3 Step Critical Thinking Process Steps

Rationale’s interface has been designed to provide a path for critical thinking. From gathering research, to weighing up evidence to formulating a judgement, Rationale will assist you.

Take a look at these 6 critical thinking steps with examples to demonstrate the path to better outcomes.


We have no difficulty in locating information. The key is that the information is selected and structured appropriately. With Rationale’s grouping maps you can drag information from the web onto your workspace via the scratchpad and include colour, hyperlinks and images. The structured, pyramid like maps provide a guide for students to structure the information in such a way that reveals the connections between the main topic and its various themes or categories.


Many people provide opinions but rarely provide supporting reasons for their view. Rationale’s reasoning maps encourage people to support their responses and to consider different opinions. It uses colour conventions to display reasoning – green for reasons, red for objections and orange for rebuttals. It also includes indicator or connecting words so that the relationship between statements is clearly understood.



A test of a solid argument is how good the evidence is that underpins the claims. Rationale’s basis boxes provide a means to identify the basis upon which a statement is given. The icons provide a visual guide as to the range of research utilised and the strength of the evidence that is provided.


We often talk about analysing arguments. This can mean a few things including looking at the logical structure of the argument to ensure it is valid or well formed and also identifying assumptions or co premises. For those who require higher levels of analysis, Rationale provides the analysis map format to show the relationships between main premises and co premises.


Once arguments for and against an issue have been logically structured, they need to be evaluated. Rationale provides a visual guide for the evaluation of claims and evidence – the stronger the colour, the stronger the argument while icons designate acceptable or rejected claims. While learning this process of evaluating arguments, the colour and icons provide immediate undertanding and communication of the conclusion.


Presenting ideas orally or in writing is crucial and is often the distinguishing feature between good results and average ones. Rationale has essay and letter writing templates to build skills and confidence. Templates provide instruction and generation of prose. When exported, there is a structured essay plan with detailed instructions to assist understanding of clear and systematic prose.


By Robin Brodrick

Learning how to be a critical thinker is like learning how to do a split – it takes time and practice. Start by devoting 20 minutes each day to practice the exercises in this post, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an effective and efficient critical thinker.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the practice of impartially examining a problem or scenario by gathering information, gauging both the real and hypothetical aspects of the situation, identifying the possible courses of action, and determining the best course of action by evaluating potential consequences.

How do I get started?

Based on the definition above, it logically follows that the first step in learning to be a critical thinker is to understand how to identify a problem. Even on the best of days, there are always things that could be improved. These are the things that can be labeled as ‘problems’.

If you are brand new to critical thinking then the first problem to tackle might be that you are unaware of important problems in your thinking. If you are already aware of the holes in your logic, then the Foundation for Critical Thinking suggests that you ask yourself questions like:

  • When did I do my worst thinking today?
  • If I had to repeat today what would I do differently and why?
  • Did I do anything today to further my long-term goals?
  • If I spent every day this way for the next ten years, would I have accomplished something worthy of that time?

If you have trouble coming up with a current problem, try identifying a previous experience that was emotionally significant to you.

Whatever problem you choose to think about that day, write it down in a critical thinking journal.

Step Two: Gather information & gauge both the real and hypothetical aspects of the situation

The successful completion of this step will vary depending on the problem. If the problem is the way you reacted to a situation at work or with a family member then you can write down what thoughts you had and what actions you took in response to the situation. If the problem is that a competitor is poaching top talent from your company then you should find out what employees feel is better about your competitor. You can do this by conducting exit interviews, doing benchmark research, and reading company reviews ad salary levels on websites like Glassdoor.com.

Step 3: Identify the possible courses of action & determine the best course of action

If the problem you are working on occurred in the past, then analyze what the possible courses of action could have been. If you are working on a current problem, then analyze the current possible courses of action. For this step, Holly Green of Forbes suggests that you utilize other types of leadership-style thinking, such as:

  • Conceptual thinking: Identifying patterns or connections between abstract ideas and putting them together to form a complete picture
  • Innovative thinking: Coming up with new approaches to old problems
  • Intuitive thinking: Factoring in things that you sense or perceive as true, but have no concrete evidence to support

Take the prior example of a competitor recruiting your employees. Possible courses of action may be increasing salaries or bonuses, changing the benefits offered, adding or taking away policies that effect company culture (such as a work from home policy or flexible work hours), or implementing a non-compete agreement that would prevent employees from going to a competitor within a certain time-frame of leaving your company.

When identifying courses of action, be sure to look at the situation from many different perspectives. First, put yourself in the shoes of the CEO, CFO, and the Director of HR.  Next, put yourself in the shoes of the employees who are leaving. Last, look at it from the viewpoint of your competitor and from the viewpoint of a leading company outside of your industry.

When deciding on the best course of action, you should also look at the outcomes from many different perspectives. Don’t forget to be honest with yourself about how much money, time, and influence you have to devote to the solution.

What if the problem is outside of my control?

If you determine that the problem or situation is outside of your control then just put it aside and start over again by identifying a new situation that is in your control. Being able to acknowledge that a situation is outside of your control and moving on from it is a key attribute of critical thinkers. Spending time worrying about things outside of your control is considered a waste of time by critical thinkers.

What if I get stuck?

Don’t worry! Even the best critical thinkers get stuck from time to time. Take a break with something active or relaxing. Avoid things like watching television. Instead, try taking a nap, going for a walk or a run, taking a bath or a shower, or playing a strategic video game. That’s right, a 2010 study in Current Biologyrevealed that action and strategy video games (like first-person shooter games) help improve a person’s decision making skills. You could also try brainstorming with a friend.

What will you use your new and improved critical thinking skills for: To become a leader at work, improve your relationship with friends and family, solve world hunger, or something else? 

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