Critical Thinking Star

What is the Thinking Star?

  • It is a simple memory aid.
  • It help students develop as critical thinkers.
  • It is a metacognitive activity (thinking about your thinking)
  • Adapted from “Elements of thought” by Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Richard Paul (Foundation for Critical Thinking

When should I use the Thinking Star?

  • Any time you want to improve your understanding of assigned readings, philosophies, ideas, etc.
  • Using the Thinking Star process repeatedly to develop the habit of analyzing information.

How do I use the Thinking Star?

  • Critical and analytic thinking is simply the discipline of seeking answers to key questions.
  • Ask “who, what, why, when, how” questions for each point on the star.
  • Questions can be posed before you read, or after reading.
  • You do not have to follow the numerical sequence given on the star. But, for the sake of accuracy, answer questions on all points of the star.

Is there an easy way to remember what questions to ask?

Use the acronym A.I.D.S.A.V.E.R.:

A    =    Aims

I      =    Issue

D    =    Data

S     =    Systems

A    =    Assumptions

V    =    Viewpoint

E     =    Expectations

R    =    Repercussions

Basic use of the Thinking Star (start at Point 1):

  1. Point 1--Ask yourself: “What is the author’s aim or purpose?”
    1. What do they hope to accomplish?
    2. Who are they trying to persuade?
    3. Why do they want to persuade them?
  2. Point 2—Ask yourself: “What is the main issue, problem, or topic addressed in the text?
    1. Keep in mind, there may be more than one.
  3. Point 3—Ask yourself: “What evidence, data, experience, etc. is presented by the author?”
    1. Does the evidence given conflict with other evidence?
    2. What evidence or data might challenge the author’s assertions?
  4. Point 4— Ask yourself: “Does the author make use of theories, laws, or hypotheses?”
    1. If so, how do these support their assertions?
    2. NOTE: Pay special attention when definitions are given. How something is defined may mean a great deal in a given argument.
  5. Point 5—Ask yourself: “Are there indications of presumptions, beliefs, or things taken for granted?”
    1. What are the author’s assumptions?
    2. We all have presuppositions. For this reason, it is important to identify our own, as well as the author’s.
    3.  Learning to be objective in our analysis takes practice, and the more important the argument is to us, the more we need to labor to remain objective.
  6. Point 6—Ask yourself: “What is the author’s point of view?”
    1. In political writings, a person’s political affiliation may (or may not) strongly influence their point of view on a given issue.
    2. For example, Democratic/Republican, Evolution/Intelligent Design, Socialism/Capitalism, etc.
    3. Our point of view is generally our starting point, and often reflects itself in our reasoning. This is OK.
    4. We simply want to be aware of the point of view represented, and to identify bias in argument, as well as avoid bias in our own.
  7. Point 7—“Based on the author’s arguments, what expectations, interpretations, or conclusions are appropriate?”
    1. What would you expect the author to recommend?
    2. Based on the arguments AND evidence, what can be inferred?
  8. Point 8“If what the author suggests/recommends were to be accepted, what would be the effects?”
    1. What are the implications?
    2. What would be the consequences?

Work your way around the star answering your own questions, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much more you understand about your assigned reading!

Critical Thinking Star At-a-glance Diagram

(You need Adobe Reader to view and print this document.)