Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

Step 1: Prepare to Think Critically

In this first step, you will prepare to respond to your boss’s request for an analysis of a problem in your organization. You realize that this will require careful thinking. So, you take some time to review the process and to engage in Critical Thinking and Analysis.

When you have completed the critical thinking exercises, you will move on to the next step: identifying the problem.

First, let’s consider what it means to engage in critical thinking. While the application of critical thinking may vary across disciplines, the steps are universal. Adapted from the writings of Bassham, Irwin, Nardone, and Wallace (2011), Lau (2011), and Lau and Chan (2015), critical thinking involves thinking clearly and systematically, and includes:

  • formulating ideas succinctly and precisely
  • identifying the relevance and importance of ideas
  • understanding the logical connections between ideas
  • identifying, constructing, and evaluating arguments, claims, and evidence
  • recognizing explicit and implicit assumptions, arguments, and biases
  • detecting inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning
  • formulating clear defensible ideas and conclusions
  • evaluating the pros and cons of decisions
  • reflecting on one’s own beliefs and values
  • applying ethical decision making


Bassham, G., Irwin, W., Nardone, H., & Wallace, J. (2011). Critical thinking: A student’s introduction. (4th ed.) New York, NY: The McGraw Hill Companies.

Lau, J. (2011). An introduction to critical thinking and creativity: Think more, think better.Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Lau, J., & Chan, J. (2015). What is critical thinking? Retrieved from


Step 2: Identify the Problem

Now that you have reviewed the process, apply that to the problem by reviewing the case, “Trouble in the Truss Construction Shop.” Your first task is to figure out how the incident resulted in a problem in the truss construction shop.

Remember the direction from your boss is to “apply your critical thinking and analytical skills to figure out what happened, what we know and don’t know, and how the organization might remedy this situation.

So, what is the problem that resulted from the incident, and why might there be different interpretations of the facts?

Outline the points that you want to make in the first two sections of your paper (introduction, explanation), and draft those sections.

Next, you will analyze the information.

Trouble in the Truss Construction Shop One week ago, John Craftsman, a company employee, seriously injured his hand while pushing a large piece of wood through a table saw in the truss construction production shop. This is the third serious accident in the current quarter, and workers in the shop have been sufficiently upset about what they describe as unsafe working conditions and the company’s failure to accept responsibility that they have contacted OSHA and leaked information to the local newspaper. The dispute over who is to blame for the accident has caused unwanted publicity and could potentially jeopardize sales.

The injured employee, John, claims that he followed all the company’s safety procedures. He stated that the company is at fault for his serious injury because the company did not guarantee that the machine was as safe as possible for use.

The shop manager, David Waffler, asserts that the machine was in safe condition, because if it hadn’t been, the shop foreman would have informed him.

The shop foreman, Harry Hillman, insists that the machine was maintained according to maintenance protocols. He has produced written maintenance records to support his position. The foreman also claims that prior to the accident, he saw the employee “joking, laughing and goofing around” with his coworkers.

A coworker supports the claim of the injured employee, insisting that despite regular maintenance on the table saw, it was not safe because the safety guard was poorly designed and didn’t function well. The coworker claims that shop workers informed the shop foreman about the issues with the safety guard.

A health and safety report reported that the safety guard was poorly designed to protect operators in a number of circumstances.

Rumors and varying accounts in the newspaper and in social media have only increased the confusion and pressure on the company to resolve this growing problem.

Step 3: Analyze the Information

Once that you have some understanding of the issues of the event, gather and analyze information. The Problem Analysis resources will further aid your analysis and development of the third section of your paper.

Outline the points that you want to make in Section 3: Analysis of the Information of your paper, and draft that section.

Next, you will consider other viewpoints.

Problem analysis involves framing the issue by defining its boundaries, establishing criteria with which to select from alternatives, and developing conclusions based on available information. Analyzing a problem may not result in a decision, although the results are an important ingredient in all decision making.

Another way to consider problem analysis is a process that includes identifying and defining the problem, gathering information about the problem, and deciding if one or a group will begin work to solve the problem. A decision to solve the problem leads to analysis of the problem, in this model, asking the what, why, how, and other basic questions. From this point, the group can re-visit the decision to solve and refine any issues (risk, cost, feasibility, for example.)


Defining decision making. (n.d.). Boundless Management. Retrieved from

Nagy, J. (n.d.). Defining and analyzing the problem. Community Toolbox. Retrieved from



Step 4: Consider and Analyze Other Viewpoints, Conclusions, and Solutions

Once you have completed your analysis of the incident, the next step is to analyze alternative viewpoints, conclusions, and solutions. To do this you will need to apply Ethical Decision-Making and Reasoning. Also highly recommended, Randolph Pherson’s “The Five Habits of the Master Thinker,” a paper written for intelligence analysts, but applicable to all analytical thinking and reasoning.

Outline the points that you want to make in Section 4: Analysis of Alternative Viewpoints, Conclusions, or Solutions of your paper, and draft that section.

Next, you will develop your conclusions.


Step 5: Develop Well-Reasoned Conclusions

You considered alternative viewpoints in the last step. Now you’re ready to develop your personal conclusions and suggest remedies so that your boss is well-equipped to brief her leadership about the situation.

Remember, you may need to consult outside references but this is not a research paper. It is more investigative in nature about the facts of the case. Please cite outside sources carefully.

Now, outline your argument and draft Section 5: Conclusions and Recommendations, the final sections. Your boss is expecting to receive a concise, focused paper to prepare her for further meetings. Stay to the main points, although you may have more facts to answer any questions. You will submit your paper in the final step.
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