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Critical Thinking: A Guide for Students: For Students

  How We Think

How we think

Often we could make different inferences based on our perspective concerning the book, or a situation presented. We all wear "glasses" through which we read, view, and perceive the world. Thinking critically about the materials you read will help clarify what the book, article, newspaper, etc. says (or does not say, but infers).

 This situation below  is primarily from the  Foundation for Critical Thinking's website. A few details were changed here for the purpose of this Libguide:


For example, you are out on a Friday night, and it is about 9PM. You are with a friend. You BOTH see a man lying on the sidewalk, near a doorway. One of you infers, based on your "glasses"  There’s a drunken bum.  The other of you thinks, Oh, that person is possibly hurt.  “There’s a man in need of help.” These inferences are based on different assumptions. Moreover, these assumptions are connected to each person’s viewpoint about people. The first person assumes, “Only drunks are to be found like this.” The second person assumes, “People are capable of finding themselves in a difficult situation, and may be in need of help.”


The first person may have developed the point of view that people are fundamentally responsible for what happens to them and ought to be able to care for themselves. The second may have developed the point of view that the problems people have are often caused by forces and events beyond their control. The reasoning of these two people, in terms of their inferences and assumptions, could be characterized in the following way:

Person One

Person Two

Situation: A man is lying on a sidewalk.

Situation: A man is lying on a sidewalk.

Inference: That man’s a bum. Inference: That man is in need of help.

Assumption: Only bums lie in gutters.

Assumption: Anyone lying in the gutter is in need of help.

 Have you ever read the story of the Good Samaritan from the Bible? Have you ever thought about WHY the other two people walked away from the man, even though it was clear he needed help? Their perspective concerning the man affected their actions. All of us have perspectives on many things in life; reflecting on our perspective, evaluating other possible perspectives is an important part of critical thinking.


  How We Read

How we read

How we read is affected by several factors, including WHY we are reading, and WHAT is being read.

If you are reading this LibGuide for information, you assume the author intends to write clearly, concisely, and directly to the point. You read accordingly, seeking the information needed.

If you are reading a textbook, you are reading for information and also thinking critically about what the author has to say.  The study questions and focusing information in each chapter are used to guide and direct how you read the text.

If you are reading a novel such as Frankenstein over the summer, you are reading for pleasure.

On the other hand, if you are assigned Frankenstein for an English class, and asked to think critically about how the weather affected Mary Shelley's writing of Frankenstein, you will need to do more than read the text. But what else will you need to do?

Think about it. Then click here