Learning to Think Critically

The key components to critical thinking are description, analysis and evaluation. These components may be better understood in terms of the common questioning words.


(This model is based on this resource, available from the Learn Higher site).


Description:  define clearly what you are talking about


  • examine and explain how parts fit into a whole
  • give reasons
  • compare and contrast different elements
  • show your understanding of relationships

Evaluation: Apply your judgement:

  • weigh up the value
  • think about the implications


See if you can distinguish between critical/analytical statements and descriptive statements.

Descriptive or Analytical/Evaluative?
1 States what happened
Identifies the significance
2 Judges strengths and weaknesses
States what something is like
3 Weighs one piece of information against another
Gives the story so far
4 States the order in which things happened
Makes reasoned judgments
5 Explains what a theory says
Shows why something is relevant or suitable
6 Indicates why something will work (best)
Explains how something works
7 Notes the method used
Indicates whether something is appropriate or suitable
8 Says when something occurred
Identifies why the timing is important
9 Weighs up the importance of component parts
States the different components
10 Gives reasons for selecting each option
States options
11 Argues the relative significance of details
Lists details
12 Lists in any order
Structures information in an order that builds an argument