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Critical thinking

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Published: 13 July 2020

University of Sunderland in London student taking notes

At school, a lot of the information you learn is given to you straight from your teachers.

They expect you to copy down what they write on the board and memorise facts from your textbooks. 

Although there is some of that at university, you’ll be expected to develop a new skill - critical thinking.

Critical thinking is the ability to take in facts and then form your own opinion based on them.

It’s the next step in your academic career and vital for everything that comes afterwards, whether that’s a job in the office or a life in academia.

A good example of the importance of critical thinking is writing your dissertation.

You’ll be expected to come up with a research topic, do lots of background reading and then present your own opinion based on the evidence.

It sounds intimidating, but there are plenty of ways you can improve your critical thinking. 

For example:

Ask simple questions

Any critical thinking task should start with the easy questions.

  • What do you know already? 
  • Where did you learn it?
  • What are you trying to prove or disprove?
  • What could you have missed?

You’ll be surprised by how much you can learn from just asking the obvious questions.

Question your assumptions

Not everything you assume to be true will be true. 

You might think that something is common sense to you, but that’s exactly when you’ll find assumptions getting in the way of exploring more deeply into a topic.

It’s OK to be wrong about things. 

What’s more important is learning and accepting new evidence when you find it.


Take the time to research and read around your subjects. 

The University Library is a great resource for this. 

You can find books, journals, and articles on a huge range of topics to help open up your mind to new information and ways of thinking.

Be mindful

Our brains are great at working things out in our subconscious. 

We don’t always need to see the entire thought process we go through, but that’s not always the case.

With critical thinking, it’s important to think through your conclusions.

Try writing down your thought process. 

That way you’ll be able to spot places where you’ve made assumptions that don’t stand make sense.

There are loads of ways you can start writing down your thought process.

Check out our articles on mindmapping your assignments and taking great notes for some inspiration.

When you start studying at the University, you’ll have plenty of practice thinking critically. With each assignment, you’ll get better. But take the time to try out the tips above and you’ll see a quick improvement. 

Have you mastered any critical thinking skills? We’d love to hear them! 

Share your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #WeAreSunLon.