Critical thinking


Critical Thinking in Action



The head of your organization pulled you aside and asked you to review a workplace dispute (which is attached below).  She said, “Apply your best critical thinking to figure out what happened and a what decision is called for to remedy this situation.”  She wants your analysis in a week.

To begin, let’s consider what it means to engage in critical thinking. While the application of critical thinking may vary across disciplines, the steps are universal.  Adapted from the writings of Bassham, Irwin, Nardone, and Wallace (2011); Lau (2011); and Lau and Chan (2015), critical thinking involves thinking clearly and systematically, and encompasses

  • formulating ideas succinctly and precisely
  • identifying the relevance and importance of ideas
  • understanding the logical connections between ideas
  • identifying, constructing and evaluating arguments, claims, and evidence
  • recognizing explicit and implicit assumptions, arguments, and biases
  • detecting inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning
  • formulating clear defensible ideas and conclusions
  • evaluating the pros and cons of decisions
  • reflecting on one’s own beliefs and values
  • applying ethical decision making

The steps involved in critical thinking can be employed universally, in the analysis of all thoughts and actions —whether you are analyzing documents, ideas, assertions, or the quality of decisions/solutions.

Most importantly, critical thinking is purposeful.  It is not restricted solely to information gathering, nor is it about being “negative and fault-finding” (Bassham et. al., 2011 p. 1).  As Lau and Chan write, “A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and he knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself” (2015).  While the process of critical thinking may involve exposing untruths and poor reasoning, it also involves engaging in cooperative reasoning for the purposes of shared goals and decision making.  We engage in the steps of critical thinking to learn deeply, to improve our ideas, to strengthen arguments and to “enhance work processes and improve social institutions” (Lau, 2011). 

Critical thinking aligns with and informs ethical reasoning and decision making.  Internet marketing expert Nick Melillo (2010) writes

Critical thinking plays a large role in ethics because it is the process by which we determine for ourselves whether or not something is right or wrong.  In a sense, critical thinking is a form of analysis and determination of fact vs. fiction, identifying the unknown, coming to an understanding, etc…  By taking the path of a critical thinker, a person develops a mental process of evaluation which helps to determine their ethical standards. (p. 1)

The process of critical thinking helps us weigh and verify information, assess intent, and consider consequences, thereby enabling more effective ethical decision making. 

Hereford (2015), suggests critical thinking requires a particular mindset that includes being able to

  • Rely on reason instead of emotions
  • Assess a broad range of perspectives and viewpoints
  • Consider new evidence, explanations, findings, and alternative interpretations
  • Reassess information
  • Suspend personal prejudices and biases
  • Contemplate all reasonable possibilities
  • Avoid quick judgments

Let’s take some time to adopt a framework for critical thinking and purposefully engage in some practice by responding to the company-head’s request for a critical analysis of the ongoing dispute.


Step 1:  Review the TGS Critical Thinking Rubric (attached).  This rubric is intended to serve as a framework for critical thinking.  Use it to structure your thinking for this assignment and for others in your studies at UMUC. 

The framework (rubric) is based on FOUR key steps, each of which has several sub-steps, as shown in the attached.  

  1. Identify and clearly explain the main issue or problem under critical consideration.  
  2. Gather and analyze information to explore/investigate the issue or problem. 
  3. Consider and analyze other possible viewpoints, conclusions or decision/solutions to the issue or problem
  4. Develop well-reasoned ideas, conclusions and/or decisions/solutions, checking them against relevant criteria and benchmarks

Step 2:  Step 2:  Read the associated case for analysis (The Company’s Case for Analysis: Responsibility for Accident).  Employ the TGS Critical Thinking Rubric as framework for analyzing the case.  Begin with an Introduction that states the purpose of your analysis.  Use the FOUR key steps in the rubric as the format framework of a short position paper (details below).  Employ the sub-steps within each of the four key steps to further direct your analysis and writing. 



Write a short paper (no more than 5 pages/1,250 words, excluding the cover page and references) that critically analyses the ideas or position presented in the case reading. The major headings of your paper should include the following:

  1. Introduction 
  2. Explanation of the Issue or Problem
  3. Analysis of the Information
  4. Analysis of Alternative Viewpoints, Conclusions or Solutions
  5. Personal or Summarized Conclusions and Proposed Decisions
  6. Conclusion

Follow these guidelines: 

  • Use the TGS Critical Thinking Rubric to guide your analysis.
  • Use the TGS Written Communications Rubric to guide your writing.
  • Draw in references from at least one reputable outside resource related to the topic to support your conclusions or proposed decisions.
  • Employ APA Style 6ed for format and citation guidance.
  • Include a cover sheet with your name and the originality score. 

Remember: Even though I have suggested the major headings for your short paper, you should still follow best practices for structuring the paper. 

  • An effective introduction grabs the reader’s attention and sets the tone and direction for the rest of the paper.  In reading an introduction, the reader should have a clear idea of what will follow.  Supporting paragraphs move the reader from the general introduction to the more specific aspects of your analysis in the paper.  
  • The body paragraphs show how the information you are providing supports and relates to your thinking.  Even though I’ve provided the title for each section, paragraphs across and within sections need to effectively transition from one to the next.
  • Each paragraph should include a topic sentence, which contains the main point of the paragraph. 
  • The Conclusion (#6) brings to a close what you have presented in your paper.
    • You have moved the reader from the general introduction (“The intent of this paper is to critically analyze…) to the specific supporting paragraphs (the details under headings #2-5), and now to the conclusion, which briefly summarizes the issue or intent and restates the main points of your analysis (“detail analysis of the issue of … resulted in conclusions that indicate… and suggest proposed decisions to…”).


Submit your Short Paper to your Assignment Folder on the last day of the session.  Label as: Critical Analysis_NAME_Fall2015.




Bassham, G.; Irwin, W.; Nardone, H.; & Wallace, J. (2011).   Critical thinking: A student’s introduction.  4th Ed.   New York, NY:  The McGraw Hill Companies.

Fisher, A.  (2011).  Critical thinking: An introduction.  New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Hereford, Z. (2015).  How to think critically and problem solve.  Retrieved from

Lau, J. (2011).  An introduction to critical thinking and creativity: Think more, think better.  Hoboken, NJ:  John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Lau, J., & Chan, J. (2015). What is critical thinking?  Retrieved from

Melillo, N. (2010).  What is the relationship between critical thinking and ethics?  Retrieved from


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