for competitors,” he added. “It costs too much for them to switch.” Within weeks, the manufacturing giant Procter & Gamble elected not to renew its contract with the firm. The CEO was shocked — but he shouldn’t have been.

how to improve analytical and critical thinking

  • HB Helen Lee Bouygues is the president of the Paris-based Reboot Foundation . A former partner at McKinsey & Company, she has served as interim CEO, CFO, or COO for more than one dozen companies.

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Analytical thinking: what it is and why it matters more than ever

January 30, 2024

how to improve analytical and critical thinking

Welcome back to our high-impact workplace skills series. We really enjoyed the conversations happening in the comments section of last week’s top skills of 2023 issue, so be sure to check those out for perspectives and insights from fellow members of our Career Chat community.

One comment that’s been on our mind came from Kendra Vivian Lewis , who asked some thoughtful questions about the comparative importance of workplace and technical skills and if there’s a way to forecast which skills will be important in the coming years. This week’s topic—analytical thinking, the number one skill on the list—is a great example as we explore both questions. Be sure to read to the end to discover a special offer that we’re running on Coursera Plus subscriptions through September 21.

What it means to think analytically

Analytical thinking involves using data to understand problems, identify potential solutions, and suggest the solution that’s most likely to have the desired impact. It’s similar to critical thinking skills , which are the skills you use to interpret information and make decisions.

In order to succeed as a strong analytical thinker, you also need to have strong technical skills in your field. Remember: technical skills describe the things you do, while workplace skills describe how you do them. So your workplace skills, used effectively, enhance your technical skills. That’s why we consider them to be high-impact—they stand to make your work more impactful than it would have been had you only used your technical skills.

To illustrate, suppose you just started a job as a data analyst for a think tank focused on climate change, and you’ve been tasked with raising community engagement in future climate action efforts.

You might start with your technical data analysis skills as you gather data from a few sources. Then, you’ll use your analytical thinking skills to determine the validity of each data source. Perhaps you’ll discard one source when you learn the research was funded by a firm with a financial stake in fossil fuel consumption. Your technical skills lead again as you clean data, and then you’ll return to your analytical thinking skills to analyze and interpret your findings, ultimately leading to your recommendation to start a transparency campaign to display water and energy use in the community.

Tell us in the comments: How do you use your analytical skills alongside your technical skills in your day-to-day work?

Why analytical skills top the list

To develop the skills list, the World Economic Forum surveyed 800+ global employers on their views of skills and jobs over the next five years, so this list is forward-looking. According to the Future of Jobs Report , employers believe analytical thinking skills will grow in importance by 72 percent in this timeframe.

The reason employers are keen to hire employees with strong analytical thinking skills is informed by trends in automation and technological advancements. While technical data analysis becomes easier with automation, reasoning and decision-making automation is advancing at a much slower pace—meaning employers anticipate that, within the next five years, we’ll have a wealth of data at our fingertips and too few people to interpret what that data means.

Where to begin

For a crash course in critical thinking, try the University of California, Davis’s Critical Thinking Skills for the Professional course. You can finish this beginner-level course in about 7 hours.

For a more comprehensive exploration into analytical thinking , try Duke University’s Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking Specialization . Over four courses, you’ll learn how to effectively argue and reason using logic.

For a technical process to guide your analytical thinking, try Google’s Data Analytics Professional Certificate . Ground your analytical thinking skills in technical know-how in this eight-course series.

Interested in multiple programs? Don’t miss this special offer!

Through September 21, we’re offering $100 off annual Coursera Plus subscriptions for new subscribers. With this offer, you’ll pay less than $25 per month for one year of access to 6,100 courses, Specializations, and Professional Certificates with flexibility to start new courses and move between programs at your pace.

This offer is a great choice if you are frequently tempted to enroll in multiple courses at once or plan to complete a Specialization or Professional Certificate within the next year. If that sounds like you, take a closer look at the offer and the Coursera Plus course catalog.

That’s all for this week! Join us next week to talk about motivation and self-awareness skills.

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13 Easy Steps To Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

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With the sheer volume of information that we’re bombarded with on a daily basis – and with the pervasiveness of fake news and social media bubbles – the ability to look at evidence, evaluate the trustworthiness of a source, and think critically is becoming more important than ever. This is why, for me, critical thinking is one of the most vital skills to cultivate for future success.

Critical thinking isn’t about being constantly negative or critical of everything. It’s about objectivity and having an open, inquisitive mind. To think critically is to analyze issues based on hard evidence (as opposed to personal opinions, biases, etc.) in order to build a thorough understanding of what’s really going on. And from this place of thorough understanding, you can make better decisions and solve problems more effectively.

To put it another way, critical thinking means arriving at your own carefully considered conclusions instead of taking information at face value. Here are 13 ways you can cultivate this precious skill:

1. Always vet new information with a cautious eye. Whether it’s an article someone has shared online or data that’s related to your job, always vet the information you're presented with. Good questions to ask here include, "Is this information complete and up to date?” “What evidence is being presented to support the argument?” and “Whose voice is missing here?”

2. Look at where the information has come from. Is the source trustworthy? What is their motivation for presenting this information? For example, are they trying to sell you something or get you to take a certain action (like vote for them)?

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3. Consider more than one point of view. Everyone has their own opinions and motivations – even highly intelligent people making reasonable-sounding arguments have personal opinions and biases that shape their thinking. So, when someone presents you with information, consider whether there are other sides to the story.

4. Practice active listening. Listen carefully to what others are telling you, and try to build a clear picture of their perspective. Empathy is a really useful skill here since putting yourself in another person's shoes can help you understand where they're coming from and what they might want. Try to listen without judgment – remember, critical thinking is about keeping an open mind.

5. Gather additional information where needed. Whenever you identify gaps in the information or data, do your own research to fill those gaps. The next few steps will help you do this objectively…

6. Ask lots of open-ended questions. Curiosity is a key trait of critical thinkers, so channel your inner child and ask lots of "who," "what," and "why" questions.

7. Find your own reputable sources of information, such as established news sites, nonprofit organizations, and education institutes. Try to avoid anonymous sources or sources with an ax to grind or a product to sell. Also, be sure to check when the information was published. An older source may be unintentionally offering up wrong information just because events have moved on since it was published; corroborate the info with a more recent source.

8. Try not to get your news from social media. And if you do see something on social media that grabs your interest, check the accuracy of the story (via reputable sources of information, as above) before you share it.

9. Learn to spot fake news. It's not always easy to spot false or misleading content, but a good rule of thumb is to look at the language, emotion, and tone of the piece. Is it using emotionally charged language, for instance, and trying to get you to feel a certain way? Also, look at the sources of facts, figures, images, and quotes. A legit news story will clearly state its sources.

10. Learn to spot biased information. Like fake news, biased information may seek to appeal more to your emotions than logic and/or present a limited view of the topic. So ask yourself, “Is there more to this topic than what’s being presented here?” Do your own reading around the topic to establish the full picture.

11. Question your own biases, too. Everyone has biases, and there’s no point pretending otherwise. The trick is to think objectively about your likes and dislikes, preferences, and beliefs, and consider how these might affect your thinking.

12. Form your own opinions. Remember, critical thinking is about thinking independently. So once you’ve assessed all the information, form your own conclusions about it.

13. Continue to work on your critical thinking skills. I recommend looking at online learning platforms such as Udemy and Coursera for courses on general critical thinking skills, as well as courses on specific subjects like cognitive biases.

Read more about critical thinking and other essential skills in my new book, Future Skills: The 20 Skills & Competencies Everyone Needs To Succeed In A Digital World . Written for anyone who wants to surf the wave of digital transformation – rather than be drowned by it – the book explores why these vital future skills matter and how to develop them.

Bernard Marr

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7 Steps To Improve Your Analytical Thinking Skills

How are your analytical skills? Analytical thinking skills, like any other skills, are natural to some but not innate to everyone. You must have a keen interest, a sense of drive, and perseverance to learn about a certain topic to acquire this skill. After all, cultivating an analytical skill set is a skill like any other that takes honing and application. If you’re ready to enhance your analytical skills, then read on.

Why Do You Need Analytical Thinking Skills At Work?

Analytical thinking skills are critical in the workplace. It is essential for gathering data, solving complex problems, making rational decisions, as well as summarizing data and executing well-thought-out projects. When you’re applying for a job, a lot of hiring managers look at this particular skill along with other highly desired job skills to determine if you’re a good fit for the company. Clearly, this is a skill that every employee should gain and sharpen to be able to climb up the career ladder .

If you think your analytical thinking skills need some brushing up or you just want to improve it, here are some strategies you can employ:

Be Observant

Take a walk outside or observe people in your office. Use as many of your senses, see what’s happening around you. Is there anything that interests you?  Remember you have to actively engage your mind.

Once again, the key to improving your analytical thinking skill is to keep your mind active and running. Read books and try to work on an active reading strategy: proactively read and digest and question what you’re reading. You can highlight, raise questions, read aloud or make predictions to stay engaged with your reading material.

Learn How Things Work

Don’t just find the solution but know how exactly certain things work. By scrutinizing how things work, you will have a better understanding of the process which is vital in stimulating your analytical skills.

Ask Questions

Did you know that curiosity makes us smarter? According to Neuroscientist Aracelli Carmago , “The more curious we are about a subject, the more it engages our cognitive functions, such as attention and memory.” With that said, asking more questions can help develop better problem-solving skills, retention, and memory of a subject. So don’t be shy to ask questions, especially if your query is valid.

