understandable, the meaning can be grasped
free from errors or distortions, true
exact to the necessary level of detail
relating to the matter at hand
containing complexities and multiple interrelationships
encompassing multiple viewpoints
the parts make sense together, no contradictions
focusing on the important, not trivial
Justifiable, not self-serving or one-sided
There are numerous other standards that may be applied to elements on a contextual basis. Here are just a few:
Completeness, Validity, Rationality, Sufficiency, Necessity, Feasabilty, Consistency, Authenticity, Effectiveness, Efficiency
Can you identify others standards relevant to your situation?
Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced. If we want to think well, we must understand at least the rudiments of thought, the most basic structures out of which all thinking is made. We must learn how to take thinking apart.
All Thinking Is Defined by the Eight Elements That Make It Up. Eight basic structures are present in all thinking: Whenever we think, we think for a purpose within a point of view based on assumptions leading to implications and consequences. We use concepts, ideas and theories to interpret data, facts, and experiences in order to answer questions, solve problems, and resolve issues.Thinking, then:
- generates purposes
- raises questions
- uses information
- utilizes concepts
- makes inferences
- makes assumptions
- generates implications
- embodies a point of view
Element: Purpose All reasoning has a PURPOSE.
Element: Question All reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, to settle some QUESTION, to solve some problem.
Element: Information All reasoning is based on DATA, INFORMATION and EVIDENCE.
Element: Interpretation and Inference All reasoning contains INFERENCES or INTERPRETATIONS by which we draw CONCLUSIONS and give meaning to data.
Element: Concepts All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, CONCEPTS and IDEAS.
All reasoning is based on ASSUMPTIONS.
Element: Implications All reasoning leads somewhere or has IMPLICATIONS and CONSEQUENCES.
Element: Point Of View All reasoning is done from some POINT OF VIEW.
Think About... PurposeYour purpose is your goal, your objective,
what you are trying to accomplish. We also use the term to include functions, motives, and intentions.
You should be clear about your purpose, and your purpose should be justifiable.
Questions which target purpose
State the QuestionThe question lays out the problem or issue and
guides our thinking. When the question is vague, our thinking will lack clarity and distinctness.
The question should be clear and precise enough to productively guide our thinking.
Questions which target the question
Gather... InformationInformation includes the facts, data, evidence, or experiences we use to figure things out. It does not necessarily imply accuracy or correctness.
The information you use should be accurate and relevant to the question or issue you are addressing.
Questions which target information
Watch Your... InferencesInferences are interpretations or conclusions you come to. Inferring is what the mind does in figuring something out.
Inferences should logically follow from the evidence. Infer no more or less than what is implied in the situation.
Questions to check your inferences
Clarify Your... ConceptsConcepts are ideas, theories, laws, principles, or hypotheses we use in thinking to make sense of things.
Be clear about the concepts you are using and use them justifiably.
Questions you can ask about concepts
Check Your... Assumptions
Assumptions are beliefs you take for granted. They usually operate at the subconscious or unconscious level of thought.
Make sure that you are clear about your assumptions and they are justified by sound evidence.
Questions you can ask about assumptions
Think Through the...
Implications and Consequences
Implications are inherent in your thoughts, whether you see them or not. The best thinkers think through the logical implications in a situation before acting.
Questions you can ask about implications
Point of View
view something. It includes what you are looking at and the way you are seeing it.
Make sure you understand the limitations of your point of view and that you fully consider other relevant viewpoints.
Questions to check your point of view
Helping Students Assess Their Thinking
by Richard Paul and Linda Elder
There are two essential dimensions of thinking that students need to master in order to learn how to upgrade their thinking. They need to be able to identify the "parts" of their thinking, and they need to be able to assess their use of these parts of thinking , as follows:
- All reasoning has a purpose
- All reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, to settle some question, to solve some problem
- All reasoning is based on assumptions
- All reasoning is done from some point of view
- All reasoning is based on data, information, and evidence
- All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, concepts and ideas
- All reasoning contains inferences by which we draw conclusions and give meaning to data
- All reasoning leads somewhere, has implications and consequences
The question can then be raised, "What appropriate intellectual standards do students need to assess the 'parts' of their thinking?" There are many standards appropriate to the assessment of thinking as it might occur in this or that context, but some standards are virtually universal (that is, applicable to all thinking): clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, and logic.
How well a student is reasoning depends on how well he/she applies these universal standards to the elements (or parts) of thinking.
What follows are some guidelines helpful to students as they work toward developing their reasoning abilities:
- All reasoning has a PURPOSE:
- Take time to state your purpose clearly
- Distinguish your purpose from related purposes
- Check periodically to be sure you are still on target
- Choose significant and realistic purposes
- All reasoning is an attempt to FIGURE SOMETHING OUT, TO SETTLE SOME QUESTION, TO SOLVE SOME PROBLEM:
- Take time to clearly and precisely state the question at issue
- Express the question in several ways to clarify its meaning and scope
- Break the question into sub questions
- Identify if the question has one right answer, is a matter of opinion, or requires reasoning from more than one point of view
- All reasoning is based on ASSUMPTIONS:
- Clearly identify your assumptions and determine whether they are justifiable
- Consider how your assumptions are shaping your point of view
- All reasoning is done from some POINT OF VIEW:
- Identify your point of view
- Seek other points of view and identify their strengths as well as weaknesses
- Strive to be fair-minded in evaluating all points of view
- All reasoning is based on DATA, INFORMATION and EVIDENCE:
- Restrict your claims to those supported by the data you have
- Search for information that opposes your position as well as information that supports it
- Make sure that all information used is clear, accurate, and relevant to the question at issue
- Make sure you have gathered sufficient information
- All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, CONCEPTS and IDEAS:
- Identify key concepts and explain them clearly
- Consider alternative concepts or alternative definitions to concepts
- Make sure you are using concepts with care and precision
- All reasoning contains INFERENCES or INTERPRETATIONS by which we draw CONCLUSIONS and give meaning to data:
- Infer only what the evidence implies
- Check inferences for their consistency with each other
- Identify assumptions which lead you to your inferences
- All reasoning leads somewhere or has IMPLICATIONS and CONSEQUENCES:
- Trace the implications and consequences that follow from your reasoning
- Search for negative as well as positive implications
- Consider all possible consequences