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3 Activities to Enhance Your Analysis in Critical Thinking

Here is a second set of exercises to help enhance critical thinking.

At the beginning of the calendar year, I posted a piece on this blog asking if any readers wanted to develop their critical thinking as a kind of New Year’s Resolution. Over the past few months, I’ve received some positive feedback about the post and decided that continuing with the proposed series of exercises seems warranted!

So, if you’re interested in enhancing your critical thinking skills, please start with the first set of exercises in that previous post. If you have already completed those, please find the second set below. Remember, when we are given opportunities to think about our thinking, we are engaging our metacognitive processes, and that’s a foundational part of critical thinking!

We are almost always sure to come across a topic that requires critical thinking within newspapers, magazines, social media posts, and web articles. For these exercises, find such an article and analyze the structure of the argument presented within the article. Please note, almost any long text reflects an argument in the sense that it is trying to convey a point in light of either reasons or objections. An easy way of identifying whether or not an argument is present is by seeing if the piece includes words like: because, but, however, yet, therefore, or thus.

Activity 1

Identify the role that each statement, or proposition, plays in the piece—for example, the central claim, core reasons and core objections (for the central claim), as well as supporting reasons (i.e., reasons for reasons or reasons for objections), rebuttals (i.e., objections to objections).

Activity 2

Re-construct the argument using only propositions that are appropriately signaled within the article through relational cues—words like because, but, however, yet, therefore, and/or thus.

Following this re-construction, ask yourself:

1. What kind of argument structure do these propositions create?

2. What is the central claim in the argument?

3. What are the primary supports and objections?

Activity 3

Finish your analysis by asking yourself:

1. Was the author of the original article, for the most part, being subjective or objective?

2. If any objective propositions were presented, what evidence is provided to support them?

3. If there was subjectivity, how was the author biased?

4. Can you offer any credible reasons to dispute the author’s judgments or claims?

5. Can you offer any credible reasons to further support the author’s judgments or claims?

These activities are a great way to start working on the critical thinking skill of analysis, as they help you to identify the structure of an argument and, subsequently, construct or deconstruct arguments for the purpose of developing your own lines of reasoning. They also usher in the concept of evaluating arguments, particularly with respect to bias, which we discussed in the first post. In the following post, we will delve further into the skill of evaluation.

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