Play Brain Games

If you want to improve your analytical thinking skills, it may be time to play Sudoku or other brain games like puzzles, chess, or crosswords. The best part of working on brain games to develop your analytical skill set is it is fun and doesn’t require a lot of motivation to get started.

Practice Your Problem Solving Skills

Keep in mind that for every problem, there is a solution. Visualize and be articulate in the presentation of a particular concept. Prepare two, three or even more solutions to a problem. And, if possible, do test runs on those solutions. See which one is the best and the most logical.

Think About Your Decisions

Making important decisions at work is very common. Thus, think hard and rationalize your decisions. What are the pros and cons of your decision? Ask for an expert opinion if available or do extensive research. Ask yourself, is this the best solution for this problem? Take a step back to rethink it a bit more, and then you can finally decide.

At the end of the day, like any skill development, you have to a lot of practice and application. Learn from your everyday experiences. Then, practice your analytical skills until it comes naturally.

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Professional Skills

  • Nov 13, 2023
  • 10 min read

20 Ways to Improve Your Analytical Thinking Skills

Analytical thinking skills are more critical than ever before.

Joanna Zambas

Joanna Zambas

Content Manager and Career Expert

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

analytical thinking skills concept with puzzle

In such fast-paced working environments, employees are expected to think on their feet,  solve problems  and analyze data. To do all these things and achieve  professional success , having analytical skills is a must.

So, if you feel like you can improve and strengthen your analytical abilities, then you’ve come to the right place!

Here, we’ve listed the best ways to develop your analytical skills to improve your career and every other aspect of your life.

What are analytical thinking skills?

Analytical thinking refers to our ability to accurately interpret information as well as solve problems using the facts and numbers available to us. With sharp analytical thinking skills, we’re able to identify patterns, make inferences and even predict an outcome to a large extent.

As a result, analytical reasoning is an important soft skill in the workplace, when we’re tackling our daily tasks, and for our career advancement more broadly. In some industries, such as IT and data management, analytical skills aren’t just good to have; they’re absolutely essential because they increase employees’ efficiency and accuracy.

20 best ways to improve your analytical thinking skills

There are many ways to boost your analytical reasoning ability. Using a combination of tactics will make progress much faster, so read on to find the ones that you could incorporate into your routine.

1. Read more frequently

An excellent way to start expanding your analytical skills is through the power of the written word. Indeed, the more you expose yourself to different ideas, the more you’ll increase your own cognitive abilities.

However, it’s no good to skim over pages. When reading a book, magazine or article, you should think about the overall plot, take note of each character in the story, and think about other possible scenarios. This will stimulate your thinking and force you to test your logic, and broaden your imagination.

2. Listen to podcasts

If you spend hours behind the wheel all day,  commuting to and from work , you likely won’t have much spare time to read or even the brainpower to do so. But there’s still a way to increase your critical thinking skills while you’re on the road.

How? The answer is simple: thought-provoking podcasts !

A few good podcasts worth listening to include Developer Tea , Broken Brain , Applying Awareness and TED Radio Hour , all of which will give you valuable tips for stimulating creativity and challenging your thoughts and ideas — ultimately helping you enhance your mental capacity.

3. Exercise

Believe it or not, exercise can also aid in the development of your analytical thinking skills. Indeed, “engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions”, according to  Dr Scott McGinnis , an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.

The type of  exercise  you choose to do is entirely up to you. Taking a tai chi or Zumba class might be a good idea; memorizing steps and sequences and focusing on executing them in a controlled manner challenges your analytical skills and physical stamina.

4. Play brain games

Brain games like chess, Sudoku and Scrabble can help  expand your critical thinking skills . Indeed, just 15 minutes of playing board games a day can increase your mental functions and improve your analytical skills.

The best part is that they are fun, and they can be used as bonding exercises, too. So, instead of sitting in front of the TV, play a brain game with your family and monitor your improvement over time. And if you can’t get anyone to play with you, don’t worry — there are plenty of online brain games available that are designed to encourage your thinking.

5. Surround yourself with different personalities

If you socialize in a small circle, you’ll most likely discuss the same topics day in and day out. Although it’s not wrong to have a tight-knit group, it is essential to surround yourself with people you wouldn’t normally socialize with — these are the people that will spark your imagination and offer you new and different perspectives.

If you’re unsure where to meet different people, start by attending  networking events  and engaging with everyone you meet there. You’ll be surprised by the effect that others can have on you!

6. Keep a journal

Keeping a diary helps you reflect on your day — it forces you to analyze your actions and learn from any triumphs or mistakes .

With so much happening in our professional and personal lives, it’s easy to get caught up in your emotions and feel defeated. However, when you write things down, you tend to focus on logic rather than emotion, which improves your thinking skills.

7. Learn something new every day

After  graduating from high school  or college, most people become passive when testing themselves and learning new things. Once we’re comfortable in our careers and know what we’re good at, we tend to pause on learning.

Indeed, education takes a backseat once you’ve advanced into the professional world, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop expanding your knowledge. Instead, you should try to learn something new every day; it’s essential to keep testing yourself and gaining new skills.

8. Take an online course

If you have time to further your education, taking an  online course  can help develop your analytical skills. Try to take on courses in subjects that you aren’t very familiar with or good at. For example, not many people are born Excel gurus , but with time and dedication, you can master the use of formulas and cells and become an Excel expert yourself.

The point is to expand your knowledge and challenge yourself with topics you don’t have any prior experience in.

9. Use analytical tools

To develop your analytical skills further, try incorporating analytical tools into your daily habits. Of course, we’re not just talking about web analytics tools like Google Analytics, which are great for entrepreneurs working in eCommerce.

There are many other apps that can be used to analyze your habits. For example, Mint (a budget manager and tracker) helps you analyze your spending habits to alter any patterns and maximize your investments. Similarly, MyFitnessPal allows you to input the food that you consume so you can analyze the data and see where adjustments need to be made.

If you’re struggling in any area of your life, just perform a quick Google search, and you’ll most likely find an app that can help you identify and change your bad habits .

10. Join a book club

We mentioned earlier that reading is a great way to increase cognitive abilities, but why not take it one step further by joining a book club?

You’ll not only read novels that you wouldn’t usually take a second look at, but also challenge your thoughts by analyzing these texts and discussing them with fellow club members. You’ll also hear different perspectives and make new friends in the process!

11. Ask questions

Curiosity drives us to be more motivated, intelligent and creative. The questions that we ask ourselves encourage us to pursue different outlets and methods, forcing us to compare what we previously thought and come to a logical solution.

So, next time you’re interested in a topic, don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, the more knowledge you soak up, the better your analytical skills will become.

12. Be observant

When you’re observant, you tend to notice more around you, and this sparks your critical thinking.

We often focus on getting things done quickly rather than slowing down and focusing on the details. But it’s important to take time to watch how others behave; doing so might even help you find new methods of dealing with any problems you might face.

13. Join a debate club

You might be out of high school, but defending your ideas, bouncing around concepts and understanding others’ points of view are significant steps to ensure you’re more analytical.

Since everyone is participating in good faith, you don’t need to worry that it will turn into a mud-slinging affair. Therefore, you and your fellow participants are actively seeking to enhance your positions on specific subjects and perhaps be persuaded by other concepts. This fun exercise can also determine why you hold a certain stance and how you came to this conclusion.

14. Understand the root cause

We’ve become accustomed to accepting the end result without questioning how we got there, whether it’s because we lack the time and patience to investigate the preceding events or we just want to find out the conclusion without too much movement of the little grey cells.

However, when you’re trying to develop analytical skills, an excellent strategy to employ is understanding the root cause of things. In other words, you should focus on the processes and reasoning behind an ending or a decision. It can be likened to reverse engineering through deductive reasoning for how something is accomplished.

15. Change how you do things

Let’s be honest: the older you get, the more you become stuck in your ways. This is true of your schoolwork, your career and even your personal life. While the old saying of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rings true to a certain extent, permanency is the specter of stagnation . Doing the same thing over and over again will not increase your analytical skills or even human capital.

On the one hand, you don’t need to overcomplicate matters. On the other, it is also vital to examine how you can approach and tackle something from a different perspective or angle.

16. Solve math problems

So, maybe you swore to yourself that you’d never open another workbook the moment you were done with grade 12 math. But perhaps it’s time to reconsider; you could really hone your analytical skills by solving math problems , as strong an aversion as you may have towards the subject.

17. Meditate regularly

Meditation has multiple benefits: higher self-awareness, stress reduction , emotional regulation and mental clarity. It’s no surprise, then, that some initial research on the relationship between meditation and critical thinking has shown “[…] one type of meditation — focused attention — when practiced four or more times each week, corresponds with significantly higher critical thinking scores.”

18. Interact with data

In an article for the Harvard Business School Online blog , Catherine Cote writes the following: “Mock datasets — which you can find online or create yourself — present a low-risk option for putting your skills to the test. Import the data into Microsoft Excel, then explore: make mistakes, try that formula you’re unsure of, and ask big questions of your dataset.”

It’s true: the more you collect and analyze information and actively engage with data, the more confidence you’ll gain in your data analysis skills.

19. Ask for feedback

It’s one thing to consciously start paying attention to what’s going on around you, solve complex problems, and consider the pros and cons in every situation — and it’s another to have actual interactions with other people who can guide you.

Whether it’s from a colleague, a mentor from your debate club or someone on the same critical thinking course as you, asking for feedback can be one of the best ways to boost your skills.

