Questions Using the Elements of Thought


(in a paper, an activity, a reading assignment...)


Purpose:              What am I* trying to accomplish?

What is my central aim? My purpose?


Questions:            What question am I raising?

What question am I addressing?

Am I considering the complexities in the question?


Information:        What information am I using in coming to that conclusion?

What experience have I had to support this claim?

What information do I need to settle the question?


Inferences/           How did I reach this conclusion?

Conclusions:        Is there another way to interpret the information?


Concepts:             What is the main idea here?

          Can I explain this idea?


Assumptions:       What am I taking for granted?

What assumption has led me to that conclusion?


Implications/          If someone accepted my position, what would be the

Consequences                 implications?

                             What am I implying?


Points of View:      From what point of view am I looking at this issue?

Is there another point of view I should consider?


From Richard Paul and Linda Elder,

The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, p. 8

© 2006 Foundation for Critical Thinking  -


* These questions are equally useful in trying to understand a lecture or an article by somebody else. Just substitute “the speaker” or “the author” for “I” (and adjust the verbs accordingly).—JG