Critical thinking is an important skill in both personal and professional life, but there is no single critical thinking strategy that applies to every situation. Choosing the correct critical thinking strategy can be as important as actually implementing the chosen strategy. In some cases, for instance, it is necessary to expand a given discussion or analysis by looking for more information. Sometimes, however, this strategy only serves to confuse the topic, and it is instead necessary to eliminate unnecessary data.
The first step in choosing the best critical thinking strategy is to clarify the problem as well as possible. There is no specific solution to general uncertainty, so specifying the problem or question of interest is essential. Compiling all available information related to the question or problem is also an important early step.
After narrowing down the problem and compiling information, it may be necessary to look for any personal biases or prejudices that may impact one's approach to the problem or question. Even the best critical thinking strategy can be undermined by bias. Identifying potential bias and prejudice can greatly help to determine when a particular judgment is made because of bias rather than reason.
At this point, the question or problem is formulated, the information is compiled, and biases are known. The collected information and previous knowledge and experience should now be assessed. If the information is sufficient to address the problem, there may be no need for further action. Alternatively, one may need to collect more information or narrow down the existing information.
Almost any specific critical thinking strategy requires that the necessary information be available and organized. After that is accomplished, however, choosing the correct critical thinking strategy can be difficult because of the sheer number of possible approaches to a given problem. Often, the correct critical thinking strategy for a given problem or question is well-established within a certain field. Many mathematics problems, for instance, can be solved by examining well-established conditions and variables and, based on that examination, applying a certain method.
In some cases, however, well-established methods are not available and the ability to think critically and independently is absolutely essential. There is often no "best" critical thinking strategy for these situations, but a few general techniques can be applied. Critically examining the available information and looking for trends and irregularities is one technique. Trying to apply previous critical thinking strategies to a new but related problem or question can also be useful. Regardless of the method used, it is also important to critically review the results to ensure that they can be rationally drawn from the strategies used.