20. Practice your skills regularly

Whether we’re talking about problem-solving skills or the ability to play an instrument or speak a foreign language , practice is key to becoming better. Much like strengthening your muscles through exercise, the frequent practice of skills is essential to keeping those metaphorical mental muscles in tip-top shape.

Final thoughts

The key to increasing your analytical thinking skills is to be open and to constantly challenge yourself to learn more. Once you do that, you’ll be able to comprehend and appreciate debates and concepts, break down complex information and streamline solution-finding processes.

Have you used any alternative methods to improve your analytical thinking skills? If so, let us know in the comments section below.

Originally published on May 22, 2019. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.

Soft Skills

Analytical Thinking Skills

Professional Development

how to improve analytical and critical thinking

how to improve analytical and critical thinking

Analytical Thinking: What It Is And How To Master It

Anthony metivier.

  • October 18, 2022
  • Critical Thinking , Learning

analytical thinking feature image

Once you’ve learned the basics of being an analytical thinker, you can then use that baseline skill to rapidly improve. 

So if you’re feeling frozen and trapped by your current thinking abilities, get ready for a powerful tutorial.

I’ll show you everything I know about how to analyze information. And you’ll learn how to use your findings to solve problems, improve your life and most importantly, boost the lives of others too. 

The final step of helping others is really important.

Because at the end of the day, analytical thinking is about perception. How others perceive you is just as important as you perceive them. And when your analytical skills help you see how the health of your conscious experience relies on this relationship, some incredible benefits will start to appear in your life.

Let’s get started. 

What Is Analytical Thinking?

In a word, analytical thinking is about insight . 

But it is a special type of insight you arrive at by taking things apart. 

In this way, analytical thinking is the opposite of synthetical thinking, which is what you use when you want to bring things together to draw conclusions. 

A Simple Analytic Thinking Example

Here’s a simple example of analytical thinking taking a topic apart:

Let’s say you have an argument with a romantic partner. Your partner says:

“I hate how you always forget to take out the trash!”

a bag of trash in door

Instead of getting mad, this is your opportunity to take the statement apart. 

Take the word “always,” for example.

You can point out to your partner that this word has a very specific meaning. Always means every time, without exception . 

Since you have at times in your life not forgotten the trash, your partner is engaging in a logical fallacy called hyperbole . 

Now you can calmly point this out to your partner and point out that hyperbolic exaggeration is not a solution. 

You can then ask, “Can we work together to form a plan that will help me forget this task less often?”

The point in this example is this:

The analytical thinking started when you took the meaning of “always” apart . 

And although I’ve chosen a very simple example that probably most of us have experienced, the same principle applies to analyzing and resolving arguments related to:

  • Climate change
  • Medical responses to pandemics
  • Legal issues
  • Religion and philosophy

a couple os arguing about something

In every category of life, people disagree. But when you can analyze the words people use and determine their critical thinking strategies , you can help move away from conflict and towards solutions.

Research Into Analytical Thinking

People have been, well… analysing what distinguishes analytical thinking from other forms of thought, such as reflective thinking .

Stellan Ohlsson is one of the most interesting thinkers in this area. He pointed out that although analysis does involve taking things apart, it’s the restructuring that ultimately matters.

In the example above, I showed how taking apart the meaning of “always” revealed unhelpful hyperbole. But it was the second part of the example that showed how the analysis of this word created the means for moving forward, ideally in a peaceful way.

For this reason, Ohlsson and others suggests that how we take things apart during the process of analysis is very important. 

According to Ohlsson, some key strategies include:

  • Belief revision vs. belief perseverance
  • Category shift
  • Conceptual change
  • Dissonance reduction
  • Divergent thinking
  • Nonmonotonic cognitive change
  • Redistribution
  • Restructuring
  • Resubsumption
  • Representational change

a woman is thinking and writing on the floor

There are a lot more to study when it comes to applying analytical thinking, and Ohlsson notes that:

“The main puzzle of creative cognition is that it can produce novel concepts, beliefs, problem solutions, and products that are not in anybody’s prior experience.”

In other words, we need to sometimes analyze consequences that haven’t quite reached everyone’s perception yet, such as human-induced climate issues. Without a wide range of analytical thinking ability, our species is going to struggle to survive. 

For this reason, true masters of analytical thinking must learn how to:

  • Effectively gather enough information to analyze
  • Organize and keep track of information using appropriate methods
  • Know how to focus on facts and separate them from lies and mistruths
  • Examine information for key concepts and issues
  • Use logical thinking and objective reasoning to form valid conclusions
  • Identify patterns and use trends to form predictions
  • Share conclusions in a variety of contexts and formats

Visual Analysis Skills

Visual thinking also requires an understanding of how we think about what we see. 

Take a look at this image: 

visual analytical thinking test

If you’ve seen it before, your analytical skills will help remind you of what the pattern represents.

But if you’re seeing this image for the first time, your mind will need to “restructure” the pattern to help you see the dalmatian.

Before restructuring can take place, your mind needs to analyze, or “take apart” the different kinds of splotches. Only then can you differentiate them and “restructure” them into a meaningful pattern.

Learning about familiarization is key, and is a huge part of everything from improving vision issues to designing effective artificial intelligences. 

A Visual Analysis Exercise

For a simple visual analysis exercise, try this:

Get a book that has paintings in it.

Or find a painting on a site like Wikipedia. Here’s a particularly detailed painting you can try if you’re not able to find one:

peiter bruegel the elder painting for visual analytical thinking exercise

Follow these steps:

  • Study the painting for at least 3 minutes
  • Remove yourself from the image by closing the book or the screen
  • Try to visually reproduce the painting in your mind
  • Using pen and paper, describe as many details as you can, including specific objects, colors and emotions

You can also include observations and guesses. For example, before looking this painting up on Wikipedia , try to answer these questions:

  • What historical period is it from?
  • What culture did the painter belong to?
  • What themes does the painting address? 

After you’ve given your best guess, reflect upon why you chose the date, culture and themes. List a few reasons why the painting made you think of that particular era, culture and topic areas – literally take your answer apart . 

Verbal Divergence And Creativity Exercise

Another way of looking at analytical thinking is to analyze your word choices. 

For example, I took this divergent association test recently.

Although I scored higher than average, applying analytical thinking to the results instantly showed me how I could have done even better. 

verbal analytical thinking example

Because I chose the words “car” and “carpet,” the software dinged me a couple of points. They are obviously thinking that the words sound too similar to diverge enough. 

Using analytical thinking to take the algorithm apart, I can now see that I would have scored higher by choosing “rug” instead of “carpet.” The word means practically the same thing, but sounds very different. 

What do you score? Let me know in the comments below. 

5 Types Of Analytical Thinking

So far, we’ve looked at some of the different ways scientists look at analytical thinking at a very broad level. 

Now let’s look at some individual types of analytical thinking and how you can start to apply them. 

One: Communication

How aware of your communication style are you? 

Chances are, not very. For most of us, our communication style is deeply unconscious. 

To help create more consciousness around my communication style, I studied the works of Robert Langs. Unconscious Communication in Everyday Life is a classic and will teach you how to analyze the things you say and the things others say to you.

When you make a full analysis of your communication habits, you will: 

  • Listen better
  • Identify problems and solutions with greater ease
  • Improve your oral and written communication skills

analytics and colour pens

Two: Creative Analysis

According to George Hagman in Creative Analysis: Art, Creativity and Clinical Process , creativity has two phases:

This means that in order to apply creative analytical thinking, you need to be aware of the two phases.

On top of that, you also need to be aware that creativity will have at least these three effects: 

By being aware of these aspects of creativity, you can be much more analytical in your approach. 

Creative Analysis Example

Here’s an example using this blog: 

While writing this post, I was in the production phase. I got some help from content specialist Hunter Branch to plan the blog outline and then started doing some research.

To cover the relational aspects of analytical thinking, I started with an example of two partners arguing about taking out the trash. I’ve given a few personal examples throughout, including this one. 

Earlier, I asked you to do an analytical exercise with a painting. It included a cultural question. I included it specifically to stimulate this aspect of true creative analysis. 

During the reception phase, we’ll study the impact of this post. For example, we’ll look at how Google ranks it, whether or not people leave response posts and how people respond on social media. 

By analyzing the social reception of this creative piece, I can return to the article and make any relevant changes.

Three: Data Analysis

Technically speaking, analyzing data applies across the board. I just discussed looking at social media responses as part of creative thinking, for example. 

data analysis

Data analysis goes further by setting up specific metrics. These can include:

  • Performance parameters

Depending on what field you’re in, the exact measures and their definitions will differ. How scientists analyze data can differ dramatically from how teachers or politicians approach various metrics. 

Information display is also a consideration here. There are many ways to model data visually . My personal favorite is mind mapping with colored pens or pencils on paper. It gives you a fast way to visualize the ideas in your mind at a glance. 

Four: Research Analysis 

A lot of visitors to this site ask me about research skills. 

Their number one problem?

They search only online. 

That’s a big no-no when it comes to proper analytical thinking. 

For one thing, there are still many books and articles that have never been uploaded to the internet. They can only be found in libraries. 

a woman looks for books in a library

Not only that, but not every expert is an author. Sometimes you have to talk to people to get their expertise. That’s why I created this playlist of interviews with memory experts . 

Even if their ideas were in books, it’s possible to expand their context by doing direct research through conversation. This is why interviewing skills must be part of your skillset as an analytical thinker. 

If you are going to search online, make sure you learn at least a few commands. My favorite are:

They really help narrow things down. 

I also recommend making sure you have an account with your local library so you can access science journals and entire books not otherwise available. 

