Guide to Class


The essence of "critical thinking," or thinking in an educated manner, is suspending judgment until adequate evidence has been collected, the evidence has been evaluated, and both sides have been thoroughly represented and explored. Debates are an excellent tool for exploring both sides of an issue.



  1. What is the issue?

  2. Divide it into all of its subissues. List them.

  3. Circle the one you have chosen to debate.

  4. In order to eliminate lots of "What if.." arguments, describe a specific situation which will be debated.

  5. What position/viewpoint will you be arguing? (Avoid factual issues.)

  6. Inquire. Seek evidence for your position. Use your experience, the background to the issue, facts and statistics, legal precedents, information from other people, newspaper and journal articles, books on the subject, etc. Be sure you gather enough evidence before stopping.

  7. Brainstorm. Come up with every possible argument you can. When you run out of arguments, ask yourself this: "If the issue were decided in this manner, what would happen to...

  8. Outline your arguments in logical sequence. For each argument, either give evidence or give a logical sequence which begins with a statement the opposition will agree with.

  9. Review your material and locate all the assumptions you have made. Be sure you can defend each of them.

  10. Review each of your arguments and list all possible counter-arguments. Think of an answer for each counter-argument.

  11. List every argument the opposition can possibly use. Develop counter-arguments for each.


Strategy to avoid problems in critical thinking

  1. Be honest with yourself.
  2. Be conscious of where you are vulnerable.
  3. Anticipate your reactions and prejudices.


    1. List all subissues. Divide a cluster of issues into individual questions.

    2. Eliminate factual (scientific and quantifiable) questions/issues.

    3. Inquiry. Seek evidence. Sources can be your own experience, background and history of the issue itself, legal precedents, facts and statistics, information and stories from other people, newspaper and magazine articles, radio and television newstories, books, etc.

    4. Interpret the evidence. Consider the status and authority of the source, people's possible motives and vested interests, bias of sources, and the way evidence is presented. Ask these questions:

      • How accurate is the observation?
      • What is the character, and the reputation, of the observer, the journal, the source of information?
      • If there is more than one report or observation, do the reports agree?
      • How consistent is this with other evidence?
      • How impartial is the observer? Do they avoid unsupported assertions, oversimplification, generalizations and ethnocentricity?
      • Are details of the research provided?

    5. Has enough evidence been gathered, or presented?

    6. Analyze and weigh the positions (viewpoints). Follow these steps:

      • Identify all assertions made.
      • Identify all qualifications and conditions.
      • Identify all stated and unstated assumptions.
      • Notice the connections between ideas and assertions.
      • Decide which assertions are the main ones.
      • Raise questions about each assertion.
      • Are there any biases evident?
      • Any assumptions glossed over?
      • Anything else not stated? Any parts of issue not discussed?
      • Is the logic clear, concise, and valid?
      • Are all consequences and ramifications of the conclusion explored?

    7. Form a judgment.

      • Review your own biases and tendencies. Be honest with yourself. Be sure your final judgment is objective and clear.
      • Be specific about the subject.
      • State your judgment carefully and precisely.
      • Include appropriate qualifications.
      • Distinguish certainty from probability.

    Characteristics of Good Thinkers

    --They look at an issue, react to it, and then examine their reaction before accepting it.

    --They carefully determine the kind and amount of evidence needed to solve a problem and conduct their inquiry patiently.

    --They draw their conclusions to fit the facts.

    --They resist the temptation to use previous, ready-made solutions. They are honest with themselves.

    How to Clarify Issues

    Outline of an Argument

    1. Clearly state a single issue.
    2. Clearly state your position.
    3. Clearly state each argument for why your position is correct.
    4. After each argument, present a proof or evidence to verify that argument.
    5. Conclusion.

    Final Note... It is human nature to OMIT evidence which does not support the position being offered. When you hear someone defending a position, pretend they are a used car salesman. Ask yourself what they are trying to sell you and what are they not telling you.


    Philosophy is like boxing. You can't learn how by sitting and watching. You have to get in the ring and throw some punches... So participate. Say something.

    Good luck!

    Animated graphic is courtesy of Club Unlimited

    by Colby Glass, MLIS.

    If you have comments, or have something you would like to see added to this site, please send me a message. Thanks!

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