Classification of Critical Thinking Skills


1. Comprehension (Understanding): to convert information into a form that is

        personally meaningful, i.e., that makes sense to the individual who is learning it.

        (Note: Comprehension can be assumed to be the most basic or fundamental form of

         critical thinking, serving as a necessary pre-condition that enables all other forms of

         critical thinking to take place.)

     Representative Questions:   

     - How would you put ____ into your own words? (Paraphrasing)

     - What would be an example of _____? (Illustrating)

     - How would you translate ____ into visual form? (Concept-Mapping)


2. Application: to apply abstract or theoretical principles to concrete, practical situations.

    Representative Questions:   

    - How can you make use of ____?

    - How could ____ be put into practice?

    - How would ____ be converted into an action plan?


3. Analysis: to break down or dissect information into its component parts in order to

        detect the relationships among the parts, or the relationship between the parts and

        the whole. (For example, identifying the underlying causes or sources of disagreement

        during a class discussion.)

    Representative Questions:    

    - What are the most important/significant ideas or elements of ____? (Prioritization)

    - What assumptions/biases underlie or are hidden within ____? (Deconstruction)

    - What parts of _____ would be similar to/different than  _____? (Comparison-and-Contrast)


4. Synthesis: to build up or connect separate pieces of information to form a larger, more

        coherent pattern. (Examples: Connecting related ideas discussed in separate

        sections or units of a course into a single, unified product, such as a concept

        map. Integrating ethical concepts learned in a course and philosophy with

        marketing concepts learned in a business course to produce a set of ethical

        guidelines for business marketing and advertising practices.)

    Representative Questions:    

    - How can this idea be combined with _____ to create a more compete or

       comprehensive understanding of ____? (Integration)

    - How could these different ideas be grouped together into a more general category?


    - How could these separate ____ be reorganized or rearranged to produce a more

       comprehensive understanding of the “big  picture?”


5. Evaluation: to critically judge the validity (truth), morality (ethics), or aesthetic (artistic) value

        of ideas, data, or products by using relevant assessment criteria (standards for judging


    Representative Questions:   

    - How would you judge the accuracy or validity of _______?

    - How would you evaluate the ethical (moral) implications or consequences of _____?

    - How would you rate the aesthetic quality (beauty) of ____?


6. Deduction: to draw conclusions about particular instances that are logically consistent

        with, or derive from general principles and premises.

    Representative Questions:   

    - What specific conclusions can be drawn from this general  ____?

    - If this general  ____ were true, then it would logically follow that ____ 

    - What particular actions or practices would be consistent with this general ____?


7. Induction: to infer (derive or draw out) well-reasoned generalizations or principles

        from individual instances or specific examples. (For example, identifying recurrent

        themes or categories that emerge during a class discussion.)

         Note: One form of induction is the ability to abstract and extrapolate a concept

         learned in one context and transfer that learning to another context—a cognitive

         process often referred to as “decontextualization.” This capacity to transfer

         knowledge, i.e., to apply a concept learned in one context to contexts different than the one

         in which the concept was originally learned, is often presumed to be the “litmus

         test” of whether a student has really (deeply) learned the concept, or has simply

         memorized it in its original form. (For example, if a student can solve different

         versions or examples of math problems that require comprehension of the same,

         underlying mathematical concept, then the student is demonstrating deep learning

         or critical understanding of that concept.)

    Representative Questions:   

    - What are the broader implications of ____?

    - What patterns or themes emerge from ____?

    - What can be extrapolated or extended from this particular ____ that may have more  

       general or universal value? 


8. Adduction: to make a case for an argument or position by accumulating supporting

       evidence in the form of logical arguments (rational thinking) or research evidence

       (empirical reasoning).

    Representative Questions:   

    - What proof exists for ____?

    - What are logical arguments for _____?

    - What research evidence supports _____?


9. Refutation: to make a case against an argument or position by accumulating

       contradictory evidence in the form of logical arguments (rational thinking) or

       research findings (empirical reasoning).

    Representative Questions:   

    - What proof exists that ____ is false?

    - What are logical arguments against _____?

    - What research evidence contradicts ____?


10. Balanced Thinking: to carefully consider arguments/evidence for and against a

         particular position or viewpoint.

      Representative Questions:   

    - What are the advantages and disadvantages of ____?

    - What evidence supports and contradicts ____?

    - What are the strengths and weaknesses of ____?


11. Multiple Perspective-Taking: to view an issue from a variety of viewpoints,

         standpoints, or positions in order to gain a more comprehensive and holistic


      Representative Questions:   

      - How would people from different ethnic or racial groups view this ____?

      - How would people from different socioeconomic backgrounds be affected by ____?

      - How would people who differ in age or gender react to ____?


12. Causal Reasoning: to identify cause-effect relationships between different ideas or actions.

      Representative Questions:    

      - How would you explain why ______ occurred?

      - What is responsible for ____?

       - How would ____ affect or influence ____?


13. Ethical Reasoning: to identify what is morally right/ wrong or good/bad about

          particular ideas, attitudes, or practices.

      Representative Questions:   

      - What does ____say about a person’s values?

      - What are the moral implications of ____?

      - Are the expressed or professed convictions of ____ consistent with actual

         commitments and observable actions?


14. Creative Thinking: to generate imaginative ideas, unique perspectives, innovative

           strategies, or novel (alternative) approaches to traditional practices.

           Note: Although critical and creative thinking have often been seen as separate

             cognitive skills, the latter is included in this typology, because it does involve

             thought processes that are deeper or higher than memorization.

      Representative Questions:    

      - What would be an original idea for ____?

      - What could be invented to ____?

      - What might happen if ____? (hypothetical reasoning).