Five: Philosophical Analysis

Back in graduate school, my Biblical Hebrew teacher told me his personal definition of philosophy.

He said, “It’s like having a map that helps you solve not just one maze, but any maze you encounter.” 

In order for this map to transform so that it fits any problem you want to solve, you need all of the aspects of analytical thinking we’ve talked about already. But you also need a few other tools. For example, you’d want a theory to explain the ground of being itself – a theory of why anything exists at all.

Even if you admit that you don’t have an answer for this question, that is still an analytical answer.

In my work, I call this humble response überatheism, and I was delighted to discuss this on the premiere philosophy podcast, Theories of Everything . We also discussed some ways that you might reasonably increase your IQ . 

Other tools a good philosopher will want to have in their toolbox include knowledge of:

  • The scientific method
  • Religion and belief
  • Mathematics
  • Human and animal theories of perception

And frankly, you’re not much of a philosopher if you don’t also have an understanding of contemporary neuroscience as well. 

It’s not particularly difficult to verse yourself in each of these areas, but it will take time. To reduce the amount of time it takes, consider learning to use a Memory Palace . This course will help:

Magnetic Memory Method Free Memory Improvement Course

How To Develop Analytical Thinking Skills: 5 Steps

If you want to develop your analytical abilities, the first step is probably the hardest.

Any skill worth learning requires focus over time. If you have issues with committing to your goals, these mental strength strategies will help. 

There are many good books that will help you develop your thinking skills. I’ve assembled what I think are some of the best critical thinking books for you.

Some of the books on logic I’ve shared can be a slog, but keep going with it. You’ll be delighted by what happens. Just make sure to complete the exercises.

A key part of developing your mind is being able to analyze what’s being said in real time. 

Nothing will help you develop in this area faster than involving yourself in good faith debates over important topics. 

I suggest finding and joining a debate club and also watch as many debates as you can. Take notes as you go through them so that you can practice analyzing both sides of each argument. 

Writing your thoughts down is one of the fastest ways to develop analytical abilities. This is because writing exercises your metacognition – thinking about thinking.

Brain Exercise

brain exercises

As you practice , make sure to get plenty of mental exercise. I have several brain exercises for you that will help you get much more in touch with the experience of consciousness itself through detailed analysis routines. 

How To Think Analytically Every Single Day

At the highest possible level, you can hone your mind so that it analyzes the world with laser precision. 

Sure, you’ll still be human, and that will mean making mistakes.

Plenty of them.

But you won’t forget to analyze your mistakes. 

And that’s where true and lasting growth really begins. 

If you’re interested, my final suggestion is for you to memorize certain tools of analysis. 

To do this, I’ve learned a practice called “self inquiry,” It is a very close analysis of the experience of consciousness itself. 

For a simple example, learn these two questions:

  • How do my thoughts behave?
  • Are they useful?

For 28 more analytical questions, see Evolving Beyond Thought by Gary Weber. And for context into why I find these questions so useful, my TEDx Talk might be useful for you:

And for even more resources an critical thinking at large, please see:

  • The 7 Main Types of Thinking
  • 7 Critical Thinking Examples
  • How to Live an Interesting Life

So what do you say?

Are you reading to improve your analytical thinking? 

I hope these exercises helped you along the way!

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2 Responses

Help, I’m a 53 year old Analytical thinker. How do you stop overanalyzed thinking .. It can be overwhelming

Yes, overthinking can be overwhelming.

I would suggest looking up my TEDx Talk.

It’s called, “Two Easily Remembered Questions That Silence Negative Thoughts.”

I talk about a very simple way to reduce unwanted thinking while still maintaining top notch analytical thinking.

If there’s a way to have your cake and eat it too, this is it.

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how to improve analytical and critical thinking

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Critical thinking vs analytical thinking:

Critical thinking vs analytical thinking: The differences and similarities

The ability to think clearly and make informed decisions is paramount to life. This article delves deep into the realms of analytical thinking and critical thinking, shedding light on their differences and how they complement each other. By understanding these thinking styles, you’ll be better equipped to tackle complex problems, evaluate information, and make well-informed decisions. Let’s dive in!

Introduction to Analytical and Critical Thinking

Analytical and critical thinking are two skills essential for solving problems and making decisions in various aspects of life. While both involve the use of logic and reasoning, they differ in their approach and outcomes. Analytical thinking involves breaking down complex information into smaller parts, while critical thinking involves taking a holistic view and evaluating information from different angles. Analytical thinking involves the ability to dissect a problem or situation into its individual components and examining each part separately. It requires careful observation and the ability to identify patterns and relationships. This type of thinking is essential for tasks such as data analysis, problem-solving, and troubleshooting.

Critical thinking vs analytical thinking:

Critical thinking, on the other hand, involves the ability to assess information objectively, evaluate its credibility, and make logical judgments. It involves questioning assumptions, examining evidence, and considering different perspectives. Critical thinking is crucial for making informed decisions, weighing pros and cons, and avoiding biases and fallacies.

Both analytical and critical thinking complement each other and are necessary for effective problem-solving and decision-making. Analytical thinking provides a structured and systematic approach to understanding complex problems , while critical thinking helps evaluate different options and make sound judgments.

Developing analytical and critical thinking skills can greatly benefit individuals in various aspects of life. In academia, these skills are necessary for understanding and interpreting complex subjects, conducting research, and writing analytical essays. In the workplace, analytical and critical thinking skills are highly valued by employers as they enable employees to solve problems efficiently and make informed decisions. In daily life, these skills are essential for evaluating information, distinguishing between fact and opinion, and making rational choices.

There are various ways to improve analytical and critical thinking skills. Engaging in activities that require logical reasoning, such as puzzles, brain teasers, and mathematical problems, can help develop analytical thinking abilities. Reading diverse sources of information, questioning assumptions, and actively seeking different perspectives can enhance critical thinking skills . Additionally, engaging in debates, discussions, and problem-solving exercises can promote both analytical and critical thinking.

Analytical and critical thinking skills are essential for problem-solving and decision-making in various aspects of life. They involve breaking down complex information and evaluating it from different angles. Developing these skills can lead to more effective problem-solving, informed decision-making, and overall improved cognitive abilities. 

Traits of an Analytical Thinker

An analytical thinker is one who is adept at breaking down complex problems into smaller parts. This type of thinking is linear and involves analyzing cause and effect relationships. Analytical thinking uses logic and reasoning to come to a conclusion, often relying on data and facts. Some key traits of an analytical thinker include:

  • The ability to dissect complex information into smaller pieces.
  • A knack for recognizing patterns and relationships.
  • A methodical approach to problem-solving.

What Does It Mean to Think Critically?

Critical thinking, on the other hand, is a type of higher-order thinking that requires a more holistic approach. Critical thinkers are often skeptical, questioning the validity of information before accepting it. They are adept at evaluating information from various sources and are not easily swayed by outside information. Key aspects of critical thinking include :

  • The ability to form an opinion based on evidence.
  • Considering multiple perspectives before making a decision.
  • Recognizing biases and challenging one’s own assumptions.

Analytical Thinking vs Critical Thinking: The Major Differences

While both analytical and critical thinking are essential for solving problems, they differ in several key ways:

  • Approach : Analytical thinking is more linear and focuses on breaking down complex information into smaller parts. Critical thinking, however, is holistic and looks at the bigger picture.
  • Use of Information : Analytical thinkers rely heavily on facts and data, while critical thinkers use facts in conjunction with other pieces of information and perspectives.
  • Outcome : Analytical thinking often leads to a single logical conclusion, whereas critical thinking might result in multiple potential solutions or outcomes.

how to improve analytical and critical thinking

The Processes: Analytical Thinking Process vs Critical Thinking Process

Both styles of thinking have distinct processes:

  • Analytical Thinking Process : Starts with gathering data, followed by breaking down complex problems, analyzing the cause and effect relationships, and finally drawing a conclusion.
  • Critical Thinking Process : Begins with gathering diverse pieces of information, evaluating their validity, considering various perspectives, and finally forming an opinion or decision.

Using Analytical and Critical Thinking in Real Life Scenarios

In real-life scenarios, these thinking styles can be applied in various ways. For instance, when faced with a business decision, an analytical thinker might focus on the numbers and statistics, while a critical thinker might consider the potential impact on employees, company culture, and external stakeholders.

Analytical thinking can be particularly useful when analyzing financial data and making data-driven decisions. For example, a business owner might use analytical thinking to analyze the company’s financial statements and determine the profitability and financial health of the business. They might examine key financial ratios, such as return on investment or gross profit margin, to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of various business operations.

On the other hand, critical thinking can be applied when evaluating different options and considering the potential consequences of each option. For example, when considering a potential business expansion, a critical thinker may explore the potential impact on existing employees, the company’s culture, and the external stakeholders. They may assess the potential risks and benefits of the expansion, considering factors such as increased competition, resource allocation, and market demand.

Analytical and critical thinking can also be applied in personal decision-making. For example, when considering a major life decision such as buying a house or changing careers, analytical thinking can help weigh the financial implications, such as the monthly mortgage payments or future earning potential. Critical thinking can help evaluate the potential impact on personal goals, values, and overall satisfaction.

In everyday life, analytical thinking can be useful when evaluating product options or making purchasing decisions. For example, comparing different phone models based on features, specifications, and customer reviews can help individuals make an informed choice. Critical thinking can be applied when assessing the potential consequences of a decision, such as considering the long-term environmental impact of a product or the ethical practices of a particular company.

