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Section 2 Becoming a Researcher/Scholar / Chapter 6 Critical Thinking: The Means to Inquire

By Dr. Seanan Kelly


1. Introduction


































In an era in which increasing advances in technology offer wider access to information and education outlets, colleges and universities place a premium on developing critical-thinking skills to deliver a more educated and engaged workforce (Richardson & Ice, 2010; Saade, Morin, & Thomas, 2012). Critical thinking provides a means of engaging learning processes across academic and professional spectrums, “bridging the gap between theory and practice and between the academy and the workplace” (Barkley, Cross, & Major, 2005, p. 182). Why is critical thinking as a process and application important? As Wiggins (1989) observed,


The sign of a poor education … is not ignorance. It is … the thoughtless habit of believing [in] unexamined, superficial or [outdated] opinions and feelings are the truth; or the habit of timid silence when [an individual] does not understand what someone else is talking about (p. 57).


Wiggins pointed out that not having an answer is not the problem per se, rather the problem lies in a belief that the totality of what people have learned is all they will ever need to know, and people tend not to examine what they know or do not know.


 A few basic questions will help to open this discussion: What comes to mind when presented with the term critical thinking? How can critical thinking support doctoral learners' development as scholars producing scholarly works? What critical-thinking skills help to produce outcomes that are both informed and clear?


 This chapter seeks to engage a discussion of these and other questions related to critical thinking: how doctoral learners perform critical thinking, how to prepare for thinking critically, and how to engage critical thinking in the approach to new information at the cross-section of our identities and knowledge sources.  Also discussed are the benefits, types, and characteristics of critical thinking, as well as examples of thinking critically in different contexts.