People who acquire types of critical thinking skills generally want to improve their thought processes in some form or fashion. Critical thinking is often regarded as a pathway to discovery toward greater self-awareness, for example. You can develop critical thinking skills by first examining how it is you interpret the world already.
A key type of critical thinking skill involves observation -- you use this to gather information about a process, for example. There are basically two types of observation, direct and participant. Direct observers try not to engage with a process, while participant observers may interact. This could be the difference between a teacher sitting in a classroom observing or watching behind a two-way mirror, for example. Each method is an attempt to obtain information in the most objective way possible, however some scholarship suggests that people can never completely divorce themselves from the processes that formulate them -- their own experiences, and cultural collective experiences such as language or even religion essentially negate the ability to remain objective entirely, supplant another set of value systems for their own.
Analysis is another component of critical thinking. It is a way to evaluate what it is that you observe, for example. Analyzing information entails review and organization. You can break down these components a bit further, as well. People often compare and contrast what it is they have discovered, then decide what to do with the information they obtain -- afterward, they may being to integrate components together synthesizing information in a new way.
Inference is the manner in which people make informed conclusions. It is a bit different than assumption -- the method whereby people make conclusions based on what they assume to be true rather than on what they learn. This is not to suggest that inferences are objective or entirely fact-based as what people often interpret as inference sometimes varies cross-culturally, for example. Both the context and content of inferences may change over the span of generations, as well.
Critical thinkers may eventually come to a point when they have to apply what they know either in thought or deed. This type of critical thinking skill is called prediction -- the method of applying your inferences to essentially guess what will happen. Different professional fields apply critical thinking models that involve prediction virtually all the time: a statistician uses quantitative information to generate projections for a business, for example.
- Hong Kong University: What Is Critical Thinking?
- University of Cambridge: Research Methods: Field Research and Types of Observation
- Virtual Salt: Introduction to Critical Thinking
- Hong Kong University: Meaning Analysis
- University of Saskatchewan: Critical Thinking: Immediate Inference
- Butte: Butte College: Inferences: TIP Sheet