Smart Thinking: Skills for Critical Understanding and Writing

Start 30 days trial now

Smart Thinking: Skills for Critical Understanding and Writing 2E is a practical step-by-step guide to improving skills in analysis, critical thinking, and the effective communication of arguments and explanations. The book combines an accessible and straightforward style, with a strong foundation of knowledge. The text treats reasoning as an aspect of communication, not an abstract exercise in logic. The book not only provides detailed advice on how to practise analytical skills, but also demonstrates how these skills can be used in research and writing. In particular, it emphasises how to develop arguments that are coherent and that take account of their audience and context.


Book Details


207 Pages





What is smart thinking? There are many words associated with what is, loosely, termed ‘thinking’. We are often told to ‘think about the issues’, to ‘analyse in more depth’, to ‘use reasoning’, or to ‘be rational’. Sometimes (perhaps with reference to computers, or to the legendary Star Trek character Mr Spock) we are told to ‘be logical’. Often students are told that they must think ‘critically’ if they are to succeed. When people write essays or reports, they are usually advised to make sure that they have a good ‘argument’ or that they ‘explain in detail’. But do students (and lecturers) really know what these words and phrases mean? Can we actually identify the key skills and underlying techniques that allow us to think better?

• • •

The answer is yes. Smart thinking means.knowing how to:

work out and express your main ideas
plan your communication of ideas so that they can be clearly understood check to see if you have covered all the important parts of your topic




establish a framework or structure in which your basic facts and evidence make sense
present ideas by linking them together to convince readers of your conclusion.

Moreover, we must also relate thinking to knowledge and information (what we think about), and the processes of communicating our ideas, either in written or oral form. Thinking is one aspect of an integrated process of finding, analysing, and communicating information. Your thinking begins even when you are deciding ‘what’ to read and write about.

• • • •

‘Smart thinking’ can assist you in:

working out where and how to look for the information you need understanding that information in relation to your own work
deciding which information is relevant to your topic and which is not identifying when you need to find out more information to make sense of a problem.

Smart thinking can also improve your capacity to set your communication in context. It alerts you to the importance of:

• your audience and their expectations of what you are doing
• the requirements upon you to communicate in a certain way in a certain

• your own assumptions and biases, and the role of society in forming those

biases, which will need to be considered and explored through your communication.

To think smart, you must use reasoning. Reasoning is the basis of much of our thinking. It is often described simply as the process of thinking through and communicating our reasons for holding certain views or conclusions. Reasoning is, however, better defined as a process of understanding and exploring the relation- ships between the many events, objects, and ideas in our world. None of these individual ‘items’ can be meaningful in and of itself. An item can only be understood in relation to other ones. Reasoning enables us to get beyond a world of innumerable separate events, objects, and ideas. Using reasoning, we see that all these separate items are interconnected, and what we know about any particular object depends on our knowledge of other objects. Sometimes the connections are obvious; other times, they are much harder to see. Reasoning involves finding and expressing these connections or relationships so that each individual event, object, or idea is explicable in terms of other events, objects, or ideas.