Both analytical and critical thinking are valuable skills in problem-solving. They can help individuals identify the root causes of a problem, analyze potential solutions, and evaluate their effectiveness. Whether it’s troubleshooting a technical issue, resolving a conflict, or devising strategies to improve personal or professional performance, these thinking styles can be instrumental in finding effective solutions. 

Analytical and Critical Thinking in Problem-Solving

Problem-solving requires a combination of both analytical and critical thinking. Analytical thinking helps break the problem into manageable parts, while critical thinking helps in evaluating potential solutions and considering their implications.

The Importance of Combining Both Thinking Styles

While both styles are powerful on their own, combining analytical and critical thinking skills can lead to more robust solutions. This combination allows for a thorough analysis of a problem while also considering the broader implications and potential consequences of a decision.

Mistakes to Avoid: Misconceptions about Analytical and Critical Thinking

Many assume that analytical thinking and critical thinking are one and the same, but this is a misconception. It’s important to recognize their distinct differences and strengths. Another common mistake is over-relying on one style and neglecting the other, leading to potential oversights in decision-making.

how to improve analytical and critical thinking

Key Takeaways: The Future of Analytical and Critical Thinking

In summary, here are the most important things to remember:

  • Distinct yet Complementary : While analytical and critical thinking have distinct processes and outcomes, they are complementary and can be used together for more effective decision-making.
  • Real-world Applications : Both styles are essential in various aspects of life, from business decisions to personal choices.
  • Continuous Learning : As the world becomes more complex, honing both analytical and critical thinking skills will be crucial for success.

Embrace both styles of thinking and watch as your decision-making skills, problem-solving abilities, and overall understanding of complex situations improve dramatically.

Q: What is the difference between critical thinking and analytical thinking?

A: Critical thinking and analytical thinking are similar thinking skills, but there are some differences between the two. Critical thinking involves gathering information, evaluating and interpreting it, and then making a judgment or decision based on that information. Analytical thinking, on the other hand, focuses more on breaking down complex problems into smaller components, analyzing the relationships between these components, and coming up with solutions based on this analysis. So while both skills involve a logical and systematic approach to thinking, critical thinking is more focused on making judgments and decisions, whereas analytical thinking is more focused on problem-solving and analysis.

Q: How do I use critical thinking in everyday life?

A: Critical thinking is a valuable skill that can be applied in various aspects of everyday life. To use critical thinking, you need to approach situations and problems with an open and questioning mind. This involves challenging your own assumptions and beliefs, gathering and evaluating information from different sources, considering alternative perspectives, and making informed decisions based on evidence and logical reasoning. By using critical thinking, you can enhance your problem-solving skills, improve your decision-making abilities , and think more creatively and independently.

Q: How do I use analytical thinking in my professional life?

A: Analytical thinking is an important skill in many professional fields. To use analytical thinking, you need to be able to break down complex problems or tasks into smaller parts, analyze the relationships between these parts, and come up with logical and well-reasoned solutions. This involves gathering and evaluating relevant data, identifying patterns or trends, and using logical reasoning to draw conclusions. By using analytical thinking, you can improve your problem-solving and decision-making abilities, demonstrate a logical and organized approach to your work, and effectively communicate your analysis and solutions to others.

Q: Can critical thinking and analytical thinking be used together?

A: Yes, critical thinking and analytical thinking are complementary skills that can be used together. Both skills involve a systematic and logical approach to thinking, and they can reinforce each other in problem-solving and decision-making processes. Critical thinking provides the framework for evaluating and interpreting information, while analytical thinking provides the tools for breaking down complex problems and finding solutions. By using both skills together, you can enhance your ability to think critically and analytically, make more informed decisions, and solve problems more effectively.

Q: What are the differences between analytical reasoning and critical thinking?

A: Analytical reasoning and critical thinking are related skills that involve a logical and systematic approach to thinking. However, there are some differences between the two. Analytical reasoning is more focused on the process of breaking down complex problems or arguments, identifying logical relationships between different elements, and drawing conclusions based on this analysis. Critical thinking, on the other hand, is a broader skill that involves evaluating and interpreting information, questioning assumptions and biases, and making judgments or decisions based on evidence and logical reasoning. While analytical reasoning is an important part of critical thinking, critical thinking encompasses a wider range of cognitive processes and skills.

Q: How can I develop and improve my analytical thinking skills?

A: To develop and improve your analytical thinking skills, you can engage in activities that stimulate your logical and problem-solving abilities. This may involve practicing with puzzles and brainteasers, analyzing case studies or real-life scenarios, participating in debates or discussions, learning and applying different analytical frameworks or models, and seeking feedback on your analytical thinking from others. Additionally, you can also cultivate your analytical thinking skills by staying curious, asking thoughtful questions, and continuously seeking new knowledge and perspectives. With practice and perseverance, you can enhance your analytical thinking abilities and become a more effective problem solver and decision maker.

Q: How can I become a critical thinker?

A: Becoming a critical thinker requires a conscious effort to develop and refine your thinking skills. Here are some steps you can take to become a critical thinker : 1. Cultivate intellectual humility and open-mindedness: Be willing to consider alternative viewpoints and challenge your own assumptions and beliefs. 2. Develop strong analytical and reasoning skills: Learn to gather and evaluate evidence, identify logical fallacies, and draw logical and well-supported conclusions. 3. Practice active listening and effective communication: Listen attentively to others’ perspectives, ask thoughtful questions, and communicate your own ideas clearly and persuasively. 4. Seek out diverse sources of information: Expose yourself to different perspectives and viewpoints to broaden your understanding and avoid bias. 5. Reflect and evaluate your own thinking: Regularly reflect on your own thinking processes, identify any biases or logical gaps, and work on improving your critical thinking skills.

Q: What role does critical thinking play in problem-solving?

A: Critical thinking is a fundamental skill in problem-solving. It helps you approach problems with a logical and systematic mindset, evaluate potential solutions, and make informed decisions. Critical thinking allows you to gather and analyze relevant information, identify patterns or trends, consider different perspectives or alternatives, weigh the pros and cons, and choose the most effective solution. By using critical thinking in problem-solving, you can enhance your ability to find creative and innovative solutions, overcome obstacles, and make well-informed decisions that are based on sound reasoning and evidence.

Q: Why is critical thinking important?

A: Critical thinking is important because it enables you to think independently, make informed decisions, solve problems effectively, and evaluate information and arguments critically. In a rapidly changing and complex world, critical thinking allows you to navigate through information overload, identify biases or misinformation, and make sense of a wide range of conflicting information. It also helps you develop a deep understanding of concepts and ideas, construct well-reasoned arguments, and communicate your thoughts effectively. In both personal and professional contexts, critical thinking is a valuable skill that empowers you to be a more effective and successful individual.

Q: How does analytical thinking contribute to problem-solving?

A: Analytical thinking is a key component of problem-solving. It involves breaking down complex problems into smaller components, analyzing the relationships between these components, and identifying patterns or trends. Analytical thinking helps you understand the underlying causes of problems, explore different possible solutions, and evaluate their feasibility and effectiveness. By using analytical thinking, you can approach problems in a structured and systematic way, make well-informed decisions, and find creative and innovative solutions. Analytical thinking provides a solid foundation for problem-solving, enabling you to effectively address challenges and find solutions in various domains.

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How to Improve Analytical Skills

Last Updated: June 27, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Emily Listmann, MA . Emily Listmann is a Private Tutor and Life Coach in Santa Cruz, California. In 2018, she founded Mindful & Well, a natural healing and wellness coaching service. She has worked as a Social Studies Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and an SAT Prep Teacher. She received her MA in Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2014. Emily also received her Wellness Coach Certificate from Cornell University and completed the Mindfulness Training by Mindful Schools. There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 516,283 times.

Analytical skills describe our ability to understand and solve problems using the information we have available. These skills are extremely important for our professional, social, and intellectual lives. As a result, many people have good reason to want to improve their analytical skills. But while improving your analytical skills is not easy, there are a number of things you can do to both passively and actively improve your analytical skills. At the same time, you'll want to test yourself and challenge yourself constantly to keep up and sharpen your skills.

Using Active Approaches

Step 1 Work out math problems.

  • Practice complicated math problems that include long division, algebra, calculus, and more. These problems will help you develop your logic and reasoning skills and as a result improve your analytical ability.
  • Identify math problems in everyday life, then take time to solve them.
  • Enroll in a college level math course. Many college level math courses will help you cultivate your analytical skills. [2] X Research source

Step 2 Play brain games.

  • One example of a brain game are logic puzzles. Logic puzzles vary and include crossword, riddles, Sudoku, and more. Logic puzzles are available on the internet or at a bookstore near you.
  • Play board games. Many board games require you to use your analytical skills and to develop them further. Perhaps the best of these are games like scrabble, some strategy games, and games like chess or checkers.
  • Find video games that encourage the development of your analytical skills. A wide array of video games help to improve analytical skills. Some of the best, though, are strategy games and other games that challenge us to solve problems and achieve broad goals. [4] X Trustworthy Source American Psychological Association Leading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologists Go to source

Step 3 Join a debate or reading club.

  • Book clubs will allow you to talk about what you’ve observed reading a specific piece of literature. You’ll also have the ability to discuss and interact with others who may have a different take on a given piece of literature.
  • Debate clubs are excellent ways to hone our analytical skills because our perspective and arguments will be constantly challenged by others who are working on their own debate ability.
  • Most any social group that encourages the free exchange of ideas and the pursuit of knowledge will help you to actively develop your analytical skills.

Using Passive Techniques

Step 1 Build a large knowledge base.

