Missouri State University

Critical Thinking Tutorial

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Critical Thinking

There are numerous definitions and perceptions of “critical thinking.”  The tutorial on critical thinking is only one of many that have substantiated results that it benefits students thinking, ability to remember material, and improves grades.


This tutorial is a brief summary of the “TCDR” strategy offered in your resource book by Walter, Knudsvig and Smith, Critical Thinking: Building the Basics.

TCDR Strategy: Topic—Class—Description—Relevance

This strategy can be used when one needs to get a clear basic understanding of a topic, an understanding that will enable one to think about the topic in a critical and intelligent way. Always ask and try to answer these key questions about what one is learning or investigating so that it can be related to or applied to other material.

  1. What is the TOPIC I must understand? (TCDR)
    • What are the key topics . . .

    • of the textbook chapter as a whole?
    • of the page I am reading now?
    • of the lecture as a whole?
    • of the lecture at this very minute?
    • of the board issue we are discussing?
    • of the part I need to deal with right now?
  2. What is the overall CLASS to which this topic belongs? (TCDR)
    • What is the whole of which this topic is a part?
    • What is the “main heading” under which this topic is being presented?
  3. What is the DESCRIPTION of the topic? (TCDR)
    • What are its characteristics? its features? its properties?
    • What does it “look” like?
    • How would you describe it so that someone else would be able to recognize an example of this topic, whether in reading material, hearing about it, or on observing it in real life?
  4. What is the RELEVANCE of the topic? (TCDR)
    • What is its importance—to you, to other people, to some other topic being considered?
    • What is it used for?
    • What role does it play in understanding or explaining something else?
    • How does it affect something else?

Timothy L. Walter, Glenn M. Knudsvig, Donald E. P. Smith, Critical Thinking: Building the Basics, 2nd ed., © 2003 by Thomson Wadsworth. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.