A disciplined approach to critical thinking

Anna Jones

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

    144 Citations (Scopus)


    Critical thinking appears in university curricula, course outlines, and statements of graduate attributes, and yet there is both uncertainty about what it entails and passionate debate about its essential nature. This chapter argues that while there are common elements of critical thinking, it is, in its practice and teaching, a disciplined act. Critical thinking occurs within the conventions, methodologies, and knowledge bases of particular disciplines and fields and within the structures that they provide. Thus it is disciplined in both its subject specificity and its orderliness. This is not to suggest that critical thinking cannot interrogate the subject area in which it resides, or that it cannot transcend disciplinary boundaries. Rather, it is to suggest that one needs to learn to think critically in an organized manner, that this can be done by following a particular intellectual tradition or discipline, and that critical thinking needs to have some content. As Smith (1992) points out, knowledge is central to critical thinking and one cannot think critically unless one has knowledge of the topic. For McPeck (1981), critical thinking is shaped by the “particular problem under consideration” (7). In other words, we think critically about something.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHandbook of Critical Thinking in Higher Education
    EditorsM. Davies, R. Barnet
    Place of PublicationNew York
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Electronic)9781137378057
    ISBN (Print)9781349478125
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • critical thinking
    • disciplinary boundary
    • high education research
    • discipline approach


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