  • Reading extensively. Don’t just focus on one subject or genre.
  • Subscribing to newspapers or informational magazines like National Geographic to learn more about the world around you.
  • Attending lectures and academic talks and conferences.
  • Going back to college or finding free educational classes in your community. [6] X Research source

Step 2 Take time to think about things.

  • Use any opportunity you have to think things over and to examine different scenarios. For example, if you are going to take a pawn with your castle in Chess, instead of just quitting after thinking about the first (or most likely) response your opponent will take, think out all of the possible responses.
  • Consider multiple sides of a problem before picking a solution.
  • Avoid picking the easiest and simplest solution right away. However, don't rule out the easiest solution, as it might be worthwhile. [7] X Research source

Step 3 Expand your worldview.

  • Try to think about different ways of viewing the world. Do this by trying to step outside of your religious, political, and cultural suppositions about truth.
  • Try to understand and even work to defend positions and ideas you would normally dismiss. You can do this by taking important political positions and working to rationalize and defend the opposite viewpoint that you accept.
  • Meet with and surround yourself with people who are very different from yourself. Finding people who have different backgrounds and ideas than you will help you understand and accept ideas different than those you are familiar with.

Step 4 Search for connections.

  • Think about things in terms of cause and effect. Consider the repercussions of a prolonged drought. What is the impact of the drought? Look beyond the obvious.
  • Think about the similarities between things. How are all living things the same? What similar things do both humans and spiders need to exist?
  • Think about connections in history. What cycles, patterns, or other common trends do we see? For instance, in American history, consider how periods of reform are often ended by conflict (the Progressive Era and World War One, the New Deal and World War Two, the Great Society and the Vietnam War). [9] X Research source

Step 5 Pay attention to detail.

  • For example, when viewing a forest, try to view individual trees and the uniqueness and place each tree has in the forest.
  • When meeting new people make sure to memorize their names, what they’re wearing, and any features that set them apart from everyone else. [10] X Research source

Step 6 Ask yourself questions about why things are the way they are.

  • Never take the easy answer. Always keep questioning.
  • If you see a dog, observe what it's doing. Ask yourself why it is doing that. Even if it is a simple action. If it is running to fetch a ball or stick, is it doing this for fun? What about hunting instincts? Is it showing loyalty to its owner by doing that? Is the dog looking motivated, or lazy? Why might it be motivated or lazy? [11] X Research source

Putting Your Skills to Work

Step 1 Take on new responsibilities.

  • Apply for a promotion or a better job. Moving into a more challenging position at work will enable you to further work on and show off your sharpened analytical skills.
  • Take on some volunteer positions. Certain volunteer positions like being a scout leader, little league coach, or a tutor for at risk kids will allow you to use your analytical skills and help others. [12] X Trustworthy Source HelpGuide Nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, evidence-based mental health and wellness resources. Go to source

Step 2 Challenge yourself with little things.

  • Try to solve complex problems without aid. Instead of using a calculator to compute a math problem, do it in your head or on paper.
  • Avoid the easiest solution or path. While it might seem like a no-brainer to always do the quickest, simplest, or easiest thing to solve a problem, do not. Instead, test yourself by picking the harder way to solve something. [14] X Research source

Step 3 Instruct others on analytical thinking.

  • Mentor others at work.
  • Consider starting a blog where you can share your experience with others.
  • Work with your children, friends, or family, who might be struggling with education or professional issues. [15] X Research source

How Do You Improve Critical Thinking Skills?

Expert Q&A

You might also like.

Improve Your Thinking Skills

  • ↑ https://math.as.uky.edu/where-can-math-take-me
  • ↑ http://online.stanford.edu/courses/mathematical-thinking-winter-2014
  • ↑ https://www.entrepreneur.com/en-in/lifestyle/how-online-gaming-can-increase-your-productivity/303860
  • ↑ https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/video-game
  • ↑ https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1294499
  • ↑ https://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/higher-education/431
  • ↑ http://www.intropsych.com/ch07_cognition/analytic_vs_holistic_thinking.html
  • ↑ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/curious/201812/10-book-recommendations-expand-your-worldview
  • ↑ https://www.businessphrases.net/analytical-skills/
  • ↑ http://www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/experience/skills/analyticalskills/
  • ↑ https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm
  • ↑ https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/challenge-your-mind-and-body-to-sharpen-your-thinking-skills-201510298507
  • ↑ http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/critical-thinking-in-everyday-life-9-strategies/512
  • ↑ http://www.parentingscience.com/teaching-critical-thinking.html

About This Article

Emily Listmann, MA

To improve your analytical skills, practice doing math problems, read new books, and play brain games in your free time. Board games like chess and Scrabble are great for cognition. If you can, join a reading or debate club so you can discuss your ideas with others. If you can't, spend more time thinking about the world and asking "Why?" For example, try to figure out the causes and effects of historical or environmental issues. For advice from our Education reviewer about how to put your analytical skills to work, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Critical thinking definition

how to improve analytical and critical thinking

Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.

Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and action, requires the critical thinking process, which is why it's often used in education and academics.

Some even may view it as a backbone of modern thought.

However, it's a skill, and skills must be trained and encouraged to be used at its full potential.

People turn up to various approaches in improving their critical thinking, like:

  • Developing technical and problem-solving skills
  • Engaging in more active listening
  • Actively questioning their assumptions and beliefs
  • Seeking out more diversity of thought
  • Opening up their curiosity in an intellectual way etc.

Is critical thinking useful in writing?

Critical thinking can help in planning your paper and making it more concise, but it's not obvious at first. We carefully pinpointed some the questions you should ask yourself when boosting critical thinking in writing:

  • What information should be included?
  • Which information resources should the author look to?
  • What degree of technical knowledge should the report assume its audience has?
  • What is the most effective way to show information?
  • How should the report be organized?
  • How should it be designed?
  • What tone and level of language difficulty should the document have?

Usage of critical thinking comes down not only to the outline of your paper, it also begs the question: How can we use critical thinking solving problems in our writing's topic?

Let's say, you have a Powerpoint on how critical thinking can reduce poverty in the United States. You'll primarily have to define critical thinking for the viewers, as well as use a lot of critical thinking questions and synonyms to get them to be familiar with your methods and start the thinking process behind it.

Are there any services that can help me use more critical thinking?

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Critical Analysis: A Comprehensive Guide to Mastering This Concept

Unlock critical analysis mastery with our comprehensive guide! Learn to evaluate and interpret texts like a pro. Perfect for students & professionals.

The ability to critically analyze various forms of content is an invaluable skill, particularly in an era dominated by a vast array of information sources. Critical analysis is not merely a cognitive ability; it is a tool that, when honed, enables individuals to make sense of complex issues, discern the quality of research, and contribute to discussions with well-founded insights. This blog post is crafted for those eager to enhance their analytical prowess and is particularly useful for academics, professionals, and students alike.

We will delve deep into the concept, explaining its utility across various domains and providing a practical guide to mastering this fundamental skill. Furthermore, enrollment in online certificate courses or undertaking a problem solving techniques course can serve as a catalyst in this learning journey.

Introduction to Critical Analysis

Critical analysis involves a profound and systematic examination of any text, concept, situation, or creative work. It is characterized by careful scrutiny and discernment, with emphasis on identifying and understanding underlying themes, arguments, and assumptions. This approach to thinking challenges the surface reading and personal biases, prompting a move toward a more objective and nuanced interpretation.

The importance of critical analysis cannot be overstated—it sharpens intellectual abilities and fosters a rigorous mindset that can make substantive contributions to any academic or professional field. This blog post will dissect the essence of critical analysis, explore its applications across various domains, and equip you with the tools to expertly engage in such intellectual activities.

Understanding the Concept of Critical Analysis

Critical analysis is a multifaceted skill that empowers individuals to evaluate and interpret content beyond the obvious. It allows for informed opinions and considerate responses to complex questions or problems. When employed effectively, critical analysis can unravel hidden meanings, expose fallacies, and affirm the credibility of a given argument or research finding.

Moreover, critical analysis carries immense significance across different spheres, including the critical review of literature, the appraisal of scientific research, the assessment of economic policies, and the dissection of legal arguments. It ultimately draws conclusions that are grounded in evidence and sound logic, which is paramount in disciplines that rely heavily on the integrity of analysis and argumentation.

Elements of Critical Analysis

Understanding the elements of critical analysis is akin to mastering the rules of a complex game. Various components make up this cognitive toolkit, including argument identification, evidence evaluation, and the recognition of assumptions and cognitive biases.

Each element plays a crucial role in shaping a thorough analysis. Identifying arguments, for example, requires distinguishing the core claims from secondary or supporting ones. Assessing evidence involves scrutinizing its relevance, reliability, and sufficiency. Recognizing assumptions and biases calls for a self-reflective approach to understand how one's subjective experiences might influence their understanding of the content.

Steps to Conduct a Critical Analysis

Engaging in critical analysis is not a spontaneous act but a deliberate process involving a series of methodical steps aimed at unraveling the complexity of the subject matter.

A structured approach provides clarity and ensures each aspect of the analysis is given its due consideration, enhancing the overall depth and quality of the evaluative process.

Step 1: Thorough Reading / Understanding

Before any critical engagement can take place, one must achieve a deep understanding of the subject at hand. This requires active reading and, where applicable, re-reading to grasp not just the overt message but also the nuances and subtleties of the content.

Effective comprehension is fundamental and involves annotating the text, asking probing questions, and summarizing key points. It also underscores the importance of context in interpreting the material, providing a backdrop against which the content can be assessed.

