Developing unique ideas for writing and writing a story worth reading can be challenging. Even when the ideas for writing are already in your head, writing requires research, organization, and a great deal of creativity. But, you already knew that, right?
What many people don’t know or don't realize, however, is that all those processes for effective writing depend on how well you’ve developed your critical thinking skills.
According to the Texas A&M University Writing Center, critical thinking is "the ability to view any object of study from multiple perspectives, to recognize the cultural, ideological, and cognitive frames (or schemata) we bring to understanding."
You can learn everything about story structure and all the rules that come with it such as formatting, language and grammar rules, but applying your ideas effectively in an actual piece of writing requires critical thinking.
Critical thinking is what glues all of the writing processes together and defines your writing style.
Critical Thinking Informs All Good Writing
The best writers and creatives are those who think critically and have undergone some form of critical thinking training. The value of critical thinking is clear thought-processing, which results in well-developed plots and writings. When you need to write a story that reads well and avoids plot holes and inconsistencies, honing your critical thinking is necessary.
You can perform the necessary research for a story and plan to finish with a strong conclusion. But, when you don’t apply critical thinking in your story, your ideas risk coming across as ambiguous or not well thought out. This is because you can’t really plan out your arguments or provide the story’s premises effectively without critical thinking.
Critical thinking in writing is related to research in the way you deliberately search, analyze and evaluate ideas that you'll put on paper. However, critical thinking discriminates information and ideas to ensure you pick and use only the most appropriate, concise words and paragraphs that deliver messages powerfully and with great impact on readers.
Reserchers have also come to understand that critical thinking is in itself a habit and a skill, something which you can practice, polish, and develop.
Hone Your Critical Thinking Skills
To consciously direct and hone your critical thinking skills, you’ll need to answer some basic questions before writing your story:
- How good is my argument or story idea?
- Is my argument or idea defensible and valid?
- Am I using a rational, reasonable position on the idea or issue?
- What should I use to best present this idea and deal with its complexity?
- Should I go deep into the topic or only touch upon the key issues lightly?
- Should I address any other points of view, and which ones?
- What are my goals with the story?
- What sources of information should I consult?
- What's the best way to present the information?
When asking (and answering) these questions, your analytical skills and quality of answers will depend greatly on the clarity of your thoughts, sources, and intentions. Once that's done sufficiently, you can apply it all to your writing.
8 Ways to Apply Critical Thinking in Your Writing
To make sure you write your story based on sound critical thinking, use these handy tips:
1. Research by questioning everything
Not all of the sources you will be using for your story, research, and critical analysis will be accurate or even relevant. Thinking critically means that you should question all your sources and be careful about the acquisition of data you’ll use in your story.
To write critically, you must examine every little piece of information before using it; validate and parse as part of your research. Basically, you need a rather active, critical and detailed approach throughout the accumulation of information.
2. Scrutinize your method of gathering information
Before you use any of the evidence or information you have found during the research for your story, look at the method for its gathering.
Think of sources you plan to use and places where you can find them. But, most importantly, think of the sources’ credibility and whether or not you can ascertain this.
Only use information that is reliable in your stories.
3. Stay true to the evidence
Before you jump into any conclusions, examine the evidence and the unbiased direction it is pointing towards.
Carefully examining the evidence for your ideas will help you find information that is valid, and any other information you might have missed out on an argument of big importance.
To avoid turning your story into a poorly written one, stay true to the evidence you’ve collected. Also consider the evidence itself in detail.
Is the evidence too broad? Does it have too many details? Are there any other explanations you can provide for it? Do you have enough evidence to support your arguments? Use only the most appropriate and accurate evidence.
4. Eliminate truisms and tautologies
Truism is a truth that is self-evident, while tautology is a statement that repeats the same thing. Both create redundancy that in most cases, doesn’t add directly to your story.
Even though truism and tautology used masterfully could give a story a certain artistic quality, you should generally try to avoid them in your writing.
Critically look for statements in your writing that repeat themselves or are self-evident. These are unnecessary features of your writing that should be removed to improve precision and clarity in your story.
5. Avoid oversimplification
There is a fine line between improving clarity and oversimplification. Try to achieve the former, while eradicating the latter as much as possible.
We are talking about using short, concise, easy to understand and simple explanations, and avoiding dumbed down explanations that insult the intelligence of the reader and demonstrate a lack of breadth and depth.
That certainly calls for high critical thinking and judgment when writing or crafting a story.
6. Plan ahead
When selecting a topic for your story, brainstorm ideas for it beforehand. Make sure the topic you chose is right for the specific purpose. Think of your objectives and goals, and also what you represent.
By brainstorming and planning ahead, you’ll be better equipped to write a story that is concise, relevant, and properly organized.
One grand factor of planning is organization. To plan ahead and do it well, you need to prioritize and reorganize your concepts, ideas, and arguments well.
In other words, you need a chronology of ideas and arguments. Use careful discretion and judgment to create a plan that makes sense and demonstrates your critical thinking abilities.
7. Define your approaches
In writing, you need arguments and ideas. But, you cannot just toss them around anyhow and expect them to make sense.
Instead, you’ll not only need good organization and planning skills, but also a strategy or an approach for presenting them in the most effective way possible.
As soon as you have all the evidence and material ready for use in your story, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your sources and the arguments they raise. This will help you define the best possible approach for using the evidence and material in your story.
While you take care of this part, remember that each and every argument and evidence used in your story should be as reasonable as it is valid.
8. Break down your arguments
To better present the relationships between arguments in your story, and to find the best writing approach, break down arguments into smaller, easy to understand parts. For this purpose, you can use priority ranking, comparison and contrast, cause and effect, making inferences, and drawing conclusions.
Cons of Not Using Critical Thinking in Your Writing
If you are thinking applying critical thinking in writing is too much of a hassle, then understand that not incorporating critical thinking leads to poor writing.
And it’s easy to detect the effects of not using critical thinking in writing. Some of the obvious signs of not applying critical thinking is a piece of writing include:
- Relationships between concepts aren’t clearly described, but only summarized or alluded to.
- The arguments or thesis are repetitive and don’t relate to the rest of the story.
- Poor or no order whatsoever in the presentation of arguments, summaries, and evidence.
- No chronology or sequel in sentences, arguments, and or paragraphs.
- Weak summaries or summaries with no order.
- Relationships between arguments aren’t fully developed.
- Heavy use of truisms, tautologies, and or abstractions.
If you want to write powerfully and ensure your stories (be they blogs, essays, or reports) yield results and impact readers, you have to improve clarity and add informational value. The only way to do this is by employing critical thinking in your writing.
Critical thinking is an essential skill and practice not just for good writing, but also for effective storytelling within your writings.