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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Developing critical thinking


So what is critical thinking?

In some cultures, being critical is considered unpleasant and even disrespectful. However, in tertiary study critical thinking is an important skill to develop. Critical thinking is about asking questions and then making evaluations or judgments and is fundamental to tertiary study. This is also called critical analysis. Often when students first enrol at university they are more familiar with summarising or describing information and ideas. However, as part of a tertiary program students are expected to develop a critical approach to their study.

Why is critical thinking challenging?

Critical thinking is a skill, which is difficult for all students. This is because students are required to develop their own judgments or views of published authors. This questioning approach may be considered disrespectful of the knowledge of published authors in some cultures. A critical approach demonstrates that the student has thought deeply about the topic.

Steps in critical thinking

→ By asking questions of the material you are studying

Making judgments/evaluations to

Developing your own position/argument
Based on your readings, lectures, tutorials etc. in your assignments.

For example

An essay task, which starts:

Compare the theories of Author. X and Author. Y ...

This task is asking the student to examine the similarities and differences between the theories of Author X and author Y and then to judge or evaluate them. Based on evidence students are required to develop their own analysis/ideas about the ideas of others. It is not good enough to just summarise the theories of each author because this does not show that you can evaluate them.


Watch the videos

Now go to Student stories where international students were asked "Was critical thinking a new skill for you to apply at RMIT?"