Step 2: Identify Main Arguments

Central to critical analysis is the ability to discern the main arguments from minor points or supporting evidence. Recognizing the cornerstone of an author's message relies on critical thinking and attention to detail.

A main argument typically reflects the intended purpose of the work and is what the entire content orbits. Pinpointing this argument lays the groundwork for all subsequent analysis and is often the most challenging and important step in the process.

Step 3: Evaluation of Evidence

Once the primary arguments are identified, the next step is to evaluate the evidence that supports them. It is crucial to examine whether the evidence presented is credible, relevant, and sufficient to back up the claims made.

This scrutiny involves a critical look at the methods of data collection, the sources of information, and logical deductions. It also encompasses challenging the evidence, looking for gaps or inconsistencies, and considering alternative explanations or viewpoints.

Implementing Effective Critical Analysis in Different Fields

Critical analysis is not a one-size-fits-all skill; its application varies significantly across different fields of study and professional practice. In scientific research, for example, analysis must be rooted in empirical evidence and experimental validity. In literature, on the other hand, interpretive approaches play a more significant role, considering thematic elements and narrative strategies.

In each field, different strategies and critical lenses may be employed to yield the most insightful analysis possible. Tailoring the approach to conform to the expectations and standards of the specific field is essential for valid and respected critical analysis.

Critical Analysis: Common Misconceptions and Errors

Common misconceptions about critical analysis include the belief that it always involves finding fault or that it is solely about personal opinion. In reality, it is a balanced evaluation of strengths and weaknesses, based on criteria relevant to the content being analyzed.

Frequent errors in critical analysis often stem from cognitive biases, failure to properly contextualize arguments, or the neglect of alternative perspectives. Overcoming these pitfalls requires consistent practice, awareness, and perhaps engagement in online certificate courses designed to fine-tune analytical skills.

Critical analysis is a versatile and richly rewarding intellectual pursuit. Throughout this guide, we've explored what it entails, why it's so crucial across various sectors, and how one can master the process. The art of analysis is not merely academic; it is intrinsic to professional growth and effective decision-making.

Mastery of critical analysis is not instantaneous, but through concerted effort, engagement in educational opportunities such as a problem solving techniques course , and intentional practice, proficiency is within reach. The onus is now on readers to dive into the world of critical thinking, to dissect, critique, and ultimately, to understand the intricate tapestry of arguments that populate our complex world.

What are the key components of an effective critical analysis?

Understanding critical analysis.

Critical analysis requires careful examination. It is not mere description. We aim to understand deeper meanings. We assess both structure and content.

Key Components of Effective Critical Analysis

Clarity of purpose.

Know why you analyze. Define your analysis goal. Are we critiquing, comparing, or interpreting? Purpose guides the approach.

Thorough Understanding

Master the subject matter. Read and reread the material. Note key themes and ideas. Without understanding, analysis fails.

Objective Evaluation

Remain unbiased and objective. Personal feelings must not cloud judgment. Evaluate based on evidence, not emotion.

Use of Evidence

Provide evidence for arguments. Cite specific examples. Quote texts or data when needed. Evidence strengthens analysis.

Logical Structure

Organize your thoughts clearly. Begin with an introduction. State what you will analyze. Follow with a thesis statement.

- Introduction

- Body paragraphs

- Conclusion

Each part supports the next. Ensure smooth transitions between sections. This keeps readers following your logic.

Critical Thinking

Apply reasoning skills. Question underlying assumptions. Consider alternate viewpoints. Reflect on implications and consequences.

Language and Expression

Use appropriate academic language. Stay formal and precise. Avoid colloquialisms and slang. Ensure sentence variety and readability.

- No passive voice

- Short sentences

- Clear terms

- Proper grammar

Analysis Synthesis

Combine various viewpoints. Integrate different pieces of evidence. Show how they relate to your argument. This demonstrates comprehensive understanding.

End with a strong conclusion. Recap your main points. Reinforce your thesis. Offer suggestions for further study or implications.

A critical analysis is complex. It demands attention to detail. It thrives on rigorous thought. Approach your critical analysis with these components in mind. Achieve a thoughtful, reasoned, and convincing argument.

How is critical analysis different from a personal opinion or review?

Critical analysis involves rigorous evaluation. Experts dissect texts, artworks, or theories. It exceeds mere description or summary. This process demands objectivity. A clear distinction exists between it and personal opinions or reviews.

Core of Critical Analysis

The core of critical analysis is evidence-based reasoning. Analysts present arguments supported by facts. They identify underlying assumptions and logical consistency. Focus remains on structure, methodology, and content. Personal feelings stay out of this domain.

Personal Opinion and Reviews

Personal opinions reflect individual thoughts and feelings. They are inherently subjective. People express their preferences, beliefs, and perspectives. Personal opinions often fuel reviews. However, these do not demand extensive evidence or scholarship.

Reviews in Comparison

Reviews assess or evaluate an item. Be it books, services, or products. They mix facts with personal impressions. Readers get subjective assessments. These may include recommendations or criticisms. Reviews might showcase a writer's expertise. But they remain less formal than critical analyses.

Delineating Differences

Depth and Scope differentiate the two. Critical analysis delves deeper. It uncovers hidden meanings and implications. Personal opinions skim the surface. They resonate with individual experiences.

Objectivity over Subjectivity . Critical analysis aims for impartiality. Personal opinions embrace subjectivity. They thrive on emotional responses.

Structure and Presentation Matter . Critical analysis follows a scholarly format. It articulates theses with supporting arguments. Personal opinions lack this tight structure. They may wander through various points.

Evidence-Based versus Anecdotal . Facts and references support critical analysis. Personal opinions often rely on anecdotes. They need not cite sources or evidence.

Concluding Thoughts

Critical analysis is methodical and fact-oriented. It seeks to understand beyond initial impressions. In contrast, personal opinions and reviews lean on subjective experiences. Both have their place. Each serves a different purpose. Understanding this distinction is crucial. It influences how readers interpret and value the content presented.

What strategies can one utilize to improve their skill in critical analysis?

Essential strategies for developing critical analysis skills, understand the basics.

To start, grasp essential concepts. Critical analysis requires critical thinking. You must dissect and evaluate arguments. Identify assumptions and evidence. Determine the argument's validity. This fosters a skeptic's mindset.

Read Actively

Active reading is crucial. Engage with the text. Ask critical questions. Who wrote this? Why? What is the argument? Seek evidence. Note biases.

Keep an Academic Journal

Journaling aids reflection. It hones analytical skills. Write regularly. Respond to readings. Analyze your reactions and thoughts. Reflect on different perspectives.

Practice Writing Critiques

Writing critiques helps. Practice is necessary. Review books, articles, or art. Argue with evidence. Provide constructive feedback. This sharpens analytical capabilities.

Study Logic and Reasoning

Learn logic. Know fallacies. Understand reasoning. These are critical analysis pillars. Logical fallacies mislead. Recognize them in arguments.

Discuss with Peers

Engage in discussions. Share ideas with others. Listen to opposite views. Challenge and be challenged. It broadens perspectives. It sharpens analysis.

Apply Theories

Theories are tools. Apply them to diverse texts. Theories provide analytical lenses. They reveal underlying meanings.

Take Critical Analysis Courses

Courses offer structured learning. Explore them online or in college. Experts teach valuable skills. You practice with feedback.

Analyze Various Media Formats

Don't just read. Analyze films, music, art. Different media require different analyses. This diversifies your skills.

Use Technology

Leverage technology. Digital tools can assist. Use them to organize thoughts. Analyze data. They aid in creating coherent arguments.

Evaluation is Key

Always evaluate your work. Reflect on your analysis. Learn from mistakes. Strive to improve. Continuous evaluation leads to mastery.

Enhance Your Analytical Mindset

Stay curious.

Curiosity breeds insight. Ask questions. Seek knowledge. Always want to learn more. It drives better analysis.

Be Open-Minded

Open-mindedness is vital. Resist biases. Consider all viewpoints. Weigh them equally. This fosters fair analysis.

Develop Patience

Critical analysis takes time. Don't rush. Evaluate thoroughly. Patience yields deeper understanding.

Stay Informed

Be knowledgeable. Read widely. Stay up-to-date with news. Informed opinions are powerful. They are well-grounded.

Cultivate Critical Acuity

Sharpen your mind. Puzzles and games can help. They encourage problem-solving. They stimulate intellectual growth.

Final Thoughts

Improving in critical analysis is an ongoing process. It requires commitment. Follow these strategies. With diligence, your analytical skills will grow.

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The First Step in Critical Thinking & Problem Solving

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How to Develop Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills for UPSC

Preparing for the UPSC examination requires more than just rote learning; it demands a deep understanding and the ability to think analytically and critically. These skills are crucial for success not only in the exam but also in a career in civil services. This article will guide you through the importance of analytical and critical thinking and provide actionable steps to develop these skills effectively.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the significance of analytical and critical thinking for UPSC is essential for exam success and a career in civil services.
  • Building a strong foundation in core subjects through NCERTs and standard reference books is crucial.
  • Effective techniques such as mind mapping, practicing previous year questions, and engaging in group discussions can enhance analytical skills.
  • Diverse reading, including newspapers and journals, helps in developing critical thinking by exposing you to multiple perspectives and case studies.
  • Incorporating current affairs into your preparation and seeking mentorship and guidance can provide strategic advantages.

Understanding the Importance of Analytical and Critical Thinking for UPSC

The first step to mastering the art of analytical thinking is to understand its significance. Critical thinking is crucial not only for the UPSC examination but also for a successful career in the civil services. It enables individuals to make informed decisions and to solve problems impartially. Therefore, it is essential to develop critical thinking skills as an aspirant. In addition, the UPSC exam comprises of multiple-choice questions that require a well-thought-out approach. Hence, honing critical

Building a Strong Foundation in Core Subjects

To excel in the UPSC exam, it’s crucial to build a strong foundation in core subjects. By implementing these study techniques, you can improve your chances of success in the UPSC exam.

Effective Techniques to Enhance Analytical Skills

To excel in the UPSC exam, it’s crucial to sharpen your thinking edge. Here are some effective techniques to improve analytical and reasoning skills , guaranteeing an edge in government exams 2024.

Mind Mapping and Visualization

Mind mapping and visualization are powerful tools to enhance your analytical skills. By creating visual representations of information, you can better understand and retain complex concepts. This technique helps in connecting different ideas and seeing the bigger picture.

Practicing Previous Year Questions

One of the best ways to develop analytical skills is by practicing previous year questions. This not only familiarizes you with the exam pattern but also helps in identifying your strengths and weaknesses. Regular practice ensures that you can manage your time effectively during the exam.

Engaging in Group Discussions

Engaging in group discussions allows you to explore multiple perspectives on a given topic. This collaborative approach helps in refining your thought process and enhances your ability to analyze different viewpoints. Group discussions also improve your communication skills, which are essential for the UPSC interview.

Consistent practice and active engagement in discussions are key to mastering analytical skills. By incorporating these techniques into your study routine, you can significantly improve your performance in the UPSC exam.

Developing Critical Thinking through Diverse Reading

To develop critical thinking skills for the UPSC exam, it’s essential to engage in diverse reading. This approach not only broadens your knowledge base but also enhances your ability to analyze and evaluate information from multiple perspectives. Practice active reading : don’t just skim through text. Annotate, underline key points, and actively engage with the material. Ask yourself questions about the content to deepen your understanding and challenge your assumptions.

Incorporating Current Affairs into Your Preparation

Incorporating current affairs into your UPSC preparation is crucial for success. Staying updated with the latest events helps you tackle questions rooted in the present and enhances your analytical skills. Here’s how you can effectively integrate current affairs into your study plan:

Identifying High-Yield Topics

Focus on high-yield topics that are frequently covered in the news and have a significant impact on the UPSC syllabus. This includes areas like international relations, economic policies, and environmental issues. Regularly practice multiple-choice questions (MCQs) related to these topics to reinforce your understanding.

Integrating Current Events in Answers

When writing answers, try to relate current events to static topics in the UPSC syllabus. This not only demonstrates your awareness but also shows your ability to connect theoretical knowledge with real-world scenarios. For instance, analyze current events and relate them to static topics for a deeper understanding.

Staying Updated with Reliable Sources

Use reliable sources to stay informed about current affairs. Newspapers, journals, and trusted online platforms are excellent resources. Make it a habit to read daily news and follow comprehensive news analysis programs. This will ensure you are well-prepared to address contemporary issues in your exam.

Regularly practicing MCQs and analyzing current events can significantly boost your preparation and confidence for the UPSC exam.

Role of Mentorship and Guidance

Mentorship and guidance play a crucial role in UPSC preparation. Experienced mentors can provide invaluable insights and strategies that are often not found in books. They help in preparing model answers for UPSC with a clear and structured mindset , ensuring that answers are both comprehensive and concise.

Self-Assessment and Continuous Improvement

Regular practice and revision.

Consistent practice and revision are crucial for mastering the UPSC syllabus. Regularly practicing different types of questions helps in identifying weak areas and improving them. Revision ensures that the information stays fresh in your mind, making it easier to recall during the exam.

Utilizing Test Series

Participating in test series is an excellent way to gauge your preparation level. Test series simulate the actual exam environment, helping you manage time effectively and reduce exam anxiety. They also provide a benchmark to measure your progress over time.

Reflecting on Mistakes and Learning

Self-reflection is the art of analyzing one’s thought processes and identifying biases and assumptions that may affect one’s decision-making ability. As a UPSC aspirant, it is essential to practice self-reflection regularly. The practice enables individuals to identify areas they need to improve on and fosters critical thinking skills. Therefore, taking time to assess how one approaches problems, identifying one’s strengths and weaknesses, and working towards improvement is an integral part of mastering analytical thinking skills.

Engaging in debates or discussions, either formally or informally, can also be a valuable tool for self-assessment. Defend your viewpoints and be open to having your ideas challenged. Encourage feedback from peers, mentors, or teachers on your thought processes. Be open to constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity for improvement.

Receiving Constructive Feedback

Feedback is a powerful tool for improvement. Harnessing feedback to enhance your UPSC Mains preparation can make a significant difference. Seek feedback from mentors, peers, and teachers to understand your strengths and areas for improvement. Use this feedback to refine your strategies and improve your performance continuously.

Self-assessment and continuous improvement are key to achieving success in any endeavor. At Sleepy Classes, we provide the tools and resources you need to evaluate your progress and enhance your UPSC preparation. Join our community of successful candidates and start your journey towards excellence today!

Developing analytical and critical thinking skills is indispensable for success in the UPSC examination. These skills enable aspirants to dissect complex issues, evaluate diverse perspectives, and make well-informed decisions. By integrating the strategies discussed in this article, candidates can enhance their ability to think critically and analytically, thereby improving their performance in the exam. Remember, consistent practice and a curious mindset are key to mastering these skills. Equip yourself with the right tools and techniques, and you will be well on your way to achieving your UPSC goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the significance of analytical and critical thinking in upsc preparation.

Analytical and critical thinking are crucial for UPSC preparation as they help in understanding and interpreting complex topics, making informed decisions, and writing well-structured answers. These skills are essential for both prelims and mains exams.

How can I improve my analytical skills for the UPSC exam?

You can improve your analytical skills by practicing mind mapping, solving previous year questions, engaging in group discussions, and regularly reading diverse materials such as newspapers and journals.

What are some effective techniques to develop critical thinking for UPSC?

Effective techniques to develop critical thinking for UPSC include reading newspapers and journals, exploring multiple perspectives on issues, analyzing case studies, and engaging in discussions and debates.

How important are NCERT books for building a strong foundation for UPSC?

NCERT books are extremely important for building a strong foundation for UPSC as they cover basic concepts in a clear and concise manner. They help in understanding core subjects which is essential for both prelims and mains exams.

Why is it important to incorporate current affairs into UPSC preparation?

Incorporating current affairs into UPSC preparation is important because it helps in understanding the dynamic aspects of various subjects, enriches your answers, and demonstrates a well-rounded understanding of the syllabus.

What role does mentorship play in UPSC preparation?

Mentorship plays a significant role in UPSC preparation by providing guidance, strategic advice, and feedback. Experienced mentors can help you navigate the exam process, improve your answer writing skills, and build confidence through mock interviews and constructive feedback.

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The Influence of the External Auditor's Critical Thinking Skills on the Report's Quality

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    Analytical thinking skills are critical in the work place because they help you to gather information, articulate, visualize and solve complex problems. ... You take thinks step-by-step to develop an overall conclusion, answer or solution. You look at something through different points of view with the objective to create a cause and an effect ...

  19. Analytical Thinking vs. Critical Thinking (Plus Jobs That Use Them

    However, those applying critical thinking rely on facts to help them form an opinion and determine whether an idea makes sense. Related: 6 Examples of Critical Thinking Skills Purpose Analytical thinking is helpful for finding solutions to complex problems and analyzing a situation. Individuals can use this skill for brainstorming new ideas.

  20. How to Improve Analytical Skills: 12 Steps (with Pictures)

    3. Join a debate or reading club. Another great way to improve analytical skills is to join a debate or reading club or group. [5] Groups like these provide people with the opportunity to come together and discuss ideas, literature, and problems in a congenial setting. Ultimately, groups like these will provide you with the opportunity to hone ...

  21. How To Improve Critical Thinking Skills at Work in 6 Steps

    2. Understand your mental process. Identify and evaluate how you receive and process information. Understanding how you listen, then interpret, and finally react to information is vital to becoming more mentally efficient in the workplace. Being a critical thinker means you recognize your prejudices and how they influence solutions and decisions.


    If you are looking for ways to improve and further develop your intelligence; analytical and problem-solving skills are some of the most important and useful...

  23. Using Critical Thinking in Essays and other Assignments

    Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement. Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and ...

  24. Critical Analysis: A Comprehensive Guide to Mastering This Concept

    Central to critical analysis is the ability to discern the main arguments from minor points or supporting evidence. Recognizing the cornerstone of an author's message relies on critical thinking and attention to detail. A main argument typically reflects the intended purpose of the work and is what the entire content orbits.

  25. How to Develop Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills for UPSC

    To develop critical thinking skills for the UPSC exam, it's essential to engage in diverse reading. This approach not only broadens your knowledge base but also enhances your ability to analyze and evaluate information from multiple perspectives. ... Analytical and critical thinking are crucial for UPSC preparation as they help in ...

  26. Ways to improve your critical thinking

    Critical thinking is an essential skill for anyone who wishes to be successful in business. It is what allows us to analyze information properly to find appropriate solutions to problems. But it ...

  27. The Influence of the External Auditor's Critical Thinking Skills on the

    The main aim of this study was to determine a relationship between the critical thinking skills of auditors and the caliber of their reports. The objective was to improve the auditors' expertise in this cognitive field, evaluate its effect on their professional competence, and analyze its influence on their capacity to express opinions. A descriptive-analytical technique was utilized to ...